Most humans know what a bee sting feels like: it's a painful, unpleasant experience that's often accompanied by swelling, pain, and redness. In pets, though, bee stings can quickly go from painful to serious. If your dog or cat was recently stung by a bee, here's what you need to know.
The Bee Sting Prognosis
For many pets, a bee sting is nothing more than an uncomfortable experience, but in rare cases, it can be a serious or life-threatening occasion. Dogs and cats generally are stung by bees more often than people are, since they love to chase things that move. They are often stung in the area surrounding the face, although they may be stung in the feet, especially cats who like to "pat" with their paws. Although allergic reactions can take up to 24 hours to appear, if you are sure your pet has been stung, it is best to take them to the vet immediately before any sign of a problem occurs.
Symptoms of a Bee Sting
When a pet is stung by a bee, he will likely be in obvious pain. Generally, a pet who has just been stung will cry out, run in circles, or salivate. Pets may also scratch, rub, lick, or chew at the affected area and swelling may appear. In cases where the pet is developing a severe allergic reaction, his face, throat, or neck may swell. Your pet may also vomit and experience difficulty breathing. These are signs of anaphylactic shock and these symptoms must be treated immediately.
Caring for a Bee Sting
If you believe that your pet has been stung by a bee, the first step is to stay calm. Visually inspect the site of the perceived bee sting and see if you can remove the stinger by gently dragging a credit card quickly across the pet's skin to flick the stinger out. Do not use tweezers, as these will squeeze the sting and can force more venom into the skin. Removing the stinger may reduce the amount of venom the pet receives and can lessen the symptoms of the sting.
If your dog has never been stung by a bee before and you are concerned about the possibility of an allergic reaction, it is important to act fast. Pets often develop allergic reactions very quickly and if you wait for one to arise, it may be too late to treat it effectively. Therefore, the pet should be taken to the vet at the first sign of bee sting.
The vet cannot provide an antidote for the bee sting, but they can provide treatment for anaphylaxis if it is present and help to remove difficult-to-reach stingers.
Preventing Bee Stings
The best way to treat bee stings is to prevent them, and this can often be done by trying to encourage pets to avoid flowerbeds or ground nests of hornets and wasps. Any wasp or hornet nests that are present around your property should be promptly removed. Keep your veterinarian's contact information on hand in case of bee stings and subsequent allergic reactions.
While bee stings are painful for pets and humans alike, these tips are ideal for helping pet parents treat and preventing bee stings in their four-legged companions.
Content reviewed by a veterinarian.