Many animals will chase or play with insects in the garden, but some insects are not as fun as they seem and can fight back, these include insects such as bees and wasps.
On our smallholding we keep bees, we have 4 hives and 95% of the time these are very friendly bees, you can walk right past them without any protection. However, every once in while they can become grumpy due to weather conditions or their queen rite state.
Often, a curious dog will receive a bite or sting to its muzzle, which can be very painful and in exceptional circumstances dangerous. Much more of a worry, is if your dog disturbs a nest (most likely wasps in a compost heap or similar), multiple stings, especially to the mouth or in the throat can be very dangerous, due to potential for swelling and restricting airflow.
Bees will usually only sting to defend their stores (honey) or their brood (babies), as soon as they have seen off the threat they will usually return to the hive and leave the predator alone. Bees have a lot to lose by stinging as they will often die after stinging as the barbed stinger will detach from their body to continue pumping venom into their victim. Wasps on the other hand are more capable of multiple stings, and an upset wasps nest is a much more worrying concept than a bee nest.
What should I do if my dog is stung?
If the stinger has been left in the sting site, you should look to remove it as quickly as possible, the stinger can continue to pump venom even if it has been detached from the bee or wasp and the insect is dead.
To remove the stinger, do not use tweezers or forceps as applying pressure could force more venom from the stinger into your dog. Instead use a credit card, cardboard or a fingernail to scrape the stinger away - in the opposite direction from which it entered.
In all the instances of stings I have seen, the dog has recovered much quicker than a human does from the pain, and actually by the time I have got any of the following things together they are completely back to normal. But the the following are useful to have in mind, especially in the case of multiple stings.
- Ice wrapped in a towel - will reduce swelling, and reduce pain
- Mixture of water and baking soda
- Do not give your dog antihistamine, unless you have been advised to do so by your vet.
Like humans, dogs can have severe allergic reactions to bee and wasp stings, and they can be fatal. So if your dog does receive a sting be alert for serious symptoms, in particular labored breathing, swelling away from the sting area and abnormal general weakness. If you see these symptoms, contact your vet immediately.
Bees and wasps are a vital part of our ecosystem, and can live happily alongside you and your dogs. You just need to be aware of how to treat any stings and try to keep your curious dog out of common nesting sites for wasps such as compost heaps.
Finally, bees and wasps do need water, so keep an eye on water bowls, leaking taps, etc as they can congregate there. They should be fairly dosile, as not defending and stores or brood, but if they drown or die you should be aware their stinger is still venomous.