Bees and wasps, it seems, are often more aggressive in the fall. And who can blame them? They’re busy preparing their hives for winter. Flowers and other food sources are harder to find. And hives are overcrowded. So they’re more likely to lose patience with a curious dog or cat, and slap prying noses with a sharp sting.
But what can you do to relieve a dog or cat bee sting? The good news is that most pets — like people — may experience mild discomfort at the site of the sting, but these signs will generally disappear without any intervention. However, some dogs and cats can have an allergic reaction that requires immediate veterinary care.
Was it a bee or a wasp?
The stinger isn’t the problem; it’s actually the venom the insect injects under the skin that makes pets miserable.
When a honeybee stings, its barbed stinger detaches and remains under the skin, and the bee dies shortly thereafter. Even though the stinger is no longer attached to the bee, it can still pump venom into the puncture wound for a few minutes.
If you can see a stinger, it’s best to remove it as soon as possible. Use the edge of a credit card or something similar to scrape the stinger out. Try not to use tweezers or squeeze the skin to remove the stinger, because the venom sac may rupture and discharge more venom into the area.
Don’t see a stinger? Then it’s more likely your pet was stung by a wasp, hornet or yellow jacket.
These insects don’t have barbed stingers, so they can sting multiple times, injecting venom under the skin with each piercing.
If your pet has mild signs, such as local pain, swelling, redness and itching, you can apply cold compresses to the area to help reduce swelling and inflammation. Do not give your pet any medications unless your veterinarian instructs you to do so. You’ll want to keep an eye on your pet for the next 12–24 hours to make sure no other signs develop.
When your pet needs more help
If your dog or cat decides to tangle with a hive and is stung numerous times, or if your pet is showing signs of a severe reaction, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Pets that are allergic to bee or wasp venom may experience severe signs within minutes, including facial swelling, difficulty breathing, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures and collapse. Cats may yowl, drool and have trouble walking. If your pet is showing any of these signs, head to your closest veterinary clinic. In some cases, pets (dogs, more commonly) can experience delayed reactions days after the stinging incident.
Your veterinarian can administer medications to help reduce the clinical signs and make your pet more comfortable. Some pets may need to be hospitalized and monitored for more serious complications.
Once your pet has had a severe reaction to a bee or wasp sting, it’s likely to happen again. The best thing you can do is keep your pet away from hives and have an EpiPen on hand should your pet need it. Ask your vet about using an EpiPen.
The information in this blog has been developed with our veterinarian and is designed to help educate pet parents. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health or nutrition, please talk with your veterinarian.