The vet’s office: Sting like a bee
How wasp and honeybee stings can affect your pet
By Dr. Roger Krogstad, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
After personally nursing a wasp sting for three days with discomfort and a constant itch, the thought of this happening to a small dog or cat is scary. Multiply my exposure by at least 20 times — for the size difference — to imagine what a pet would feel. What would you see?
Wasp nests seem to be everywhere this summer, and as some of us know, wasps will pursue in defense of their territory. Sadly, honeybee populations are decreasing, but a bee’s sting can also be very toxic. The barbed stringer on the honeybee only lets the bee sting once, and the stinger plus its venom sac tends to stick in the victim, whereas the wasp’s smooth stinger can inflict stings to multiple victims with no harm to the wasp. This creates a greater venom transfer.
Some people are so highly allergic to bee stings that they carry an EpiPen to prevent anaphylactic symptoms. Pets do not have the severe respiratory distress seen in people but tend to become weak or wobbly, have low blood pressure, may vomit, and could possibly collapse. Immediate facial swelling, dermal thickenings, and pinpoint bruising are often the first signs of an encounter. If symptoms progress to the pet collapsing, this is a medical emergency.
A single honeybee sting may produce very little in terms of whole-body symptoms but can still cause local swelling and sensitivity at the site of the sting. The stinger is sometimes seen still present and attached in the skin. Removal should be with a scraping action from a thin, flat, rigid object similar to a credit card. With the venom sac still attached, squeezing the stinger may inject additional toxins into the pet. Icing of the sting site and an initial oral antihistamine dose should stop the pet from suffering whole-body symptoms.
Swarming of a pet by bees, hornets, or ground wasps may be severe and possibly life threatening. Immediate treatment at a veterinary facility would be recommended.
An antihistamine such as diphenhydramine should be part of your pet’s first aid kit. Your veterinarian can help advise you on when to use antihistamines and how much you should give your pet. Icing the affected site and potentially an anti-inflammatory pain medication from your veterinarian may be recommended as well.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at