Dr. Mark, U of Missouri Veterinary Medicine grad and 40+ years working with dogs, exotics and livestock
My Dog Was Stung by a Bee
Emergencies happen at the most inopportune times. School had just started, and we noticed an awful buzzing sound coming from the side of the house. A colony of hornets had decided to invade the vinyl siding, and we called the pesticide company. Our golden retriever, Casey, had gone out to do his morning business, after which he came back inside to rest.
The pesticide company arrived and greeted our dog. "Hey, his eyes look kind of puffy. Is he OK?"
I looked at our rapidly swelling pup and ran to the phone to call the vet hospital. "Bring him in right away," the vet's office said. He had been stung by a bee and was allergic—his airway could swell shut. This was a life-threatening emergency.
I put Casey into our car and backed out of the driveway. Unfortunately, the pesticide company had parked their vehicle right behind me. In the stress of the moment, I grazed the car as I backed out of our driveway.
I could no longer go to the vet, as I had to wait for a police officer to arrive to file an official report. Casey continued to swell and was getting lethargic; I was terrified we were going to lose him. A little knowledge about emergency treatment for dog allergies would have been very welcome at this point in time.
Bee Sting Symptoms
The first step to treating an allergic reaction is knowing how to recognize one. Most dogs will demonstrate the following changes when reacting to a bee sting:
- Excessive drooling
- Swollen eyes
- Swelling of the face, muzzle, and other body parts
More severe symptoms may follow the initial onset of swelling and drooling:
- Noisy breathing (stridor)
Call your veterinarian immediately if a dog demonstrates swelling of the face and eyes. Your pet will need to be seen as soon as possible, and the vet has the equipment to properly treat breathing difficulties.
Try to locate the site of the sting. Many dogs are stung on or around the face, as they may try to bite bees that fly around their face. The paws are another site for stings: a dog may step on a bee on the lawn or paw at a bee trapped indoors.
Video of Hives and Swelling From a Bee Sting
Emergency Home Treatment
In the event you cannot make it to the hospital quickly or your dog shows rapidly progressing symptoms of an allergic reaction, you should treat him immediately with an allergy medication like Benadryl (diphenhydramine). Always call your vet first because your dog will need to be seen even if you administer an anti-allergy medication at home. Many require more assistance than just Benadryl, but it will buy some time and help slow the onset of symptoms. This gives you time to get to the vet!
Dogs may safely take human allergy medication. Simply give the appropriate amount of medication via tablet (see the table below). According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, allergy medication like Benadryl is typically dosed at 1 mg per pound or 2mg/kg. Most tablets contain 25 mg of medication. Check the package label to verify the concentration of the medication before giving it to your pet.
Dosage for Dogs With 25 mg Diphenhydramine Tablets
|Dog Weight||Number of Tablets|
1 1/2 tablets
1 3/4 tablets
2 1/2 tablets
2 3/4 tablets
3 1/2 tablets
3 3/4 tablets
- Keep your vet's phone number in an easily accessible location.
- Know your dog's weight.
How Vets Treat Bee Stings
Once your animal arrives at the veterinarian's office, let them know exactly how much Benadryl your dog has received.
- Depending on the symptoms, the vet may administer a dexamethasone steroid. This helps calm the inflammation caused by the allergic reaction and will help prevent further swelling.
- Animals in anaphylactic shock will require intensive care. Some may require resuscitation. An IV may be placed to give them fluids, as the blood pressure may drop during an anaphylactic reaction.
- In addition, oxygen may be required.
- A tracheotomy may be performed in the most severe reactions (hole in the windpipe). This will allow the dog to breathe until the swelling resides from the reaction.
- If a dog is in anaphylaxis, he will have to stay at the vet's office for treatment and monitoring for a couple of days.
What to Expect After Treatment
- Dogs who have received Benadryl will be a bit woozy and may sleep for some time until the medication wears off. Keep your pet in a quiet, calm location. Keep him away from stairs while he is still woozy.
- If dexamethasone was given, he will likely become thirsty and will drink frequently. Provide sufficient water and expect frequent trips outside for bathroom breaks.
- Watch your pet very closely. If the site of the sting is known, watch the area for continued swelling. Infection sometimes sets in at the site of the bee sting: if this occurs, call your vet. Antibiotics may be required.
A Happy Ending: Bee Sting Recovery
Fortunately, we were able to get Casey to the vet in plenty of time. His eyes and mouth were extremely swollen, and he was drooling excessively. Our vet gave him Benadryl and a shot of steroids. Since Casey had not gone into anaphylaxis, he was allowed to come home with us. We monitored him closely for the next 24 hours. The swelling around his eyes had disappeared within a few hours of treatment.
Dog Bee Sting Recovery Time
He had been stung on his mouth, so the swelling near the sting site took 24 hours to decrease. He was quite fatigued and slept for the first few hours after he came home. He was also extremely thirsty, and we had to let him out in the middle of the night for a bathroom break. By 30 hours after the event, he was perfectly healthy and showed no swelling.
