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What to Do if Your Pet Has Been Stung by a Bee/Wasp/Hornet
A sting from a bee, wasp or hornet is painful for all of us. In patients who are not allergic, a bee or wasp sting will leave a painful welt that generally resolves in 24-48 hours. To reduce the swelling, apply a cold compress as soon as the sting is identified. It is best to apply a small ice pack directly over the area for 5-10 minutes.
There are some animals who are allergic to bee or wasp stings. The first time these patients are stung, they will generally display excessive swelling at the site of the sting, and will often also develop urticaria or hives. These are dime to quarter-sized raised swellings, usually on the head, chest and back. These swellings are often itchy and if they are not treated can result in self-mutilation leading to open sores on the pet’s body. In addition to the hives, some patients will develop facial swelling around the eyes and lips.
If your pet develops these signs, contact us as quickly as possible. Your pet should also be dosed with oral Benadryl as soon as the symptoms are identified. The dosage for dogs is 25 mg for every 25 pounds every four hours until the signs disappear. The Benadryl dosage for cats is 12.5 mg per cat once only. It is important to contact our office as well as giving the Benadryl. Some pets will become drowsy after Benadryl is given at these dosages.
Animals can develop severe allergies to bee and wasp stings. This usually occurs after the second or subsequent stings. The reaction can be so severe as to be life-threatening. This type of reaction is referred to as anaphylaxis. When a patient has an anaphylactic reaction, within minutes of the sting they will develop signs of difficulty breathing, severe swelling of the face and throat and if left untreated, these patients can die. This is a true emergency. The pet needs an injection of epinephrine as soon after the sting as is possible. If you know your pet has this type of allergies to stings, it is important to have access to an Epipen at all times. Unfortunately, the cost of this product has become exorbitant in the last 5 years. If you do not have an Epipen and your pet has a reaction like this, you must get to an emergency clinic within 30-45 minutes to save their life.
While many people use bee, wasp and hornet interchangeably, each is a very different insect. Honey bees are true bees, and unfortunately, there numbers have declined rapidly over the last 15-20 years. Honey bees are generally fairly docile, and are not likely to sting unless provoked. When a honey bee stings, their stinger stays in the animal and the honey bee will die. If the stinger can be identified, it is best if it can be removed from the animal. Wasps and hornets are much more aggressive and often build nests in areas close to human habitation. Both wasps and hornets can sting repeatedly as their stingers do NOT come out after they sting an animal. This can lead to more severe reactions as each time the pet is stung, more venom is injected under their skin.