Happy National (and Totally NOT Made Up) Don't Step On a Bee Day

July 10th, 2019 is (for real) national Don't Step On a Bee Day. Before rolling your eyes while thinking, "They'll make a holiday out of anything," know that the holiday is meant to help raise awareness about our environment and educate people about the role bees play in it. However, for the purposes of this pet-related blog, I'd like to discuss bees as they relate to our pets!

First, pets are naturally curious. Some cats and dogs like to chase flying things. Sometimes those flying things have stingers. Don't believe me, just do a simple image search on Google.

dogs eat bees and get swollen faces
They may look "cute," but these pups are in pain!

According to the European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (EAACI), "The exact prevalence of allergies to stinging insects in pets is unknown [but] it is reported that some dog breeds, such as bull terriers, boxers and Staffordshire terriers are more prone to severe reactions following insect stings." Reactions in cats and dogs can include the following:

  • Sudden distressed meowing (in cats) or yelping (in dogs)

  • Pawing at or around their muzzle, or other affected areas

  • Localized reactions, such as swelling, itchiness, and/or redness

  • Serious reactions, such as swelling of the mouth, eyes and/or face that lead to difficulty with breathing, drooling, vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, and collapsing

The first thing to remember, if your cat or dog has been stung: DON'T PANIC! Time is of the utmost importance, as stingers can continue to pump venom into your pet, even after they've become detached from the bee. First, find the stinger. It will appear as a tiny black dot in the stung area. Once you've found the stinger, remove it using a credit card, or other hard flat surface, to scrape the stinger off the surface of the skin. Do NOT use tweezers, as pinching the stinger may inadvertently pump more venom from the sac into the wound. Once the stinger has been removed, apply ice or cooling bags to the wound.

Finally, if you know that your pet will not have an adverse reaction to diphenhydramine (talk to your veterinarian about possible reactions during your pet's next check up), administer it in pill or liquid form. Please note that liquid pain relievers sometimes contain xylitol, which is highly toxic to dogs. Make sure the only ingredient listed is diphenhydramine! According to PreventivePet.com, "The typical dose of Benadryl (diphenhydramine) for pets is 1–2 mg per pound of body weight. [P]ets under 10 pounds should get liquid, while pets over 15 pounds should get pills. For pets weighing between 10–15 pounds, it's often easiest to give them their dose using a half or whole pill, but some may require or do better with the liquid form." Click on PreventativePet's link to use the site's Diphenhydramine Liquid Dosage Calculator.

Watch your pet closely for signs of severe reaction (anaphylaxis), which are noted above. According to EAACI, "Signs in allergic animals after [...] stings can vary from [...] life‐threatening anaphylactic responses [...] occurring within minutes after the sting. [Or, l]ess often, skin rashes and serum‐sickness signs can occur after 3 days to weeks [after stings]." If anaphylaxis occurs, rush your pet to your emergency veterinary as soon as possible.

Some things you can do to help minimize your pet getting stung:

  • Avoid flowering areas with bees

  • Avoid scented grooming products that may attract insects

  • Limit your pet's consumption of food leftovers (wasps)

  • For dogs, practice/use "leave it" commands, when your dog shows too much interest in bees (and reward the successful response with a treat)

Finally, note that it's not only bees that can cause severe allergic reactions in cats and dogs. Wasps and ants are also stinging culprits that you, as a pet parent, should be aware of. Most importantly, pay attention to your pets! Take immediate action if you notice signs of distress. Learn how to safely remove a stinger. Have Benadryl (or other diphenhydramine) in your Pet Emergency First Aid Kit. And, be prepared to take your pet to the veterinary hospital, if needed.

Keep your pets safe this summer! And, happy Don't Step On a Bee Day!