Veterinary Sources for Bee Sting Treatment in Dogs
- Tauer , D. (2021, June). Wasp, Bee, and Ant Stings to Animals. Retrieved from https://www.merckvetmanual.com/toxicology/venomous-arthropods/wasp,-bee,-and-ant-stings-to-animals
- Thomas, E., Mandell, D. C., & Waddell, L. S. (2013). Survival after anaphylaxis induced by a bumblebee sting in a dog. Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, 49(3), 210–215. https://doi.org/10.5326/JAAHA-MS-5833
- Fitzgerald, K. T., & Flood, A. A. (2006). Hymenoptera stings. Clinical techniques in small animal practice, 21(4), 194–204. https://doi.org/10.1053/j.ctsap.2006.10.002
- Nakamura, R. K., Fenty, R. K., & Bianco, D. (2013). Presumptive immune-mediated thrombocytopenia secondary to massive Africanized bee envenomation in a dog. Journal of veterinary emergency and critical care (San Antonio, Tex. : 2001), 23(6), 652–656. https://doi.org/10.1111/vec.12120
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
Question: How long after a bee sting should it take for the swelling to completely subside? My puppy got stung in the ear about 12 hours ago. I gave him a prescribed dose of Benadryl immediately after we realized what happened. The swelling has reduced, but it is still present after 12 hours.
Answer: It took our fully grown Golden Retriever about 24 hours for the swelling to reduce completely. Bee sting reactions are very scary in dogs. I am glad you got your puppy into the vet right away, and I hope the swelling reduces quickly. If the swelling doesn't go down, I would call the veterinarian and have the puppy re-assessed.
Question: What do I give my dog to relieve a bee string if I don’t have Benadryl?
Answer: If you do not have Benedryl on-hand, take your pet immediately to the veterinarian if they are showing any signs of allergic reaction. Once the animal has been treated, obtain dosing information from your vet and keep Benedryl in your medicine cabinet in case of future emergencies.
Question: My dog got stung a few days ago. I haven't taken him to the vet yet. The area where he was stung is swollen. What should I do?
Answer: If your dog was stung several days ago and is still swollen, I would most certainly take your dog to the vet to ensure there is no infection or other problem which needs to be treated. It is better to be safe and have your pet checked over, particularly when the swelling isn't resolving on its own.
Question: My dog was swarmed by yellow jackets last week. Now he is getting bumps above the skin like where he was stung, and they are oozing with green puss. And when I clean them it just then leave an open hole. What would this be from?
Answer: It sounds like your dog's stings have become infected. Your dog requires a visit to the veterinarian to disinfect the wounds and to possibly receive antibiotics.
Question: Should a dog continue to vomit 24-hours after a bee sting?
Answer: A dog that is vomiting 24-hours after a bee sting needs to be seen by a vet as soon as possible. It is not typical for a dog to vomit this long after being stung by a bee.
Question: My dog was stung on the paw on Tuesday and taken to the vet. They gave her a steroid shot and Benadryl shot. Now it is Sunday. She has eaten very little and drinks very little. Should I take her back to the vet again? She only weighs 8 lbs, and isn't being herself at all.
Answer: I would absolutely take her back to the veterinarian. With a depressed appetite and poor liquid intake, she is at risk of becoming dehydrated and very ill. Small dogs are very susceptible to medication dosages and can be fragile when a medical emergency happens. I would call your vet immediately and have her seen.
Question: Are there dogs that won't react to bee stings?
Answer: Some dogs will be allergic to bees, and others won't have the same allergy. It is a wise idea to keep Benadryl in the medicine case if you own a dog, just in case they develop an allergic response to a sting.
Question: My dog was stung in her ear. We did not know it until the day after. We took to vet they gave meds injections and antibiotics sent home. This is two days after the sting, and she just wants to lay around. Is this normal even after treatment for the sting?
Answer: If you are concerned about her behavior, I would definitely call the vet and ask the question over the phone. They may want to see her to be sure that she is safe and healthy. Our dog was quite drowsy after his bee sting, as he was on antihistamine and the medication made him quiet and sleepy for a few days. A quick call to your vet will offer reassurance!
Question: One day after a wasp stung my dog, there are patches bilaterally on sides of face that are raw & irritated. The raw patches are swelling and getting worse. There are several welts around the area. As bad as it looks you would think he’d be scratching it all the time. What should I do?
Answer: Your dog may be developing an infection in the area he was stung. I would immediately consult your vet to make sure there is no infection. You may also need to obtain a cone to place over your dog's head if he is scratching and irritating the area.
Question: My dog was stung in the stomach weeks ago and still has a welt under the skin. What should I do?
Answer: You should take your dog to a qualified veterinarian as soon as possible. Your dog may have developed an abscess (or infection) where he was stung, or may have another medical issue that needs attention.
