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Pet parents typically try their best to keep animals out of harm’s way. Flying insects, like bees and wasps, love being outside just like our pets, but sometimes the two don’t get along.
So what do you do if your dog or cat is stung by a bee? Read on to learn about what insect stings look like, what to do about them, and when to get your veterinarian involved.
The type of insect determines how their stings are prevented and treated. According to Merck’s Veterinary Manual, many members of the order Hymenoptera (like bees) are venomous, but most aren’t aggressive.¹ Additionally, certain Hymenoptera sting once and die while others can sting multiple times if they’re agitated enough.¹
This can be essential knowledge for pet parents. Once you know how these insects sting, it can help you steer your pets away from the more dangerous insects. If you have to take your dog to the vet, they may ask what type of insect stung your cat or dog, so it's helpful to know how they behave.
It may also be helpful to learn how to tell the difference between a harmless species and their look-alikes. For example, the bumblebee (nonvenomous) and the carpenter bee (venomous) look almost identical but behave very differently. Try searching online for what hymenopterans are commonly found in your area so you can keep your pets safe.
Our pets explore the world using their mouths, noses, and paws. These areas of their body are the most common sites where cats and dogs are stung by bees. Some dogs may try to eat bees while cats may enjoy chasing them, both potentially getting stung in the process.
Luckily, most pets experience mild symptoms from bee and wasp stings, but some may experience life-threatening reactions. In any case, it is a good idea to ask your vet to give your pet an exam to see if your dog or cat could have an allergic reaction to particular insect stings. Here’s how to tell the difference between mild symptoms and severe reactions.
Insect venom contains a host of nasty compounds that may affect your pet’s blood pressure among other issues.¹ What happens when a dog is stung by a bee is they may start whining and pacing due to the pain. They may also try to scratch at the area as their immune system reacts to the venom.
Other mild reactions could include swelling at the site of the sting, drooling, or disorientation.¹ A lot of these symptoms depend on where your cat or dog was stung.
The good news is most pets’ reactions to bee stings can be managed at home. However, you should monitor your dog or cat for a day or two while you manage the swelling to make sure more severe reactions don’t occur.
Anaphylaxis is the medical term used for severe allergic reactions to things like nuts, bee stings, and other common allergens. Humans and animals that experience anaphylaxis need fast medical intervention, otherwise it can turn fatal.
After being stung, look out for signs of anaphylaxis in your pet, which can set in within a few minutes. The signs of anaphylaxis can be:¹
Your pet may show some or all these signs within a few minutes of being stung so you may need to act fast. Take note of the time, and what sort of insect stung your pet, then call your vet. They can advise you on what your best options are.
Remaining calm after your pet has been stung can help you address the situation more quickly. Try to find the brown or black stinger. It’s important to note that bees will lose their barbed stingers after a single sting, while wasps can sting repeatedly, making their stinger harder to locate.¹
Once you’ve found the stinger, try to remove the stinger by scraping or brushing parallel to the skin surface with your fingernail, credit card, or another stiff-edged object. Some experts advise using tweezers, but it may push the stinger deeper into the skin or unintentionally squeeze more venom into the area.² Ask your vet what they recommend for removing it.
Try to keep your pet as comfortable as possible. You can gently apply an ice pack for 10 – 15 minute intervals to help reduce swelling and pain if your pet can tolerate the cold.¹,² Another option is to create a paste by mixing water and baking soda then applying it the site to relieve inflammation.¹,²
Watch your cat or dog closely for signs of severe reactions, and contact your vet to ask how to manage your pet’s pain and swelling. They may tell you to give them over the counter antihistamines like Benadryl (diphenhydramine) and provide you with the proper dosage. Try to avoid using this drug if you’re unsure how much to give your pet.
If your pet has symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction, call your veterinarian or the nearest emergency clinic to get your next steps. They may tell you to come in straight away. When you arrive, they may give your pet a heavy dose of antihistamines, steroids, and intravenous fluids to manage their symptoms. If the reaction was severe enough, your pet could be hospitalized so their care team can monitor their vitals. Otherwise, you may be sent home with care instructions and medication.
You may feel overwhelmed when your dog is stung by a bee. While cat owners may know the feeling of panic when their cat is stung by a bee and they have to explain to the vet what happened. On top of that, worrying about the vet bill during all of this can make matters even more stressful.
MetLife Pet offers dog insurance and cat insurance that might help you save money at the vet. Our award-winning3 policies can also come with a 24-hour veterinary concierge service, so no matter when your pet’s in a jam, someone can be there to help. Get your free quote today.
¹ “Wasp, Bee, and Ant Stings to Animals,” Merck Veterinary Manual
² “What to Do if Your Dog Is Stung by a Bee or Wasp,” American Kennel Club
3 “2022 Pet Insurance of the Year Award” Winners, Pet Independent Innovation Awards
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