Wasp and bee stings are most common in spring, summer and early autumn months. Dogs are typically stung on their paws or around the face and usually only develop minor pain, irritation or swelling. Most stings can be managed at home, but some cases can be more serious.  Stings inside the mouth or throat, being stung lots of times and allergic reactions are all emergencies and require urgent veterinary treatment.

What are the effects of being stung?

Being stung by a bee or wasp could cause your dog to show any of the following common signs:

  • Whining
  • Agitation
  • Swelling
  • Lumpy looking skin
  • Biting, nibbling or pawing at the place stung
  • Drooling

Stings to the paw

Dogs are often stung on the paws after treading on a bee or a wasp, or when trying to bat at these flying insects. If they are stung on the pads of the paw it might be difficult for you to see or remove the sting. Dogs stung on the paw may start limping or may chew, lick or bite at the sting.

Stings inside the mouth

Some dogs may be stung on the tongue or inside the mouth or throat, especially after trying to eat a bee or a wasp. Stings to this area can cause the throat to swell and may block your dog’s airway, making it difficult for them to breath.

If your dog is stung in the mouth or throat it’s important that you speak to your vet urgently.

Can dogs have allergic reactions to bee or wasp stings?

Some dogs can be more sensitive to wasp or bee stings and might have an allergic reaction. This can happen quickly (i.e. within ten minutes) or may be delayed by a few hours. In very rare cases this can be delayed by a day or so.

Signs of an allergic reaction can include:

  • Being sick or having diarrhoea
  • A large amount of swelling around the affected area
  • Swelling around the mouth and neck (even if not stung there)
  • Weakness or Collapse
  • Disorientation
  • Wheezing and problems breathing

If your dog shows any signs of an allergic reaction it’s important you speak to your vet urgently.

Wash the area

Gently clean the area that’s been stung using soap and cool water. This can help prevent infections and can reduce the risk of further problems. It’s likely that this area is going to be particularly sensitive and painful, so make sure you don’t scrub the area hard.

Ease the swelling

Put a clean tea towel under the cold tap, squeeze it out and then hold it against the affected area. This should help to reduce the swelling and will also feel soothing to your dog.

Applying ice will also help, but don’t put ice directly on to your dog’s skin. Place a thin piece of cloth on the skin first and place ice on top of that, or wrap some ice cubes in a tea towel. If you don’t have any ice cubes, then a bag of frozen peas could be used instead. Don’t leave the ice on for too long, just five to ten minutes is long enough.

Can I give my dog antihistamines?

Some over the counter human antihistamines can be given to some dogs, but if you give the wrong drug, or the wrong amount for the size and weight of your dog it could be dangerous to them.

Only ever give your dog an antihistamine if your vet has told you do so and has told you which antihistamine to give. Only ever give the amount that they suggest is safe.

Keep your dog calm

If your dog has been stung, they will most likely feel agitated and upset by the painful sting. To help them, keep yourself calm, and try to distract them with lots of positive attention.

Keep an eye on your dog

After your dog has been stung it’s important that you keep a close eye on them for a few hours just in case they show any signs of an anaphylactic reaction. In very rare cases, allergic reactions can be delayed, so if your dog shows signs of an allergic reaction with 24 hours of being stung it’s still just as important to contact your vet.