Bee Stings 101: How to Help Your Pet


Dogs can be trained to fetch slippers and race through tunnels in agility classes, but it's next to impossible to teach them to stay clear of bees, wasps and hornets.

That's because dogs and cats investigate the world using their noses and paws — the two prime targets of insect stings.

We spoke to Dr. Arnold Plotnick, DVM, of Manhattan Cat Specialistsin New York City, and Dr. Paul Richieri, DVM, owner of the Melrose Veterinary Hospital in California, about what you should do if your dog or cat does suffer an unfortunate sting — and how you can reduce the risk of a bite in your backyard.

How to Handle a Bee Sting

In most cases, there will be mild swelling and tenderness where the dog or cat was stung, usually on the face or paws, says Dr. Richieri, adding, “if it is swollen and a little puffy, it is a localized reaction to the sting.”

To stop the venom from spreading, try to remove the stinger as quickly as possible.

“The stinger can pulsate venom into a dog or cat for up to two to three minutes after being separated from the bee,” Dr. Plotnick explains. “Removal of the stinger should be done using a credit card to scrape it out. Do not try to squeeze the stinger out with your fingers or use tweezers because the venom sac may rupture, further exposing the pet to more venom.”

Monitor your pet to make sure that the swelling does not increase or spread. And contact your veterinarian, who will most likely advise you to give your pet Benadryl (diphenhydramine), an over-the-counter antihistamine. Your vet needs to instruct you on the correct dosage, based on your pet's weight. You also need to make sure that the product contains only diphenhydramine.

To reduce the swelling, apply a cold compress. You can run a washcloth under some cool tap water and then wrap it around or press it onto the site of the sting.

How to Know When Your Pet Needs Emergency Care

Some dogs and cats may be allergic to bee stings, and they can go into anaphylactic shock (and even die) if they don’t receive immediate veterinary attention.

“If your dog gets stung by a bee and starts vomiting within five to 10 minutes and his gums become pale, that’s when you know they are going into anaphylactic shock,” Dr. Richieri says. “At our clinic, we see one or two dogs a week with severe reactions, and we treat them with IV fluids to prevent shock and give steroids and Benadryl injections into the bloodstream immediately. They normally need to stay at the clinic for 48 hours before we determine if they are healthy enough to go home.”

Join the Conversation

Like this article? Have a point of view to share? Let us know!