Overview

Severity: Low
Life Stage: All
  • Dog bee stings are not as common as you might expect, but they do happen.
  • They normally occur on a dog's face, snout, or paws.
  • Most dogs have a mild reaction, and they can be treated with vet-approved topical medications.
  • If dogs are allergic, symptoms will be severe and could be life-threatening.

Even if you’ve nervously watched your dog try to catch bees out of the air, dog bee stings are not as common as you might expect. But stings do happen during the warmer months, and it’s important for pet parents to be prepared. 

To prevent discomfort and help your dog feel better after a bee sting, learn how you can identify the symptoms of a sting, what you can do to treat a bee sting at home, and when it’s best to see a veterinarian. 

Bee Stings on Dogs: An Overview

Generally, bee stings on dogs look like small areas of swelling that may also be red or warm to the touch. Your dog may be sensitive if you try to touch the area. Dogs are most likely to be stung on their face, though stings can occur anywhere on the body. 

Bee stings and other insect bites and stings are seasonal, only occurring when it’s warm enough for those animals to be out and about.

Symptoms of a Dog Bee Sting

Dog with bee sting on face

Often pet parents do not find a stinger and assume that their dog was stung based on her other symptoms. Depending on the location of the sting, pet parents may not even see a bump or obvious mark. Other times, a dog may scratch at the area or limp if the sting is on the leg or foot. 

Dog bee sting symptoms range from very mild irritation to a serious medical condition requiring veterinary care.  

Mild symptoms include:

  • Small area of swelling
  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • Sensitivity to touch

Moderate symptoms include:

  • Swelling may spread for up to a day

Severe symptoms include:

  • Swelling that spreads to the throat
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Lethargy 
  • Vomiting
  • Collapse

Severe symptoms are most likely to occur if a dog is allergic to bee stings or suffers multiple stings. Multiple stings happen if a dog disturbs a bee hive or if the dogs is stung by wasps, as they can sting multiple times. 

Dogs with bee allergies need to be taken to the veterinarian immediately as their symptoms can be life-threatening. Severe and allergic reactions can cause the throat to close up, making it difficult for a dog to breathe.

Risk Factors 

Dogs who like to investigate flowers or who chase and snap at anything flying around them are at highest risk for bee stings. Dogs who like to stick their nose in holes can be stung by ground bees. 

Other risk factors include living near pollinator habitats and spending time outdoors. 

Diagnosing Bee Stings on Dogs

Veterinarian examining a dog

A bee sting can be diagnosed at home if the pet parent sees the sting happen or finds the stinger. This is rare, so often pet parents bring their dog to the veterinarian assuming their dog has a bee sting based on her symptoms. 

At the veterinary clinic, a bee sting is diagnosed by obtaining a thorough history and complete physical exam.  

Other problems that cause swelling and pain or itching, such as an infection, can be mistaken for a bee sting so if your dog’s symptoms get worse or haven’t resolved after a day, it is important to have your dog examined by a veterinarian. 

If your dog appears to have any difficulty breathing or extreme swelling, it’s important to visit an emergency room, as these symptoms may be the result of a life-threatening allergic reaction.

How to Treat a Bee Sting on a Dog

Most bee stings on dogs can be treated at home. However, it is important to take your dog to the veterinarian if symptoms progress to the moderate category, or to the emergency clinic if the symptoms are severe. 

If you find the stinger, remove it with a brushing stroke so as not to crush it. Prevent your dog from scratching the area, as scratching will allow the sting venom to spread and cause irritation. 

Do not bandage the area and do not try and suck out the venom—this is both ineffective and unhygienic. A cold compress may alleviate some of the swelling. Do not apply any ointments without speaking to your veterinarian first. Not all products that are safe for people are safe for dogs. 

Some dogs are able to take diphenhydramine (Benadryl) for bee stings, however it is not appropriate for all dogs, so it is important to consult your veterinarian before giving your dog this, or any, medication. 

Dog Bee Sting Recovery Time

Your dog should be fully recovered within a day or so from a minor bee sting reaction. Unless the sting is causing limping, it is not necessary to rest your dog to treat a bee sting.       

If symptoms do not improve or if they get worse, it is important to let your veterinarian examine your dog. There are additional medications she can administer or prescribe including steroids to reduce the bee sting reaction. 

Cost to Treat Dog Bee Stings

The cost to treat a moderate bee sting reaction will be between $100 and $300. 

A severe reaction or allergic reaction may require more intense treatment. If your dog needs to spend a night at the emergency clinic, the cost can easily be $1,500 or more. These types of severe reactions are rare. 

How to Prevent Dog Bee Stings

Dog rolling in the grass

It is impossible to prevent all bee stings, especially for dogs who spend time outside. In general, if your dog doesn’t bother the bee, the bee won’t sting. 

Discourage your dog from snapping at bees and from sticking her nose in holes.             

If you find a hive in your yard, fence off the area to give your dog and the bees enough space to be friendly neighbors. Bees are important for your flowers, garden, and community. If you feel the need to have them moved, call a local beekeeper who can safely remove the hive from your property. 

Related Conditions

  • Allergic reactions
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Wasp stings
  • Insect bites

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