Bee Stings in Dogs:
Symptoms and Treatment

Bee stings in dogs are usually not life-threatening. However, some dogs will have an allergic reaction of varying degrees. Betty, our foster pit bull, has had an allergic reaction three times, developing hives all over her body, especially on her legs (see photo).


Snapshot: Bee Stings in Dogs
A quick look if you're in a hurry. Come back later when you have time to read the complete guide.

  • Mild to Moderate Symptoms: Swelling in face, muzzle or nose; hives (large bumps) on any part of the body.
  • Severe Symptoms: Hives, trouble breathing, diarrhea or sudden defecation, urination, severe itchiness, weakness, drooling, pale gums, cold limbs, mental confusion or depression.
  • Treatment: Call your vet or emergency pet hospital and describe your dog's symptoms. Ask if you can give your dog a Benadryl tablet. Many vets use this human allergy med at a dosage of 1 mg per 1 lb. of dog body weight. Tablets are 25 mg each, which would be the dosage for a 25 lb. dog. A 50 lb. dog would need two tablets, a 12 lb. dog would need half a tablet, etc. But call a veterinarian FIRST; you need professional advice. In severe cases of allergic reaction, your dog can go into anaphylactic shock. He/she will die without immediate medical attention.

To learn more about bee stings in dogs, visit our Dog Health Library.

Symptoms of Bee Stings in Dogs

You may witness your dog being stung—for instance, your dog was chasing a bee or maybe he walked into a patch of clover where bees were hanging out. If he was stung on the nose or ears, those areas may swell even if your dog does not have an allergic reaction. Or he may simply yelp, then hold up his paw if he stepped on the bee/wasp/hornet.

Or you may not witness the bee stinging your dog, but will instead see your dog's physical reaction, or symptoms, which indicate he is likely reacting to a bee sting.

Some dogs will have an allergic reaction that may include swelling of the face or breaking out in hives (large bumps) on the body—not necessarily isolated to the area that was stung. Our foster pit bull, Betty, has had an allergic reaction three times. She gets hives all over her body and her skin looks very pink beneath her blue-gray fur (see photo).

In the most extreme cases, bee stings in dogs can be fatal. In this scenario, the dog will have a severe allergic reaction to the sting and go into anaphylactic shock. The first stage of symptoms may include sudden diarrhea or defecation, urination, severe itchiness and development of hives.

The symptoms rapidly progress to the second stage of symptoms, which include weakness, drooling, difficulty breathing, pale gums, cold limbs and mental confusion or depression.

Bee stings in dogs should not be ignored. If your dog is having a severe allergic reaction, seek immediate veterinary attention!

Benadryl (Diphengydramine), a medicine used to treat allergies in people, is often used by veterinarians in treating bee stings in dogs. If a dog is showing signs of an allergic reaction, an injectable form of Benadryl is often used by the vet because it will act faster than the oral form. The vet will often prescribe a follow-up dose or two of oral Benadryl once the dog is home.

Benadryl is usually dosed at 1 mg per 1 lb. of body weight. One Benadryl tablet is 25 mg. It is a good idea to keep Benadryl in your doggie first aid kit. It is an important aid in treating bee stings in dogs.

Depending on the severity of a dog's allergic reaction, your vet may use additional supportive measures, such as an injection of Dexamethasone, a synthetic form of prednesone, a steroid. Dexamathasone provides a potent anti-inflammatory therapeutic action.

A dog in anaphylactic shock will receive respiratory and cardiovascular support. Fluids will be aggressively administered to counter low blood pressure. If the dog is having trouble breathing, a breathing tube will be placed in his throat or a surgical incision may be made directly into the dog's trachea. Oxygen will be administered if needed.An antibiotic may be administered to prevent the development of secondary bacterial infections.

A dog recovering from anaphylactic shock needs to have his conditioned monitored at a pet hospital for up to 48 hours prior to being released.

My experience
Several years ago I was taking care of a terrier, Duncan, for a coworker who was out of town. It was summer and I walked Duncan to the park, only to discover it was full of clover and bees. Before we could leave, however, Duncan gave a yelp and held up his paw. Although he showed no allergic reaction, I decided immediately to take Duncan to my vet, where he was given Benadryl as a precaution. He never did show any symptoms.

With one episode, however, the symptoms were obvious. On a June evening, my husband Mike came back from checking on Betty Blue (at right), a foster pit bull who stays in our office. He said I needed to come and look at Betty. I did, and saw that Betty had hives (large bumps) on her back legs and head. Her stomach was painfully red (photo, below).

While Betty was not having trouble breathing, I was pretty sure she was having an allergic reaction. Mike put Betty in the car and headed for the emergency vet clinic 50 miles (one hour) away. Meantime, I called the clinic to let them know Mike and Betty were on the way and to describe Betty's symptoms.

Mike later told me the vet on duty said they were seeing a lot of dogs with similar reactions and guessed Betty had been stung by a bee or (less likely) bitten by a spider. She administered Benadryl and Dexamathasone and Betty's hives soon began subsiding. Mike was told to give Betty 75 mg (three tablets) of Benadryl the following morning.

The vet recommended we keep Benadryl on hand and if Betty has a similar reaction in the future, give her 75 mg of Benadryl and wait 30-60 minutes. If we see no sign of improvement, Betty should be taken for immediate medical treatment.