Updated November 29, 2020
‘At A Glance (Details Below)’ Emergency Care
If A Dog’s Face Or Lips Swell Up
- Bee sting causes the majority of facial swelling in dogs
- Venom from bees can cause airway obstruction or shock
- See a vet immediately: your dog may need intravenous cortisone or adrenaline injections
Now dive deeper…
You won’t ever forget the first time your dog gets a bee sting. One minute your dog is snapping at a fly, or just walking along. The next minute they’re vomiting, sometimes even collapsed and their skin starts to swell up. You may not know what caused it, but you’ll certainly know something is wrong.
What Bee Sting Looks Like
- Vomiting first in most cases
- Lethargy and signs of pain at the site
- Dramatic swelling of face, lips or tongue
- Limping or licking if the paw is involved
- Finally airway obstruction or collapse and shock in severe cases
It’s a mystery to me why bee sting in dogs is so dramatic. Most people say it’s due to their small body size, but it also seems like dogs are especially sensitive to bee venom.
Cats can also get stung by bees, but we rarely see it. The reaction seems less, and they just seem too smart to let it happen!
Of course, it doesn’t exactly help that dogs are often trying to eat a bee when it stings them.
Help! My Dog Just Got A Bee Sting
Bee sting can be a life-threatening emergency but no dog should die if treated. Please call your local vet and arrange to go straight there. Any local vet should be able to fit your dog in between other appointments so you don’t have to wait.
Having said that, it’s amazing how many bee stings we see right at closing time. If your regular vet is closed, visit this page to find your closest after hours vet in Adelaide.
Can I Treat Bee Sting With Antihistamine?
Yes, but giving an antihistamine or cortisone tablet is rarely a suitable alternative.
- Dogs in shock do not absorb medicines. Circulatory collapse causes the gut’s blood supply to shut down.
- Even in normal cases, it takes at least 20 minutes to absorb oral medications, and longer again if food is present in the stomach.
- The only times antihistamines may be appropriate are for situations that don’t involve systemic illness or swelling near airways.
How To Treat Bee Sting
Your vet will give injections of cortisone and an antihistamine, plus adrenaline and intravenous fluids if dogs are in shock. As a result, improvement is usually rapid.
It’s not important to find and remove the sting but if we can see it we’ll take it out. Dogs should be kept under observation until swelling reduces and circulation returns to normal.
Finally, when it’s all over I can offer you this small compensation. The fact that very few dogs get stung twice is not only great in itself, it’s also yet another clue that dogs are a lot smarter than we usually give then credit for.
Have something to add? Comments are welcome below and will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. These help topics are from a series regularly posted on email and Twitter. Subscribe via email here to never miss a story! The information provided here is not intended to be used as a substitute for going to the vet. If your pet is unwell, please seek veterinary attention.