First Aid: How to treat a dog for stings

Insect stings from bees or wasps can normally be dealt with at home without the intervention of a veterinarian.

However, if there are several stings either to the same area or several different areas, or any stings near the mouth, then it may be necessary to seek medical help immediately.

You will need to make an informed decision as to whether the situation can be dealt with at home or if professional assistance is needed. Here we have given some tips to help you make that decision, but if in doubt take your dog to your veterinarian.

Related: All articles on dog first aid.

Why dogs are prone to stings – natural curiosity

Dogs are naturally curious and something buzzing around will undoubtedly need to be investigated.

Unless your dog has been stung before, he will not necessarily realise there is any danger, but wasp and bee stings are poisonous and the size of your dog will determine how many stings his own immune system can tolerate before having a serious adverse reaction.

Of course it is also possible your dog can have an allergic reaction to the poison from a sting. In this case the situation can be very serious even if it is just one sting, regardless of where the sting may be.

Indicators of serious sting reactions

If your dog displays any of the symptoms below following one or multiple stings you must seek medical assistance immediately:

  • General lethargy
  • Breathing difficulty
  • Swelling that extends well beyond the site of the sting
  • Unconsciousness, convulsions, twitching

If you know your dog has been stung, but he does not display any of the above reactions, keep a close eye on him for several days as allergic reactions, although often immediate, can sometimes take several days before symptoms are seen.

If your dog has been stung in his mouth or tongue, you must seek medical assistance immediately. The swelling caused by the sting can make the tongue or mouth swell enough to block the airway, which may prevent your dog from breathing.

If your dog stops breathing before you get assistance, apply animal CPR until you can hand over to a professional.

Treatment at home

One bee or wasp sting that has not produced an allergic reaction or inhibits the breathing of your dog can be dealt with at home.

Bee stings

Bee stings are spiked and will detached itself from the bee and remain in the skin of the dog. This kills the bee and therefore presents no more danger to your dog.

When you have discovered the site of the sting examine it carefully to see if the sting is still in your dog’s skin. If it is still there remove it by scraping it with your fingernail or a stiff piece of plastic or card (a bank card is ideal).

Do not remove the sting with tweezers or between your fingernails unless absolutely necessary as you may be squeezing more poison into the bloodstream. If you do have to tweeze the sting out, monitor the area and your dog for signs of severe reactions (as above).

Treat the area with a pet specific antiseptic cream or lotion.

Wasp stings

Wasp stings are more painful than bee stings, and as stinging does not kill the wasp it has the ability to sting several times. There is no sting to remove, so simply treat the area with a pet specific antiseptic cream or lotion and monitor your dog as above.

If you do not have any pet specific antiseptic cream, you can make up a weak solution of baking soda and water or apply an ice pack to the affected area to reduce the pain.

Take steps to prevent your dog from licking or chewing the affected area as this can cause an infection.

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