Thursday, May 6, 2010
By Ruthie Bently
Has this ever happened to you? You’re playing in the yard with your dog, or hiking down a trail in a meadow when all of a sudden your dog yelps. They may begin shaking their paw or head, trying to relieve the pain. Your dog may have just been stung by a bee or wasp. While both can be dangerous depending on where your dog was stung, there is something else you should remember. When a bee stings, the barbed stinger is implanted into whatever they have stung and begins pumping venom into the victim.
Check your dog over to find the area of the sting. Look at their paws, their nose (including inside), their ears and inside their mouth. If your dog has been stung inside their mouth, don’t waste any time. Call the vet and let them know the situation and that you are bringing in your dog, NOW. A dog stung inside the mouth is serious, especially if the tongue begins to swell or the dog tried to swallow the bee or wasp. This kind of a sting can cut off their air supply and become life threatening quickly.
A wasp on the other hand, does not lose their stinger and can sting multiple times in succession. This can make their attacks more dangerous as they are injecting venom with each sting. A small percentage of dogs are susceptible to anaphylactic shock, and depending on where your dog is stung, a single sting can be life threatening. Stay calm and remove your dog from the area, just in case there is an underground nest. When a bee or wasp stings they put out a pheromone that incites additional hive members to come to their aid if they are close to it.
To treat a dog’s bee sting, the first thing you need to do is to remove the stinger. Do not use tweezers to remove the stinger as this will squeeze more venom into the wound. Get something with an edge to scrape across the surface of the skin to remove the stinger. I have used a butter knife, but you can use a credit card or a long fingernail. A bee sting will have a sac attached; a wasp sting will be more cone-shaped with barbs.
If your dog is stung by a bee, making a paste of baking soda and water will help to counteract the venom. I read recently that a wasp’s venom is alkaline based and a pad soaked in vinegar will counteract their venom. Two remedies that work well if you don’t have access to baking soda or vinegar are several plantain leaves, crushed to emit the juice and placed on the sting area. The other is a mud paste applied to the area, which will also draw out the toxins. There may also be swelling to the sting area; a cold pack will help bring it down and help with pain. An antihistamine can help with any allergic reaction, but your vet should be consulted about what to use and the size of dosage you may need.
If you aren’t with your dog at the time of the sting you may not notice anything, because some dogs are not bothered enough by the sting to show immediate visible signs. If you think your dog may have been stung you should check their breathing to make sure it is not labored, wheezing or fast. Other signs of an allergic reaction (or the more severe condition, anaphylactic shock) are collapsing, vomiting, diarrhea, pale gums, trembling or weakness, pale gums, excessive drooling, a fever or agitation. If you notice any of these, call your vet.
To help keep your dog out of harm’s way, keep them away from flower beds, potted plants and gardens where pollinating bees and wasps may congregate. Check the eaves of your house and remove wasp nests when you see them. You can also get a wasp trap that uses pheromones to attract several kinds of wasps, and keep them out of your dog’s way. Just make sure to install the wasp trap away from any main areas of the yard where your family or pets may congregate. Put it several feet above the ground where curious children or pets cannot reach it. Check outside water sources frequently for any wasps or bees that may have fallen in and drowned. They may be dead, but their stingers still contain venom.
We all enjoy the warm weather, and doing what you can to keep bees and wasps away will help your entire family remain safe outside when having fun.
Read more articles by Ruthie Bently