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How to Treat Bee Stings to Your Pets

I’m Dr. Fitz, and this is Georgie. Did you know that dogs can be allergic to bee stings? I know. That’s right, just like with some people, some dogs can be extremely sensitive to bee stings. Dogs can either be stung by a bee somewhere on their body or be stung after they attempt to eat the bee. Most dogs will be mildly itchy and slightly sore in the location where they were stung. However, if your dog was stung, you should monitor them for about the next several hours to ensure that they do not have an allergic reaction. Dogs may develop swelling at the site of the sting. They may also develop hives, which in short-haired dogs look like small bumps under the skin. In long-haired dogs, you may be able to feel them when you pet your dog. Some pets will get extremely itchy as well. A small proportion of dogs will progress and have more severe reactions to a sting, including swelling of the face and neck, vomiting, diarrhea, and even difficulty breathing. These signs indicate a severe allergic reaction, and your pet should be taken to a veterinarian immediately. Anaphylaxis or an allergic reaction in dogs is treated similarly to a reaction in people. 

If you’re traveling or know that your dog is allergic to bee stings, what should you do to try to prevent a reaction? In a season one episode of “Paws on Board,” I outlined some items that you should have in a pet first-aid kit. One of these items was Benadryl. Benadryl is an antihistamine and can help to reduce the severity of allergic reactions. If your pet is stung by a bee while on the road, or it starts to show some mild signs of a reaction, such as itchiness, give them some Benadryl. This can help to prevent the reaction from getting worse or buy you some time so you can get your pet to a veterinarian for further treatment. Benadryl is in no way a replacement for veterinary care if your pet has severe allergic reactions. Prior to travel, contact your vet for the proper dosing of Benadryl for your dog. 

Several other insects that can cause skin reactions in dogs include mosquitos and black flies. Most dogs have minimal reaction to mosquito bites, but some may become itchy or develop hives. If this occurs, again, it’s always a good idea to have the Benadryl on hand. Black flies can be a seasonal problem in some parts of the country, and their bites can cause some pretty dramatic-looking welts. 

Often, dogs will be brought into the clinic for these circular red spots that they have on their belly and groin that may or may not be itchy. Generally, these are caused by black flies that bite your dog from underneath. These spots will usually go away on their own, but if they don’t, you can apply a thin layer of a triple antibiotic ointment to treat the mild skin infection. An important note: occasionally, these black fly bites can appear target-like and may be confused with a tick bite. The classic target lesion of Lyme disease in people is actually rarely seen in dogs. Although the red spot you may see could be from a tick bite, the redness is usually due to irritation and a mild bacterial infection. But it’s always a good idea to have your pet on tick prevention to reduce the likelihood of any diseases from ticks. Although there are preventative products on the market, many bug bites and stings are difficult to prevent. But as an owner, you can be prepared to deal with the possible reactions your dog might have and feel comfortable when you’re out on the road. 

Tune in next time for more pet health information. I’m Dr. Fitz. This is Georgie. Thanks for watching “Paws on Board.