Has My Dog Been Stung by a Bee? How to tell

gunther running through grass

August is a big month for bees and wasps. They’re out gathering pollen before winter, which is why you’ll notice a few more around than at most other times of the year—of course, it also means a lot of dogs get stung by bees and wasps. As a veterinary nurse, I always see a lot of dogs with bee and wasp in the summer months, especially in August. 

Let’s look at what to do if you think your dog has been stung by a wasp or a bee.

How Do I Know If My Dog Has Been Stung by a Bee or a Wasp? 

It is tough to tell if your dog has been stung. Most often, you’ll hear a yelp from the back garden and run out to find a shaky, panty pup with no blood (thank goodness) or other visible injuries to be seen. 

The most common areas for dogs to get stung are their paws and lower limbs, from inadvertently stepping on a poor bee while they’re minding their own business, and their faces—from shoving their noses right at a bee or, in Bing’s case, trying to catch one.  

If your dog has been stung on the paw, you might notice them limping on the injured limb, or sometimes a small swelling that they excessively lick.

Facial stings, including those in the mouth, normally lead to swelling, your dog pawing at their face and excessive drooling. 

Last week, we received a text from our friend, Lizzie, whose dog Astrid showed some of the typical signs of being stung by a bee. 

What Should I Do if my Dog Has Been Stung by a Bee or a Wasp? 

My Dog Has Been Stung on its Face

Call your vet and arrange an emergency appointment if your dog is a flat-faced breed and has been stung anywhere on their face. The swelling caused by a sting can seriously inhibit their breathing, which is already compromised by their anatomy. The fix is usually a couple of shots that are pretty pain-free if you can get them to a vet ASAP. 

If your non-flat-faced dog show any sign of excessive swelling around the face, nose, mouth or neck, or difficulty breathing the same applies. Dogs can have anaphylactic allergic reactions just like people, so get them to the vet for immediate treatment. 

My Dog Has Been Stung on Its Paw

If your dog has stood on a bee or wasp and will allow you to touch their paw, check to make sure the insect’s stinger isn’t stuck in it. This is easier said than done, especially if your dog is in pain or doesn’t like their feet touched.

Do not put yourself or your dog in a position where someone could get bitten. 

If your dog lets you touch their paw and the stinger is still in there, make an appointment with the vet to get it removed. Otherwise it will continue to irritate your dog, and their continuous licking is more likely to cause infection than to get it out. 

If you cannot see a stinger, it does not mean it isn’t stuck. However, if your dog is licking at their foot a lot, it will irritate the paw, cause swelling and restrict visibility to check later on.

For these dogs, I recommend putting a sock over the affected paw and then distracting them with a lick mat spread with peanut butter, natural yoghurt or something else equally tasty and delicious.

Distraction for a bit of time is often all they need to alleviate the pain of the sting and prevent it from escalating to self-mutilation—where the dog starts to gnaw or chew on their foot—which leads to infection and further injury. If distraction techniques are failing, you guessed it: vet visit! 

Astrid’s Clinical Update

husky wearing socks

Luckily for Astrid, she didn’t seem to have a stinger stuck in her paw, and she looks great in a pair of socks. Lizzie plied her with peanut butter, and after a while, everything settled down. 

What About Anti-Histamines?

There are some human antihistamine tablets that you can give to dogs. However, I don’t recommend doing this without calling your vet first. They’ll give you the exact brand and dose to give your dog, which prevents you from accidentally poisoning your beloved pet with the wrong meds. 

Bees and wasps are almost everywhere our dogs are—in our gardens, the park, the beach and on hikes through forests and mountains. They’re impossible to avoid but generally aren’t a serious threat to our pets’ health. Most dogs stung by a bee or a wasp get a nasty fright, feel a bit sorry for themselves for a while, and then are right as rain within a day. 

gunther astrid and ragnar

Astrid was one of these pups and, the next morning was back out playing in the garden with her brother, Ragnar.


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