“Boy, he’s energetic today!”

I look up from helping my husband repair the chicken coop, to see our then 13-year-old dog hurrying towards us at a very Un-Rocco like pace. He kept shaking his head, and then violently reared back. Somehow, he’d angered some sort of stinging insect, and it was chasing him vindictively.

We scooped him up and took him inside to view the damage, but it wasn’t too bad. Rocco just had a small bump on his lip, which ultimately never swelled up. Our other dog, Tank, isn’t so lucky. When he gets stung his face balloons up and sometimes requires veterinary intervention. (Tank’s Ate-A-Bee face is the featured image.)

We’re no strangers to bee stings, so if you’re frantically searching the internet for, “what to do if your dog gets stung by a bee,” you’ve found the right blog post.

Step 1: Identify the Insect

Sometimes this step isn’t possible. If your dog came in from outside crying, searching the entire property for which insect did it is probably a waste of time. If you are present when your animal is stung though, try to see what sort of insect did it safely.

Wasps and yellow jackets don’t leave their singer behind, but bees do. Checking for a stinger may tell you both what stung the dog, and help you render first aid. Most importantly, sometimes bites that cause pain and swelling are actually from spiders—and some may require veterinary assistance.

If it’s a spider and you think it might be a dangerous one, take a photo of it or capture it if you can. (Safely!) if you can’t, that’s okay too. It’s not always possible.

For the purpose of this article, we’ll be assuming it is a bee that stung your dog.

Step 2: Assess Swelling

If your dog is allergic to bees, a sting can be dangerous. This is especially the case if the sting is on the neck or face. The first thing you should do is to check how rapidly your dog’s face is swelling. If your dog is struggling to breathe or the swelling is growing rapidly enough to where breathing may close off, this is a medical emergency.

If the swelling is not on the neck or face, you may be able to call your veterinarian and ask them what to do. They may be able to give you a dosing amount for Benadryl without needing to see the dog.

Step 3: Remove Stinger

Once you have determined this is not a medical emergency, you should locate and remove the stinger if at all possible. If you can’t, you may end up having to take your dog to the veterinarian to get it removed by them.

The reason for this is that the longer the stinger remains in the body, the longer venom is getting pushed into their body. The sting will continue to get worse and may even become an allergic reaction when it was not before.

According to VCA animal hospital, the best way to remove a stinger is by using a credit card. Scrape the credit card along the dog’s coat. This is better than using tweezers because squeezing the stinger can accidentally push more venom into the dog’s body.

Step 4: Control itching

Bee stings are uncomfortable. You can use the Benadryl with veterinary approval to help with itching and swelling. Your dog may also benefit from an ice pack held against the sting site for 10 minutes. If the dog won’t leave the sting site alone, an Elizabethan collar (“The cone of shame”) to keep them from picking at it until it heals.

Most stings don’t require a veterinary appointment. You can treat it at home with basic first aid. Struggling to breath or severe swelling around the face or neck are veterinary emergencies however, and need veterinary attention right away.

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