What To Do If Your Dog Is Stung By A Bee Or Wasp

Wasps and bees are a common sight in the summer months in the UK.

While everybody knows the importance of bees, however, wasps are often feared. The truth is, both are endangered pollinators who play a vital role in the ecosystem.

Wasps control pests such as greenflies and caterpillars, too. But even though they are important, they are dangerous when it comes to their stings. Whereas a bee will sting once before dying, wasps can sting multiple times.

Bees also often avoid people unless they feel threatened, but on the other hand, anyone who has had an encounter with a wasp knows they will not back down. This can be particularly dangerous for any pet.

While cats are playful and dogs are inquisitive, both bees and wasps aren’t going to take lightly to a pat of a paw or a sniff from a wet nose. Every year, hundreds of dogs are stung by bees and wasps. This results in funny pictures of dogs with swollen mouths and noses.

In actual fact, there isn’t much to laugh about when a bee or wasp stings a dog.

Signs your dog has been stung by a wasp or bee

It may seem like you’d easily be able to spot a sting on a pet, but given their fur and sometimes their excess skin in some breeds, it isn’t always as obvious as you’d imagine.

Look for:

  • Biting, licking or chewing the place they have been stung
  • Whining
  • Swelling
  • Holding up their paw and limping
  • Pawing at their face or affected area

What do I do if my dog is stung by a bee or wasp?

First thing first – don’t immediately panic. In the majority of cases, a bee or wasp sting will just cause swelling in the face or paw as well as localised pain and irritation for a few days.

Try to remove the sting as soon as possible, using a bank card or something similar to scrape it out.

All stings have a venom sac. Try to scrape below this and avoid pulling or squeezing the sting as it can release more venom.

Once you’ve removed the sting, run a clean towel or cloth under a cold tap and hold it against the sting area to reduce the swelling. Don’t use ice or anything too cold as this can cause shock in a dog.

Keep applying cool patches to the area over the next few days until all swelling has subsided. You need to also check for allergic reactions to stings – read more on these below.

They will appear distressed, but plenty of comforting should help. If it was their paw, don’t walk them for a few days. Instead, try to keep them busy at home using snuffle mats and toys.

If it was their mouth, they could struggle with drinking or eating so hand feeding biscuits and water from a bottle could help.

Dog in bee costume in field
Dogs in bee costumes can be cute. Dogs stung by bees and wasps is not cute.

When to call a vet if your dog has been stung

You should consider three factors:

  • where your dog was stung
  • whether it was a bee or a wasp that stung your dog
  • what happened to the bee or wasp after the sting

Paw stings are painful but will subside with rest after a few days. Stings in the mouth are more worrying.

If it was a bee, they can only sting once before dying. So, your dog’s swollen face likely means their sting went into the side of their mouth.

However, wasps can sting multiple times. This is particularly worrying if you think your dog has eaten the wasp. The insect could have stung right down your dog’s throat, causing swelling. This could eventually block their airways and certainly won’t allow them to eat or drink comfortably.

In these cases, they will definitely need to be seen by the vet ASAP. Check for wheezing, struggles breathing and eating and obvious pain.

If you’re concerned at all, always contact your vet anyway. They can check your dog over if you’re unsure of what to look out for, and give you advice on what to spot before it gets serious.

Some people recommend over the counter antihistamines for stings in dogs, but you really need to be careful on which brand you buy because the ingredients differ. The wrong tablet could end up making your dog very ill. Always talk to a vet first.

Allergic reactions to stings in dogs

Just as with humans, some dogs may suffer from an allergic reaction to a wasp or bee sting.

Check for:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rapid breathing and gasping
  • Sickness and vomiting
  • Weakness and unsteadiness
  • Pale gums
  • Diarrhoea

Sometimes, you may have already been made aware that your dog has been stung, and these symptoms followed. Other times, you may not have spotted that they were stung. The above are big causes for concern no matter the issue, so always contact the emergency vet in these cases.