The Seriousness of Bee Stings
Dr. Pinkston felt this was a great article to share on bee and wasp stings, and what to do if your dog gets stung. While we’ve moved into Fall now, the bees and wasps are still out searching for food. Please welcome guest author Cheri Eagleson
Spring on into Summer is bee and wasps season, and is the busiest time for bees as they have come out of hibernation and are gathering food, pollinating plants in the process.
Bees are beneficial and for the most part beneficent, but they can become cranky when it’s hot and humid, rainy or if other bees are robbing their hives. A bee or wasps sting will occur when a rambunctious pooch chases a bee, snaps at a hornet or digs up an underground wasp nest. When a dog or cat who takes a curious or aggressive interest in bees or wasps they are likely to receive payback in the form of a sting on the nose, paw, or inside of the mouth. Which are common sites for bee stings not covered by hair. An angry bee is a danger to your pets.
The stings of bees and wasps cause localized pain, swelling and mild redness to the site of the sting. Depending on the location of the sting, and how many times your dog is stung, bee stings can be mild, serious life threatening and even death.
The stinger, which has a poison sac with sharp lancets to deliver venom, can pump it into a dog for up to three minutes after being separated from the bee.
When your dog is stung, he will likely yelp, or begin whining and you may see him pawing the stung area, or trying to rub his head on the grass in an attempt to relieve the pain. They may start to drool, and within ten minutes, healthy pink gums turn white or gray.
Sometimes, even if the site of the sting is not the dog’s face, your pet can also suffer dangerous swelling on the neck. For example, swelling of the neck may result in constriction of the airway, leading to the inability to breathe. Known as anaphylaxis, this intense inflammatory reaction causes swelling from excessive fluid buildup in body tissues. If you notice swelling on the neck area, you should seek veterinary help immediately.
All stings should be treated as a potential emergency. Your dog might have experienced a bee sting last summer but didn’t show signs of a reaction, but the next time a bee stings him it could be fatal.
Some pets suffer severe reactions to the bee stings because they are allergic to bee venom. A dog who is being stung repeatedly or has previously been stung and this is the second time he may go into anaphylactic shock (an immediate serious allergic reaction) this will require prompt veterinary attention.
If your dog has a severe reaction to a bee sting, your veterinarian may give him an injection of antihistamine, steroid, or adrenaline. Also, if your dog has a history of previous hypersensitive reactions to bee stings, ask your veterinarian about an Epi Pen kit which you can keep in your doggie first aid kit. Write down the proper dosage and keep it with the kit. The Epi Pen is an epinephrine (adrenaline) auto injector that can counteract an anaphylactic reaction.
A mild bee sting can cause a burning or itching sensation that lasts for several minutes or more. You may notice your pet chewing, licking, rubbing, or scratching at the area. Or if there has not been an immediate symptom your dog may act okay for the day, but later seem lethargy or weak acting, and may even experience seizures and also collapse. In this case call your veterinarian and tell them you are on your way.
What action to take
If you see your pet get stung by a bee, stay calm, and keep your dog still to slow the spread of the venom. Observe him carefully for any allergic reaction, and to determine the seriousness of the sting, and what course of action to take.
If you know the area of the sting try to remove the stinger right away. Do not squeeze it with tweezers–the venom sac may rupture, further exposing your dog to poison. Instead scrape it away with the edge of a credit card. If you didn’t actually see the bee sting your dog, but when you see the muzzle start to swell that’s a good sign the bee did actually sting, and that is the purpose of observing him.
– If possible, try to identify the stinging insect, bee, hornet or wasps that will help your vet to know what type of venom.
– Immediately apply a cool wet washcloth to reduce pain and swelling, do not use an ice cube because it might cause your dog to shiver and shock his system.
– Mix baking soda with water into a paste and put it directly on to the site of the sting to help neutralize pain and swelling. Leave it on for about 30 minutes. You may want to wrap a towel around the area to prevent your dog from licking the area.
– Keep Benadryl on hand, this antihistamine provides relief from itching, swelling and irritation. The dose depends on your dog’s size. Call your veterinarian now and ask how much Benadryl to give your pet if he/she is stung, then write it on the box. When you purchase Benadryl, be sure the only ingredient is diphenhydramine.
– Do not administer aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen. Some OTC formulations contain acetaminophen, and the artificial sweetener xylitol, which is toxic to animals. Always purchase medications for your pet from your veterinarian. Bee stings are very painful and every animal has their individual needs.
– If the sting is very serious, the treatment may require IV fluids to prevent shock, in that case expect your dog to be hospitalized for one or two days until his health returns.
Tips to help prevent the stings
Bee proof your yard and home. It’s good to have bees visit your flowers to pollinate them, but to prevent them from setting up housekeeping full-time in your yard or home, remove or cover possible nesting sites, such as overturned flower pots, stacked lawn furniture, holes in trees or walls, drains or attic vents. Call an expert about bee (Pest Exterminator) removal if you find a nest or bee hive in the eaves of your home, in the attic or in trees.
Honeybees may want to drink from your pets’ outdoor water dish. If you are an urban bee keeper (and who isn’t these days?). Provide bees with their own source of water and place pet dishes well away from hives. To further discourage bees from sipping a pet’s water, mix two tablespoons of vinegar with a gallon of water for your pet’s water dish.
If you are a gardener select flowers such as red roses zinnias and jasmine that attract more butterflies than bees. Consult your county extension office or a master gardener for pet-safe garden choices that do not beckon the bees.
Know the phone number and location of the nearest veterinary after hours emergency hospital, even insert the address in your iPhone to use your GPS so you save the time looking for it. Have a safe and fun summer.
Aurthor: Cheri Eagleson