By Dr. Roger Krogstad, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
With the nice spring weather and flowers in bloom, bees and wasps are out in force. Though bees and wasps are important to the natural landscape, a simple honeybee sting to a 10-pound cat or dog would be the equivalent of you or I being stung by a bee the size of your thumb. The effects of bee stings can be significant, including weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, elevated heart rate, and painful swelling at the site of the sting.
What can be done if your pet gets stung? Call your veterinarian immediately for advice on how to minimize the effects of the sting. Your veterinarian will take your pet’s size, age, location, number of stings, and species of bee into account when developing a treatment plan. Another important factor is whether or not your pet has been stung before.
Commonly, pets go outside, owners hear a yip or cry from outdoors, and the pet comes back favoring a paw. This is a sure sign that your pet has stepped on a bee or wasp in the yard.
Honeybee stingers are barbed and will remain in the skin. These will have to be removed as the stinger will continue to release venom for a short time after the sting.
Hornets and wasps have smooth stingers and can sting multiple times. You can use a flat object, such as the edge of a credit card, to scrape the stinger out of the skin.
Your veterinarian will give you a treatment plan — often carried out at home — that includes a dose of an antihistamine such as Benadryl and cold compresses to the site of the sting. Call your veterinarian for a safe and effective dose of medication to give to your pet.
If you plan to travel or are visiting an area heavily populated by bees, it may be worthwhile to give your pet a dose of antihistamine proactively. This can be done prior to travel and throughout your visit. Whether or not you decide to premedicate, an antihistamine should be a part of every well-equipped first aid kit.
To reduce the risk of stings around your home, remove wasp nests from eaves and sheds and by controlling the dandelion population, a favorite of honeybees. Wasps will pursue a pet for some distance in order to deliver multiple stings.
In one of my past emergency calls, a cocker spaniel presented in distress with facial swelling, elevated heart rate, and nausea. The pet then vomited up two honeybees. After a brief hospitalization and medications, the pet was able to go home.
The moral of the story? Do not eat honeybees.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.