Bee Allergy Symptoms in Dogs

Bee allergy in dogs can be a life-threatening emergency. Knowing what an allergic reaction to a bee sting looks like can help you get your dog to an animal emergency clinic promptly, and knowing how to prevent stings can help protect your pet from future harm.

How Bee Stings Cause an Allergic Reaction

Dogs that have an allergic reaction to a bee sting are reacting to a toxin in the bee venom (also called apitoxin). The principal ingredient in the venom that causes pain is a peptide called melittin, but the venom also contains neurotoxins and anticoagulants. Only the female worker bees produce venom; male drones do not, and the queen reserves her stings primarily for the defense of the hive and the removal of rival queens.  

Symptoms of a Bee Sting Allergy

Since dogs enjoy exploring their world with their muzzles, they are more likely to be bitten on the nose, mouth or face than on their paws or bodies. Indications that your dog has been stung by a bee may include alarmed barking or face rubbing, either on the ground or with their paws.

Treatment for a Bee Sting

Check your dog for a bee sting and take steps to remove the stinger. You can pull it out with tweezers, or flick it out of your dog's skin with either with your fingernail or with a stiff piece of plastic, like a credit card. Make a paste of baking soda and water and apply it to the sting to soothe your dog's skin and neutralize the venom.

Watch your dog for signs of an allergic reaction, such as:

  • Breathing problems
  • Widespread swelling
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Asthma
  • Extreme barking

Contact your veterinarian's office to find out if you can give your dog an over-the-counter antihistamine such as Benadryl before you take him to the veterinary clinic or an animal emergency clinic for treatment.

Your dog may require additional antihistamines, steroids, epinephrine and supportive care to successfully treat his bee sting allergy.

Preventing Canine Bee Stings

The best way to prevent bee stings is to keep your dog away from bees, but this is sometimes easier said than done. Pay attention to your dog's movements outside, and be especially alert if you see him snapping or biting at the air since he may be chasing a bee with his mouth.

Locate flowering plants and shrubs that attract bees away from the dog-friendly parts of your yard or garden, and keep your lawn trimmed and weed-free to avoid accidental bee encounters. Promptly remove any bee or wasp nests that you find on your property, and look both high and low when conducting your nest search, as some species of hymenoptera favor ground nests instead of nests in trees or house eaves.

Discuss the possibility of having emergency medications like epinephrine on hand to administer to your dog in the event he is stung in the future. Your veterinarian can prescribe an Epi-pen, which is an injectable dose of epinephrine, and he or she can instruct you in its use.