If your pet is ever stung by one of these insects, or if they ever eat one (that's right Labs and Spaniels... I'm looking at you!), you may be able to treat them effectively at home, but you may well need to take them to the vet. The severity of any pet's reaction to a sting is difficult to predict and can be highly variable, even within the same pet on subsequent stings. So always be aware and know what to look for.
It's fast getting to be bee, wasp, and yellow jacket season. And that means that these insects, and the sting hazard they pose, will soon be present around your yard and in the parks and other places you walk and play with your dogs.
What to Look Out for When a Sting HappensIn the event of a sting you should watch your pet closely for itchiness, hives/welts on the skin, swollen eyes, vomiting and/or diarrhea, breathing problems, or even collapse. If it's just mild itchiness or swelling (that isn't present on or around their face), and your pet isn't too uncomfortable with it, you may be able to treat them at home. However, if the swelling is wide-spread (especially around the face and/or neck), the itchiness intense, or there are any digestive signs, breathing problems, or collapse, your pet needs to be seen immediately by a veterinarian for evaluation and treatment.
What to Do When a Sting Happens
It's a good idea to keep some diphenhydramine at home and in your pet's first aid kits, and to check with your veterinarian in advance to ensure that it's safe for you to give your dog this medication in the event of a sting. Diphenhydramine is the active ingredient in regular Benadryl, and it can be very useful in sting allergic reactions. Note that it doesn't have to be Benadryl brand, as you can also get the generic variety (diphenhydramine) which should work just as well, and cost you less.
However, whether you go with generic or brand name, it is vitally important to ensure that you get a medication that ONLY has diphenhydramine as an active ingredient! You don't want any additional pain relievers, decongestants, or other drug types in there. So no Benadryl Cold and Flu, Benadryl Cold and Allergy, Tylenol PM, Advil PM, or any other combination medications containing diphenhydramine – just straight up diphenhydramine. And also make sure that the liquid does NOT contain any xylitol, which is highly toxic to dogs!
How to Calculate Benadryl Dosages for Your Dog
Diphenhydramine Liquid Dosage Calculator
Enter Diphenhydramine Concentration of the Liquid Medication (From Label)
Maximum Dosage (in teaspoons):
The typical dose of Benadryl (diphenhydramine) for dogs is 1–2 mg per pound of body weight (please refer to "Warnings When Giving Your Dog Benadryl"). Generally speaking, dogs under 10 pounds should get liquid, while dogs over 15 pounds should get pills. For dogs 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.
To determine your dog's dose in pills, simply multiply their weight (in pounds) by 1 to find their low-end dose in milligrams, and multiply their weight (in pounds) by 2 to find their maximum dose (again, in milligrams). Give them a dose that falls within that range, using whatever combination of whole and half pills it takes to get you to a dose within the dose range you've just calculated.
For example, if your dog weighs 40 pounds, their dose range would be between 40 mg and 80 mg. You then look at the medication box to find out how many milligrams (mg) of diphenhydramine is in each pill and give them the combination of full and half pills that gets them within that dose range.
For liquid dosages, determine the concentration of diphenhydramine based on the medication's label (use the illustration below as a guide) and enter those values and your dog's weight into our "Diphenhydramine Liquid Dosage Calculator." The calculator will tell you the maximum diphenhydramine dosage of that specific liquid formulation for your dog (in teaspoons). To get your dog's "low-end" of their dosage range, simply divide their calculated maximum dosage by 2.
But What If You Don't Have Benadryl, or Your Pet Has a Known Allergy to It?
If your pet does get a sting that just causes mild itchiness or swelling (that’s not present on or around their face), and your pet isn't too uncomfortable with it, you may have success treating them at home with one of the following.
Four Drug-Free Treatments for Bee Stings Using Regular Household Items
- Ice Pack
Once you identify the sting area, you should apply an ice pack over the swelling area. Five minutes of icing followed by five minutes without. Repeat this for the first hour or two. Wrap the ice pack in a washcloth to prevent direct skin contact, as direct prolonged skin contact with ice can cause damage.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
You can apply the vinegar to a cotton ball or pad, or Q-tip and hold directly on the stung area. Apple cider vinegar can often neutralize the venom from a bee sting. Do this several times until the swelling subsides. Take care not to get any near your pet’s eye(s).
- Baking Soda
You can easily make a paste of baking soda and water (three parts soda / one part water). Simply apply the paste to the sting area once every two hours for the first day until the swelling goes back down. Take care not to get any near your pet’s eye(s).
- Aloe Vera Gel
Aloe gel can help soothe your pet’s stung area. You should only use pure aloe (not a lotion or other gels mixed with alcohol or chemicals). Or better yet, use the gel directly squeezed from an aloe plant. Take care not to get any near your pet’s eye(s).
If you ever have any concerns or questions following a bee, wasp, or yellow jacket sting you should always contact your veterinarian. And remember, if your pet’s swelling is widespread (especially around the face and/or neck), the itchiness is intense, or there are any digestive disorders, breathing problems, or collapse — your pet needs to be seen immediately by a vet for evaluation and treatment.
Repeat Stings in a Short Period of Time
An important point to remember is to not let your pet back out in the yard upon your return home following your pet's treatment for the bee sting that happened in your back yard — though you wouldn't be the first pet owner to do so! Consecutive (repeated) stings that happen close together have a greater chance of resulting in a more severe, more rapid, and more likely-to-be fatal reaction. Keep your pets out of the yard until you've had an exterminator over to take care of your bee/wasp/yellowjacket problem, if indeed you have one. And for those dogs that have a habit of eating bees and wasps, talk to your veterinarian about pre-treating them with Benadryl prior to letting them out in your yard this time of year, and also consider outfitting them with an Outfox Field Guard to prevent this dangerous habit.
Enjoy the outdoors and stay safe!