As the spring and summer months approach, one of the more common outdoor emergencies seen in small animal veterinary practice is when pets are stung by bees, wasps, and related insects. While many pets will have minimal to no reactions to bee stings, some pets may develop varying degrees of localized inflammation, which can range from mild pain at the site of the bee sting (with or without the bee stinger present), to more severe swelling, hives and difficulty breathing, in what is called a type I immediate hypersensitivity reaction.
Probably the first thing an animal guardian may do to help their canine companion is to apply ice packs to the area to help reduce pain, redness and/or swelling. While in many cases the milder symptoms will resolve on their own, animal guardians should have certain medications and supplements in their medicine cabinets to help, in case more serious reactions occur. Simple diphenhydramine (Benadryl) is often very effective at a dose of 1 to 2 mg per pound every 4 to 8 hours for the first 12 to 24 hours.
Non-steroidal anti- inflammatories may or may not be helpful here, so that if more serious reactions are a concern, a veterinary emergency exam and evaluation may be necessary. At that time, the veterinarian may use fast-acting corticosteroid injections, as well as injectable Benadryl, atropine and/or epinephrine, in more serious cases. While the reactions typically respond very quickly to the injectable medications, some pets will need a few day course of oral prednisone or Benadryl until the allergic reaction completely subsides.
Finally, this is an area where homeopathy can often shine in helping reduce patient discomfort. Homeopathic remedies, such as belladonna, rhus tox, and Apis mellifica may be helpful even before traditional medications take effect. And remember, it is very important for animal guardians to remain calm and reassuring to their animal companion, as the vast majority of bee sting reactions resolve without any health complications.