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Bee Sting in Animals

Overview

Unfortunately, it is fairly common for pets to get stung by a bee. A bee is only one type of venomous Hymenoptera, and their sting releases venom that causes pain, itchiness, redness, swelling and hives. Common places for a bee sting are the paws and face. On some rare occasions, pets can also experience vomiting, diarrhea and collapse, which can be more indicative of an anaphylactic reaction.

Clinical Signs

At the injection site of the venom, pets often experience pain, redness, swelling and occasionally hives which is associated with an allergic reaction to the sting. If the sting occurs on a paw, often they will lick at the area and may try dislodging the stinger on their own, but they may or may not be successful. If the sting occurs on the face, they will often paw at their face to dislodge the stinger, but this is usually not successful. The swelling with a bee sting can be severe.

In those pets that experience anaphylaxis, they can experience vomiting, diarrhea, increased salivation and collapse but usually do not exhibit the other signs of swelling, redness and hives. The cause of these signs is due to the sudden decrease in blood pressure due to the body’s reaction to the venom of the sting. This happens more commonly in those animals that have been stung by a bee before.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis of a bee sting is either confirmed when the stinger is found or based off of the clinical signs of the pet and history. Sometimes the stinger has dislodged prior to the pet coming into the veterinarian’s office. If this is the case, the veterinarian will rely on a thorough history to make the diagnosis.

Treatment

For those animals that experience an allergic reaction to the bee sting, it is commonly treated with an injectable dose of diphenhydramine (Benadryl) and a steroid if the reaction is severe. Most veterinarians will recommend a period of monitoring after the injection has been given to ensure that the swelling and hives associated with the sting has begun to resolve. The swelling and hives often takes 24-48 hours to fully resolve but should slowly continue to decrease in size and severity over this time frame.

For those animals that experience an anaphylactic reaction to the bee sting, this is commonly treated with an injection of epinephrine to constrict the blood vessels and bring up their blood pressure. Further treatment for these animals often depends on the severity of the anaphylactic reaction. If they are able to maintain their blood pressure after a singular injection, they may be released to be monitored very closely at home. If they have any continued collapse, vomiting or diarrhea at home, they often need to return for hospitalization. For those animals that cannot maintain their blood pressure after a singular injection, these animals require a hospital stay until they can regulate their blood pressure, and often need to be managed for problems secondary to low blood pressure.

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