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Dog Bee Stings: Prevention, Risks, and What to Do

Haley photo


July 21, 2023

Dog Enrichment

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* All Sniffspot articles are reviewed by certified trainers for quality, please see bottom of article for details *

Bee stings are a common injury in active dogs — especially curious puppies and adolescents who might try to chase the insects. Most dogs who get stung by a bee aren’t worse for wear in the long run, but some situations do require immediate medical attention.

Here’s what you need to know to help your dog recover if they get stung!

How do dogs get stung by bees?

Dogs usually get stung by bees when they accidentally disturb an individiaul bee or its larger nest (especially if the hive is located in the ground). This can happen in a few main ways:

  • General curiosity. Many dogs are naturally curious animals. They may investigate bees, especially if they see them flying around or on the ground, without realizing that they can cause pain. When your dog gets too close to a bee, the bee might feel threatened and respond by stinging them.
  • Focused chasing. Some dogs have a playful or prey instinct to chase insects, including bees. This can be a recipe for a sting.
  • Accidental disturbance. Dogs may come across bee nests or hives while exploring outdoor areas. If your dog disturbs a hive, the bees may swarm and sting in defense.

What are the risks of bee stings in dogs?

Bee stings in dogs vary in severity depending on several factors like the number of stings, the location of the stings, your dog's size, and whether your dog has any allergies to bee venom.

While most bee stings cause mild reactions, some dogs may experience more serious consequences. Here are the potential risks associated with bee stings in dogs:

Localized pain and swelling

Most dogs will experience localized pain, redness, and swelling at the site of the bee sting. This is a common reaction and is usually not a cause for concern.

Allergic reactions

Some dogs can have allergic reactions to bee stings. Mild allergic reactions may include more pronounced swelling around the sting site, hives, or itching.

In severe cases, a dog may experience an anaphylactic reaction, which is a potentially life-threatening emergency. Anaphylaxis can cause difficulty breathing, facial swelling, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, collapse, and shock.

Secondary infections

In some cases, the sting site can become infected, particularly if your dog scratches or licks the area excessively.

Stings in sensitive areas are more risky

Bee stings in sensitive areas such as the mouth, throat, or eyes can cause additional complications — like swelling that interfers with breathing — not to mention significant discomfort.

Multiple stings create a greater risk of complications

If your dog is stung multiple times, it increases the risk of a more severe reaction, especially in smaller dogs or those with underlying health issues.

Bee stings can make dogs fearful of the environment where they were stung

Dogs learn by association. (We cover their cognition and more in the dog training articles of our blog!) Because of this, some sensitive dogs might become fearful of things they associate with their bee sting — like a specific corner of your yard, a certain toy, or even a nearby smell.

If your pup has recovered physically from being stung but seems to be acting “off” afterward (perhaps showing fearful body language, refusing to play when they usually love games, or otherwise giving you cause for concern) it’s a great idea to get in touch with a certified force free trainer who can work out a plan to help them feel better.

Training might include counter conditioning and desensitization — and it should always happen at your dog’s pace.

What to do if your dog gets stung by a bee

1) Remove the stinger

f your dog gets stung by a bee, you need to remove the stinger as soon as possible to minimize the amount of venom injected into the skin. Honeybees leave their stingers behind and eventually die — but most other bees, including bumblebees and their cousin the wasp, can sting multiple times.

Here's how you can safely remove a bee stinger from your dog:

  • Locate the stinger: Look for the stinger on your dog's skin. It appears as a tiny black or dark brown protrusion at the sting site.
  • Use a credit card or other blunt object: Avoid using your fingers to prevent squeezing more venom into the skin. Instead, use a credit card, a blunt knife, or the edge of a plastic ID card to gently scrape the stinger out.
  • Scrape the stinger: Hold the card or blunt object at an angle and gently scrape it across the skin, starting from the base of the stinger and moving outward. Do this in a swift and smooth motion to remove the stinger.
  • Check for residue: After removing the stinger, check if any venom sac remains on the skin. If you see a small sac, also gently scrape it off with the card.

2) Calm the surrounding skin

Once the stinger is removed, clean the area with mild soap and water to prevent infection. Baking soda pastes and oatmeal baths are popular options to soothe your pup’s irritated skin if they’re having a hard time.

3) Try to reduce swelling

You might consider applying a cold compress or ice pack wrapped in a cloth to the affected area to help reduce swelling. Do not place ice directly on your dog’s skin, as this can cause frost bite.

4) Reach out to your veterinarian about preventing an allergic reaction

If your dog has a history of mild allergic reactions to bee stings — or if you notice extreme swelling or hives — you may consider giving them a veterinarian-approved antihistamine. Always consult your vet before administering any medication to your dog.

5) Watch your dog closely for any reactions

Keep an eye out for signs of an allergic reaction, such as difficulty breathing, severe swelling, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, or collapse. If you observe any of these symptoms, seek immediate veterinary attention!

6) Comfort your dog!

If your dog gets stung by a bee, chances are you both feel pretty shaken up afterward. Don’t hesitate to comfort your dog — it’s important they see you as a safe, secure attachment figure who’s there for them in times of need. You can’t reinforce their fear since it’s an emotion, not a behavior, so don’t let any old-school trainer tell you otherwise.

Just be sure to speak calmly, move predictably, and avoid revving your pup up further.

How can you prevent future bee stings moving forward?

Monitor your dog when out in nature

To reduce the risk of bee stings, be cautious during outdoor activities — especially in areas with a lot of bee activity. Keep your dog on a leash, avoid areas with known beehives, and stay away from flowering plants where bees may be feeding.

Teach a solid “leave it” cue

A strong “leave it” cue can come in handy if your pup likes to chase insects. If they start to fixate on a bee, you’ll be able to let them know to focus on you instead to avoid getting stung.

Haley photo


July 21, 2023

Dog Enrichment

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