Question: My dog was stung (possibly multiple times) on the leg yesterday. It took a couple of hours but she seemed fine. Overnight she developed diarrhea. Would this be related? Should I take her to the vet?
Answer: Any time there is a medical concern, it is wise to make a consultation visit with your veterinarian. The diarrhea might be related to the stress and reaction to the stings, or might be completely unrelated. In any case, diarrhea can lead to dehydration and should be evaluated by a vet to rule out more serious health complications.
© 2012 Leah Lefler
Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on August 24, 2018:
Benedryl works very well for helping our dog with allergic reactions to stings. It was a shock the first time he was stung, as we didn't know he was allergic and he had a severe reaction. I am glad Benedryl is helping your dog, Tonia!
Tonia on August 23, 2018:
My dogs mouth is swelled up i gave her benydrel
Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on May 27, 2018:
Some dogs are not allergic to bees. I hope your dog is OK, Danika! I would keep a close eye on her, but hopefully she'll perk up shortly and won't develop an allergic reaction. Our dog developed symptoms very rapidly, and we keep Benedryl on-hand just in case of another emergency!
danika roche on May 26, 2018:
my dog got stung in the eye and I see no sign of an allergic reaction however she is pretty tired
Kimberly Dehart on December 26, 2017:
I can't say I'd waited for a police officer. I'm sure the pest person or whoever the vehicle belonged to would have been ok wth you having gone on to the vet, and if not, they would get over it. But anyhow, glad the dog is ok nonetheless.
Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on August 04, 2017:
Thanks, Randy - I hope it helps someone! Our Golden Retriever is extremely allergic to bees and we had a very scary encounter. We now keep benedryl on hand at all times and have the emergency vet's number on our refrigerator!
Randy on August 04, 2017:
Thanks for posting the info, glad all is well.
Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on April 17, 2013:
He was in quite a bit of distress when it happened - after he was treated, he slept for several hours (a side effect of the benedryl). He has been very happy and healthy since that event, thank goodness!
dogfond on April 16, 2013:
It's good to hear that Casey has recovered. must be traumatic for her as well.
Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on April 16, 2013:
I was terrified when our dog began to swell, dogfond. I was very grateful for our vet's prompt attention! Fortunately, our dog Casey has stayed away from the hornets sicne that incident... I think the sting was bad enough to leave a lasting memory!
dogfond on April 16, 2013:
Very helpful resource for many dog owners. I never thought that a bee sting could get that worse.
Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on September 22, 2012:
I have to admit, lindacee, I am glad the winter is coming so that our stinging insects go dormant! It is so scary when your dog is in imminent danger and you need to make sure they are stable for long enough to get to the vet! I am so grateful our Casey dog is OK. I am glad your doggie is fine after her little bee sting accident!
Linda Chechar from Arizona on September 22, 2012:
This is such important information for all pet owners, Leah. The experience with your dog's bee sting had to have been terrifying. It is such a helpless feeling to see your friend suffering. So happy your pooch came through it OK! A few years ago, my dog stepped on a bee and her paw swelled to twice its size and she was in obvious distress. I called the 24-hour vet and they asked about her symptoms and told me to administer an antihistamine (luckily I had some Benedryl on hand). Within a couple hours she was back to normal.
Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on September 09, 2012:
@ Teaches -dogs really are man's best friend!
@ Greatstuff - it was a very stressful moment. Fortunately our car had no damage, though there are a few minor dents in the pesticide company's car. No one was hurt, though, and our dog is just fine - so everything turned out OK!
Mazlan A from Malaysia on September 08, 2012:
And you grazed your car! Things happen at the worst moment and it can be stressful. Glad all work out fine.
Dianna Mendez on September 08, 2012:
Isn't that just like a dog? Always caring about others. Sweet. I'll go away now. Have a great evening.
Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on September 08, 2012:
He's a really good dog, teaches - he lays down with Nolan (our five year old) when he's not well and is just the sweetest thing. We're lucky to have him!
Dianna Mendez on September 08, 2012:
Good to know the story has a really happy ending, Leah!
Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on September 08, 2012:
It was a really awful day - at first, I wasn't sure why he was swelling up like a balloon! We have had a huge problem with hornets this year as they are really active in the hot weather. I finally spotted a small amount of blood on his muzzle (after I had called the vet) and realized he had been stung. He likes to chase flying insects and will catch them in his mouth, poor pup. He's only a year old so he's still very playful. He's happy and healthy now, thank goodness!
Dianna Mendez on September 07, 2012:
Poor Casey! Good thing that you noticed this in time. Our dog was stung by a nest of bees and they followed him into the home, still attacking him all the way. He survived as well through good meds. Give your dog a big hug for me. Great hub and voted up.
Leah Lefler (author) from Western New York on September 07, 2012:
I hope it helps someone, Gus - our dog was quite ill and I wish I had known how much benedryl to give him when we had the emergency the other day! He is fine, thank goodness, but it was a scary morning!
Gustave Kilthau from USA on September 07, 2012:
Thank you LeahLeffler -