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Bee Sting Reactions and Treatment for Dogs

Updated on July 28, 2017
Act quickly to save your dog's life. Keep your vet's number on hand and give your dog anti-allergy medication to reduce swelling.
Act quickly to save your dog's life. Keep your vet's number on hand and give your dog anti-allergy medication to reduce swelling. | Source

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.

An early warning sign for a severe allergic reaction is swelling. Our dog's eyes swelled nearly shut shortly after he was stung.
An early warning sign for a severe allergic reaction is swelling. Our dog's eyes swelled nearly shut shortly after he was stung. | Source

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:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Noisy breathing (stridor)
  • Hives
  • Lethargy
  • Collapse

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

Dog Weight
Number of Tablets
12 pounds
1/2 tablet
18 pounds
3/4 tablet
25 pounds
1 tablet
37 pounds
1 1/2 tablets
43 pounds
1 3/4 tablets
50 pounds
2 tablets
62 pounds
2 1/2 tablets
70 pounds
2 3/4 tablets
75 pounds
3 tablets
87 pounds
3 1/2 tablets
93 pounds
3 3/4 tablets
100 pounds
4 tablets
The above information is for tablets with a strength of 25mg Diphenhydramine (Benadryl).

Emergency Tips

  1. Keep your vet's phone number in an easily accessible location.
  2. 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.

Our dog was successfully treated with Benadryl and a steroid injection. He was extremely sleepy after receiving it, which is a common side affect.
Our dog was successfully treated with Benadryl and a steroid injection. He was extremely sleepy after receiving it, which is a common side affect. | Source

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?

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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.

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    • leahlefler profile image
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      Leah Lefler 6 weeks ago from Western New York

      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!

    • profile image

      Randy 6 weeks ago

      Thanks for posting the info, glad all is well.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      Leah Lefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      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!

    • profile image

      dogfond 4 years ago

      It's good to hear that Casey has recovered. must be traumatic for her as well.

    • leahlefler profile image
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      Leah Lefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      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!

    • profile image

      dogfond 4 years ago

      Very helpful resource for many dog owners. I never thought that a bee sting could get that worse.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      Leah Lefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      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!

    • lindacee profile image

      lindacee 4 years ago from Arizona

      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.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      Leah Lefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      @ 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!

    • greatstuff profile image

      Mazlan 5 years ago from Malaysia

      And you grazed your car! Things happen at the worst moment and it can be stressful. Glad all work out fine.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Isn't that just like a dog? Always caring about others. Sweet. I'll go away now. Have a great evening.

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      Leah Lefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      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!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      Good to know the story has a really happy ending, Leah!

    • leahlefler profile image
      Author

      Leah Lefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      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!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      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.

    • leahlefler profile image
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      Leah Lefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      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!

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 5 years ago from USA

      Thank you LeahLeffler -

      Gus:-)))