Bee Stings in Dogs

Profile of dog looking at bee.

 kozorog / Getty Images 

Dogs love to sniff around and inspect things with their nose so it's not uncommon for them to find insects while they are exploring outside. Insects are interesting to a lot of dogs since they move around and buzz, much like some small toys, but some insects can bite or even sting a dog. Bees are one such insect that can sting and cause issues a dog owner should be aware of.

What Happens When a Dog Is Stung By a Bee?

Some people think that bee stings are actually bee bites but this is not the case. When a bee stings a dog or a person, the stinger on the bee's hind end actually pokes through the skin and can get stuck in the skin due to the tiny barbs on the end of the stinger. If the stinger detaches from the bee, the bee will die. Even if the stinger doesn't detach from the bee, it can inject a venom that causes the skin and immune system of a dog to react to it. This results in the common symptoms of a bee sting.

Signs of a Bee Sting in Dogs

  • Swelling of sting site
  • Hives
  • Facial swelling
  • Redness
  • Pain at the sting site
  • Itchiness at the sting site
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Weakness
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Seizures
  • Nervousness
  • Dizziness
  • Drooling

While some bee stings are of little concern, others can cause life threatening symptoms in a dog. Symptoms of a bee sting are similar to those in humans and usually only include some swelling, redness, pain, and a little itchiness around the site of the sting. Occasionally hives on the body may also be present. These symptoms are not typically very serious and are short lived. Other symptoms however, can be very concerning. Some dogs may experience difficulty breathing, vomiting and diarrhea, nervousness, drooling, weakness, dizziness, and even seizures. These symptoms usually appear within about 20 minutes but may not show up for several hours after a bee sting.

The first sign of a bee sting is usually a bark or cry from your dog after being stung. If the sting is on your dog's foot then it may limp, hold up the paw, or lick at it. If the sting is on your dog's face or in its mouth, it may paw at the site, lick its lips, drool, pant, and rub its face on the ground. Redness and swelling at the sting site occurs fairly quickly before any other symptoms.

French bulldog with facial swelling.
Bee stings can cause facial swelling. Firn/Getty Images 

Are Dogs Allergic to Bees?

Yes, some dogs are allergic to bee stings just like some people. These dogs will react much more severely than a dog that does not have an allergy to bee stings. Difficulty breathing, vomiting and diarrhea, dizziness, weakness, and seizures are some of the more serious symptoms of a bee sting that dogs with allergies may experience. Dogs that are allergic to bees may need veterinary support rather than basic at home treatment.

Treating a Bee Sting in a Dog

If your dog is stung by a bee there are a few things you can do at home but throughout the following steps, be sure to monitor your dog's breathing. If at any point your dog experiences trouble breathing or has symptoms other than some minor redness, itching, pain, and swelling at the sting site, it should be seen as soon as possible by a veterinarian. Sometimes at home care isn't enough and fast acting injections of steroids and anti-histamines along with oxygen therapy are needed.

  1. Get Out the Stinger

    First, remove the stinger from your dog. If you can find it, get the stinger out of your dog by scraping it off with a credit card. Don't use tweezers to remove the stinger because this can squeeze more of the venom into your dog.

  2. Soothe the Sting Site

    Once the stinger is removed, you can apply a mixture of baking soda and water to create a soothing paste to the sting site.

  3. Reduce Swelling

    Next, to reduce swelling you can hold an ice pack to the sting site for 10 minute intervals.

  4. Limit Trauma to the Sting Site

    If your dog is scratching at the sting site and causing trauma to itself, consider putting a sock on your dog's foot that is doing the scratching or a temporary E-collar to keep it from causing further damage to itself.

  5. Call your vet

    Finally, call your veterinarian to ensure it is safe to administer an anti-histamine, like diphenhydramine, to your dog. This medication will reduce the symptoms of the bee sting and help your dog feel more comfortable.