While the outdoors provides a wonder place for dogs to romping around outdoors to romp and play, it’s also home to certain critters and chemicals that can be hazardous to your pup’s health. Bees—or, more accurately, bee stings—are one such hazard, especially since some dogs love to chase after and try to eat these insects.
In some cases, bee eating is just a behavioral quirk that your dog should be encouraged to stop, while in others, it could lead to some serious health problems. Your dog eating a bee isn’t necessarily always a cause for panic, though, since not every bee eaten will sting your dog. That said, bee stings are no fun at best and lethal at worst. So, what should you do if your dog ate a bee?
If you suspect that your dog has eaten a bee, keep an eye on them and watch for changes to their health. If they show no symptoms after eating the bee, they probably didn’t get stung. If they did get stung and have signs of an allergic reaction, they may need to go to the vet.
What to Do if Your Dog Ate a Bee
Bees can be dangerous to dogs, humans, and other mammals because of the venom contained in their stings. For some, this venom can cause allergic reactions and even anaphylactic shock. Thus, it is important to keep an eye on dogs who like to snap at flying insects to ensure they stay safe from bee stings.
A dog who intentionally chases and eats bees is going to be more likely to be stung than one who leaves the bees alone. Even so, just because your dog ate a bee does not necessarily mean it was stung.
If your dog eats bees and does happen to get stung, it is important to bear in mind that the symptoms and treatment of a bee sting will differ depending on where they were stung (e.g., the nose versus the throat) and whether or not they are allergic to bee stings.
Symptoms of Bee Stings on Dogs
Dogs who eat bees and are not stung are unlikely to have much of a reaction at all, unless they are allergic. If they are allergic, there may be a chance that the venom in the bee’s body—though not expressed through the stinger—may cause irritation or an allergic response.
Generally, though, a dog who eats a bee without a stinger or one that hasn’t yet stung will simply digest the insect. Some dogs may experience stomach upset from the bug, but most dogs would not have any reaction.
Bee stings that come about when a dog eats a bee—or tries to eat a bee—are another story. In most cases, a dog who is stung on or near the face (and who is not allergic to bees) is likely to experience mild swelling of their face or muzzle, tenderness at the sting site, and itchiness. These symptoms will generally go away in a few days, and the dog may be a little more wary around flying insects following the encounter.
However, if your dog is allergic to bees, they may develop symptoms such as more extreme swelling, hives, respiratory distress, lethargy, or loss of coordination. If you know your dog is allergic to bees and they have been stung, it is vital to take them to the vet or an emergency animal hospital right away.
Dogs who have been stung on their mouth, regardless of whether they are allergic, will often drool excessively and/or smack their lips. This is a response to the actual sting puncture, which causes physical discomfort just as it would for a human.
If you don’t know whether or not your dog is allergic to bees, it is a good idea to keep an eye on them after a sting and take them to the vet if they begin to display alarming symptoms. Dogs who are stung in or near the throat may experience life-threatening throat swelling regardless of allergies and should definitely be taken to a vet or emergency animal hospital immediately,
How to Treat Bee Stings on Dogs
If you notice your dog swelling or pawing at their mouth after snapping at a bee, you should check to see if you can find the stinger so that it can be removed.
In some cases, the stinger may come out by the force of the dog pawing at or agitating the stung spot; sometimes, though, the stinger will stay stuck, in which case you should remove it by scraping it out with an object such as a credit card. A thin object like a credit card is better to use for stinger removal than tweezers or your fingers because pressure on the stinger may cause more venom to release into the skin, causing further irritation.
Once the stinger has been removed—or in circumstances such as wasp stings in which no stinger is left behind at all—you can help soothe some of your dog’s discomfort and help mitigate some of the swelling by applying an ice pack to the stung area. If your dog ate a bee and was stung in the mouth, this may not be possible, but if your dog will let you ice the area, it may feel less irritated.
If your dog ate a bee and seems completely unbothered, it is possible that the bee did not sting your dog. That said, it is still possible for bees to sting after being swallowed—for that reason, it is important that you keep an eye on your pup for a few days after they’ve eaten a bee, just in case symptoms appear suddenly.
Some vets may prescribe Benadryl to combat side effects of bee stings, but it is important that you only give your dog Benadryl with your vet’s approval because they will need to make sure it will not interfere with any prescriptions your dog already takes or any health issues they have. Additionally, your vet can give proper guidance with regard to dosing.
As previously mentioned, you should get your dog to the vet right away if they begin to show alarming symptoms; the trip is definitely necessary if your dog is allergic, is having severe reactions, was stung multiple times or by multiple insects, or has been stung in or near the throat.
Why Dogs Try to Eat Bees
The primary reason why a dog might try to eat bees is due to the dog’s prey drive. Some dog breeds—especially those with a high prey drive or who were bred as hunters, such as Retrievers, Collies, and Terriers—are more likely to want to chase after and eat flying insects than others.
If bee chasing (or insect chasing in general) seems to be an action your pup just cannot stop, there is a possibility that it may be due to canine compulsive disorder, which is similar to obsessive-compulsive disorder in humans. If this is the case, your vet would be best equipped to diagnose and manage the symptoms; still, it is not a bad idea to try to distract your pooch when they are trying to eat bees.
How to Dissuade Your Dog from Eating Bees
Although some dogs may decide they are no longer interested in chasing after and eating bees after being stung, other dogs may return to the behavior with a vengeance, intent on revenge.
When your dog will not quit trying to chow down on bees, the first thing you should do is try to distract them, either through verbal commands (which may require some extra training) or through interesting objects, such as a ball, which can be a healthier surrogate than a bee and fulfills a similar purpose, engaging the prey drive.
Another way to indirectly dissuade your dog from eating bees is by removing bee-enticing plants and flowers from your yard, including clover, oregano, sage, and sunflowers.
While this may be fairly effective within your own yard space, it will not be of much help if you take your dog out on walks into areas that contain these plants. It is important not to live in fear, though: you can still take your dog through bee-ridden areas, but try to keep them distracted when the bees show up.
Some dogs may be so enticed by bees and other flying insects that they may need to be muzzle trained when exploring bee-ridden areas. You may first want to try avoiding those areas or working on training commands and other distraction strategies before going the muzzle route.
So, if your dog eats bees, it is important to try to curb the behavior so that they do not end up getting stung. If they are stung, dogs who aren’t allergic to bees are likely to be alright, though they may be sore, swollen, and irritated at flying insects for a while.
When a dog who is allergic to bees is stung, it is vital that they quickly receive veterinary care in order to keep them from having an anaphylactic reaction; the same goes for dogs who have been stung in the throat and dogs whose reaction to the sting worsens.
Most of the time, though, dogs are simply curious about bees or other flying insects and may just need different distractions to keep them from bothering the bugs.