Dog stung by a bee or wasp? Vet's guide to what to do next

dog stung by a bee
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Pleasant weather means it’s time for fun outdoor activities like walks, beach days, and picnics in the park. Unfortunately, that means being exposed to all kinds of insects, including bees and wasps that can sting you and your dog.  

It is not uncommon for dogs to get stung by bees, especially if they like to snap at them or go exploring in areas where bees congregate.  

Most bee stings are mild and can be treated at home, but sometimes dogs have allergic reactions to a bee sting and this can be more dangerous, requiring immediate veterinary care. Multiple bee stings are especially concerning and should be addressed by your veterinarian right away.  

Read on to learn more about bee and wasp stings on dogs and what your should do to help your dog after a sting. 

Signs your dog has been stung by a bee or wasp 

Sometimes, you may see the bite or sting occur. Some dogs like to snap at bees and you may see your dog jump or yelp when he gets stung.  

In many cases though, pet owners do not witness the insect bite or sting and only see the symptoms that occur afterward.  

Symptoms of an insect bite or sting can include:

  • Swelling at the area of the bite or sting 
  • Redness 
  • Itching 
  • Sensitivity to the touch 
  • Warmth to the touch 

These symptoms are usually relatively mild and may not require veterinary care unless they are progressive or are accompanied by symptoms of an allergic reaction as discussed below. 

Signs of allergic reaction when your dog has been stung by a bee 

 In some cases, your dog may have a more severe reaction after being stung by a bee. Signs of an allergic reaction can include: 

  • Facial swelling 
  • Difficulty breathing 
  • Hives 
  • Swelling of the mouth or throat 
  • Lethargy 
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea 
  • Collapse 

If you notice these symptoms in your dog, seek veterinary care right away.  These are signs of a severe allergic reaction and can progress quickly. Prompt treatment by your veterinarian is necessary to slow or stop the reaction and help relieve the symptoms. 

What to do if your dog gets stung by a bee or wasp

First and foremost, don’t panic! A single bee sting is usually not a major concern. First, see if you can locate the area where the sting occurred. 

If you can identify the stinger, remove it by gently brushing over it with your fingernail or a piece if gauze. Do not grab the stinger with your fingers or tweezers, as squeezing it can cause more venom to be released, which can worsen the reaction.  

If you cannot locate the stinger, don’t worry – in many cases, we never find the stinger.  Often, it falls out on its own.

Next, evaluate your dog for symptoms of a bee sting.  It is common to have some localized swelling or pain at the site of the sting.  Signs of a more significant allergic reaction – like facial swelling or hives – mean it’s time for a trip to your veterinarian for treatment.

dog stung by a bee

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How long does a bee sting last on a dog? 

A single bee sting is typically mild and symptoms should only last about 12-24 hours before resolving completely. If your dog’s symptoms are more than mild or if your dog is developing new symptoms during this period, then it is time to see your veterinarian for an evaluation.

Multiple bee or wasp stings are much more serious than a single bee or wasp sting as your dog may receive more venom, which can be very dangerous for your dog.  If your dog has received multiple stings, see a veterinarian right away for treatment. 

Symptoms from multiple stings may take much longer to resolve, and your dog may need to be hospitalized for further care.

Treating a bee sting in dogs 

If your dog displays symptoms of an allergic reaction, such as facial swelling, itching, or hives, it is important to see your veterinarian for treatment.  

Your veterinarian will perform a quick physical examination on your dog, and will likely treat your dog with medications such as antihistamines and steroids to reduce the inflammation and slow the allergic reaction. 

 Your dog may also be sent home with some medication for the next few days to help manage the reaction.  In most mild cases, this treatment is all that is needed.  In severe cases, hospitalization and further treatment may be necessary.

Although one bee sting in dogs is usually easily treatable, multiple bee stings or being stung by a swarm of bees is a major concern.  This is because the venom in bee and wasp stings can cause severe reactions such as anaphylaxis, hemolytic anemia, organ failure, and death.  

If your dog has experienced multiple stings, please take him or her to an emergency veterinary hospital right away for treatment.

Should I take my dog to the vet if she got stung by a bee? 

If your dog received a single bee sting and has only mild symptoms and is otherwise doing well, you likely do not need to take your dog to the vet.  The symptoms should resolve on their own within 12-24 hours.  

If the symptoms do not resolve in this time period, if they worsen, or if your dog has symptoms of an allergic reaction, then your dog should see a veterinarian for evaluation and treatment. 

 If your dog was stung multiple times it is especially important to seek veterinary care right away, as this can result in severe illness and even death due to high doses of bee or wasp venom.  

If you are ever unsure about whether or not your dog should see a veterinarian, it’s always best to see your vet just in case!

Dr. Elizabeth Racine is a small animal general practice veterinarian covering all things pet health and wellness.  Her special interests include veterinary behavior, nutrition, and internal medicine.  As a freelance writer, Dr. Racine has written content for major companies in the industry such as the American Kennel Club, Merck Animal Health, Bayer PetBasics, Elanco, and CareCredit.  In her free time, Dr. Racine enjoys playing trampoline dodgeball, hiking with her beagle Dasher, and spending time with her three mischievous cats.  Dr. Racine can be found at www.theveterinarywriter.com (opens in new tab) and at https://www.linkedin.com/in/eracinedvm/ (opens in new tab)