How To Deal With Bee & Wasp Stings In Dogs

It goes without saying that with the lovely warmer weather, people and their pets like to spend as much together as they can in the great outdoors. However, with the hotter weather comes a lot of biting and stinging insects which dogs being dogs often like to chase. It's only natural for our canine friends to rush around with their noses on the ground picking up all those lovely new scents when they are out on a walk or in the garden and this is when they are very likely to be stung.

Some dogs love chasing bumble bees as they hover over the grass and flowers taking them in their mouths which can be a bit of a problem. They also love rummaging around in the undergrowth so the chances of them getting stung by a flying (or other) insect are pretty high. If you are out in a garden with your pet, you may even hear your four-legged friend let out a yelp when it happens. The result could be a slight and soft swelling on their faces and muzzles although many dogs get stung on their paws too. If you own a dog with a short coat, you may even see a few raised bumps and blotches on their body as well.

Stings on Paws are Common

More often than not, dogs are stung on their paws as they cavort around because a bee or a wasp is on the ground – the result is a sting on their pads as they step on the insect and when this happens it's a lot harder to see and remove the "stinger". However, your dog may be limping and looking a little sorry for themselves which all too often owners think is a result of some sort of injury to a  joint or torn a nail when it fact it's an insect sting that's causing the problem.

When dogs get stung on their paw pads, they tend to nibble and chew at their foot because it is itchy but not actually that painful. But with this said, just as with people who get stung, your pet will feel a little discomfort but a insect sting is not a terribly serious problem for the majority of our canine friends. Some dogs, however, may have an allergic reaction or if they get stung on a more sensitive area like their mouths, it can turn into a bigger problem.

Dogs Can Suffer Allergic Reactions to Stings

If your dog does suffer an allergic reaction to a bee, wasp or other insect sting, it might cause their windpipe to swell up which in turn can make it very hard for them to breath. If the swelling continues, it may even cut off their breathing altogether which means they end up by suffocating. This is why when a dog is stung either on their mouths or throats – you would need to treat the situation as an emergency.

With this said, treating a sting on a paw pad or elsewhere on your pet's body is pretty straight forward. Wasp stings typically do not leave "stingers" behind but if the sting was from a bee, the chances are the stinger will be left in your pet's body. Sometimes you can see it sticking out and it may even be pulsing. You should try to remove the stinger if you can before neutralising the stinging sensation your pet is feeling with the right sort of antidote.

You should never try to squeeze a stinger out because this will only end up injecting more venom into your pet making it a lot more painful for them. The best way to remove a stinger is to scrape it off by using a sharp edged piece of plastic - credit cards are great for this purpose. You need to scrape the stinger off in one single stroke making sure you do this on the diagonal.

Was it a Bee or Wasp Sting?

The chances are you would not know whether it was a bee or a wasp that stung your dog which can be a bit of a problem.  It's essential that you don't attempt to neutralise the venom before actually knowing this because it could result in making things more painful for your pet. The best way forward if you do not know, is to bathe the sting in cold water or even use ice packs on it and you would need to do this for around 15 minutes so that you effectively reduce any swelling and itchiness.

If you know what insect stung your dog, the two great treatments can usually be found in your kitchen cupboard and a good way of remembering which to use on what sting are as follows:

  • Bee sting – Bicarbonate of soda
  • Wasp sting – Vinegar

Bee stings are acidic therefore you need to use anything that's alkaline in order to neutralise the venom and the best thing that can be found in most kitchens is bicarbonate of soda.

On the other hand a wasp sting is alkaline which means it needs to be neutralised using a diluted acid solution and the best thing that you'll find in most kitchen cupboards that fits the bill is vinegar although lemon juice works very well too.

How to Ease the Irritation

The best way to ease the itchiness and irritation of a sting is to place an ice pack or a cold compress on the affected area. If your pet has a nasty reaction to the sting and you had to take them to the vet, they may well prescribed an antihistamine which will help ease the discomfort too and one that vets like to use is Piriton.

However, Piriton has to be prescribed by a vet and you should never give it to your dog without them first having been seen by a vet. The reason being that some dogs may have a reaction to the active ingredient contained in Piriton which could prove more dangerous to them than the reaction to a sting – in a worst case scenario, it may even prove fatal.


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