If your dog is stung by a bee, there are several steps to help reduce the pain, swelling, and risk of complications. When treated promptly, pain and discomfort can often be managed at home without any drastic measures. In order to ensure your dog's safety, assess the symptoms, provide appropriate home care, and seek immediate veterinary care if the condition worsens.
Assessing the Symptoms
For the most part, a bee sting is not a serious concern for a dog. Common minor symptoms include localized swelling, redness, and tenderness around the sting site. Serious symptoms can include extensive swelling throughout the body, hives, breathing problems, diarrhea, and shock. You should also check for multiple stings, as these may increase the chances of a serious reaction. If your dog has any serious symptoms, contact your vet immediately.
Removing the Stinger
The first thing you should do if your dog is stung by a bee is to locate the stinger. Dogs will often try to bite or scratch the painful area, which can help you determine where it might have been stung. Since stingers are usually translucent, they can be difficult to see at first. The area around the stinger may become swollen or develop a raised bump, so look at the center of such areas. If you still can't find the stinger, look at the area from a side angle rather than straight on to see if you can spot it.
Once you've found the stinger, remove it with tweezers or use a credit card to scrape it out of the wound. Opinions vary as to which method is safest; squeezing the stinger may cause it to release more toxins, so it may be best to consult with a veterinarian regarding specific cases. Be careful not to break the stinger, as this can also release additional toxins into the wound. If you can't find the stinger or it's too hard to remove, a veterinarian may be able to help.
Treating Mild Symptoms
After you have removed the stinger, apply a paste made from baking soda and water over the entire swollen area. Make sure the paste is diluted enough to stick to the skin, but not too watery, or it may not work as well. Using baking soda can help even if the stinger cannot be removed, because the paste provides pain relief and dilutes any toxins that have been injected into your dog’s skin. Once the pain is neutralized, the dog will be less likely to lick or bite at the wound, reducing the chance that it will develop open sores or an infection.
You can relieve swelling around the sting by applying an ice pack or a bag of frozen food to the area. Wrap the pack in a dishtowel or place it in a plastic bag, since applying it directly to the wound may cause more pain. Since the cold of the ice pack can be uncomfortable for your dog, remove the pack after five or ten minutes and allow a ten minute break; alternate between ice and rest until swelling is reduced. Be sure to monitor your dog carefully for 24 hours to make sure no more symptoms develop.
If there is severe swelling or an outbreak of hives after your dog is stung by a bee, ask your veterinarian if you can administer an over-the-counter antihistamine. While not suitable in all cases, these medications can often stop an allergic reaction within minutes. Symptoms that get worse or don't respond to home care should be reported to a veterinarian quickly; your dog may need to be treated with an injected antihistamine or steroid instead, which can provide faster, more effective results.
Treating Serious Symptoms
When a dog is stung by a bee on the mouth, nose, or head, it often causes more pain and swelling than on other parts of the body. In addition, a dog may experience pronounced swelling or have trouble breathing after being stung anywhere. Other symptoms of a severe allergic reaction include vomiting and diarrhea, disorientation or other behavioral changes, weakness, and pale gums. Should your animal appear to be having one or more of these dangerous reactions, a veterinarian should be consulted immediately. A dog that is stung anywhere multiple times should also be taken to the vet as a precaution.
If severe stings require veterinary care, you may want to stay with your dog as much as possible during the treatment process. Providing comfort and reassurance can help the dog relax, which may reduce stress and shock. In some cases, however, a dog may become more distressed if its owner is very worried or upset, so if you cannot remain calm, it may be best to leave the room while your dog is treated.