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bee prepared

When pets have a frolic through the fresh spring grass, they may stumble upon more than they bargained for. Bee stings occur frequently in warm weather, and depending on how your pet’s body reacts, you may not even realize that she’s been stung — or you may be racing to the emergency vet. Most of the time, though, the scenario is somewhere in between.

• minor ouch: Most often, bee stings cause temporary localized pain and redness. In these cases, you might not know that your pet was even stung by a bee. 

• (not so) swell: Bee stings can also cause a more generalized reaction, which can include facial swelling, hives and itchiness. A swollen muzzle is a classic presentation for a bee sting.

• allergy emergency: In highly allergic pets (or cases of multiple stings), a severe anaphylactic reaction may result in breathing problems, collapse and even death very shortly after being stung. Anaphylaxis can occur in cases of severe envenomation from multiple stings or in cases of animals who are very highly sensitized, when just one sting can be life-threatening.

sting into action

If you know your pet has been stung by a bee or wasp, call your veterinarian for advice on how best to treat your pet’s particular reaction. Your vet may recommend an over-the-counter antihistamine like Benadryl® to treat the sting, or give injectable medications to help calm the allergic reaction. If your pet experiences weakness or vomiting following a sting, you should consider this an emergency and proceed accordingly. Treatment for anaphylactic shock will require hospitalization, and despite aggressive treatment, some of these patients may die. 

Though some reactions are more severe than others, witnessing your pet in distress from a bee sting is universally unsettling. To help your pet stay protected:

• Avoid grass and clover areas where bees are plentiful. 
• Teach your dog the command “leave it” in case she happens upon a bee or nest.
• Ask your vet about carrying an EpiPen® if your pet is highly sensitive to stings, to guarantee quick administration of epinephrine.

If your pet has an encounter with a bee, don’t buzz around — play it safe and call your vet. 


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