Insect Stings
Insect stings are a common cause of facial swelling and hives. Most often an inquisitive pet has sought out a bee, yellow jacket, wasp, or hornet, or has gotten into an ant bed. Always try to check the site where the sting occurred. 

Worker bees have barbed stingers that get pulled out of the bee's abdomen when the bee stings something. Consequently, they can sting only once. However, attached to the stinger is a venom sac that gets pulled out along with the stinger. Muscles around the sac can constrict and continue to pump venom into your pet for two to three minutes after the sac has detached from the bee. Removing the stinger can help to alleviate some pain for your pet. The other insects mentioned above do not have barbed stingers, but they tend to be more aggressive than bees and, unlike bees, can deliver several stings.  Yellow jackets and ants tend to nest in the ground, while wasps and hornets live in trees and shrubs. 

Dense fur can help protect your pet from insect stings. Most stings occur on exposed areas, such as the head and paws. The venom from these insects contains a lot of protein. These foreign proteins can cause the body to have an allergic reaction. In the majority of cases, these reactions are minor and local. Removing the stinger, if present, and applying ice can alleviate a lot of the discomfort. 

If swelling occurs, it is best to have a veterinarian examine it. Most insect stings are not life threatening and will respond to antihistamines and anti-inflammatories. Some pets, however, have more serious reactions. They can swell so much that it closes off their airways and they cannot breathe. This is called an anaphylactic reaction. These pets need immediate attention. 
Black Widow spider (venomous)
Brown Recluse spider (venomous)
(non venomous)
(non venomous)

Usually if an anaphylactic reaction is going to occur, it starts within 15 to 30 minutes. If it has not begun within that time, it is not as likely to occur. Aside from increased swelling and difficulty breathing, an anaphylactic reaction might include vomiting, uncontrolled defecation or urination, weakness, or convulsions. Without treatment, a pet experiencing an anaphylactic reaction could die within an hour. Call your vet immediately or your emergency vet and tell them when you suspect the bite happening. If you have prednisone handy ask if you should administer it as an anti inflammatory. Get your pet to the vet asap.

A pet that ordinarily would have only a mild reaction to the stings of one or two insects could have an anaphylactic reaction to the stings of an entire nest of insects. A pet could also have a delayed reaction as the body tries to cope with both the excessive amount of foreign protein that has been inserted into it and its own response to that foreign protein. The liver or kidneys may be affected. These pets are usually depressed and often have a fever. Blood work can show if the organs have been injured. 

Pets are curious, and insects often fascinate them. As the days get warmer, insects start proliferating. Our pets get out more, and the chances increase for them and the insects to come into contact. It is often nothing more than some moments of pain for the pet, but it never hurts to get it checked

What You Should Do

If your pet has been stung by a bee, most likely a stinger is in the skin. If you can locate the site of sting (your pet may be biting, scratching, or licking it) remove the stinger by scraping it out with your fingernail or a credit card. Try not to squeeze it out as this may inject more venom. 

Apply a paste of baking soda and water to the sting or bite to relieve the itching. Ammonia or calamine lotion dabbed on with a cotton ball can also relieve itching and pain. Apply an ice pack or cold compress to the area to relieve pain and swelling. 

What Your Veterinarian Will Do

Your veterinarian may prescribe an antihistamine to reduce the swelling and itching. An antibiotic might be prescribed if a scorpion has stung your pet. If your pet is suffering from anaphylactic shock, your veterinarian will provide emergency treatment. 


If your veterinarian has prescribed an antihistamine or a painkiller, treat your pet as directed. If your pet has been stung inside the mouth, eating may be painful. Soften the food with water or feed a soft food. If scorpions are a problem, a certified pest control operator should be contacted. 
Usual Dose and Administration of Benadryl
Dogs 0.5-2 mg/pound by mouth (tablet, capsule, elixir) every 8-12 hours. 
Cats 0.5-2 mg/pound by mouth (tablet, capsule, elixir) every 8-12 hours. 
Duration of treatment depends on reason for treatment and response to treatment.
More Links
Lumps and bumps - what are these and are they dangerous? See a whole chart of the different types and how serious they might be.
Hypersensitivity to the Immune System
Anaphylaxis in dogs - Immediate allergic reaction of something ingested or injected.
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