Bee Sting Reactions and Treatment for Dogs
Bee Stings on Dogs
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 on the side of our house, and the pesticide company was called. Our golden retriever Casey had gone out to do his morning business, and 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 office said. He had been stung by a bee and was allergic, and 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 arrived and the car was parked just 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.
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)
If a dog demonstrates swelling of the face and eyes, call your veterinarian immediately. 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 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 in the lawn, or paw at a bee trapped indoors.
A Dog's Allergic Reaction to Bees
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, then you should treat him immediately with an allergy medication like Benadryl. 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). An allergy medication like Benadryl is typically dosed at 1mg per pound. Most tablets contain 25mg of medication. Check the package label to verify the concentration of the medication prior to giving it to your pet.
Dosage for Dogs with 25mg Diphenhydramine Tablets
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.
Treatment at the Vet
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 also give an injection of a steroid called Dexamethasone. 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.
- In the most severe reactions, a tracheotomy may be performed (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 a period of 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 a sufficient amount of 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.
Does Your Dog Have Allergies?
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. Within a few hours of treatment, the swelling around his eyes had disappeared.
He had been stung on his mouth, so the swelling near the site of the sting took a full 24 hours to lessen. 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 had no signs of swelling.