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
- Sudden lameness
- Difficulty breathing or swallowing
- Pale gums
- Confusion or anxiety
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.