Dog Medical Emergencies Survey: Are Bug Stings an Emergency?

27.78% survey participants checked bug stings as being an emergency.

Our guys got their share of bee stings. While painful and distressing, most bug stings indeed are not an emergency.

Because the hornet stung Cookie on the face, we kept the key in the ignition and watched carefully. I gave Benadryl immediately and the swelling started going down in couple of hours. If it got any worse, we'd gone to a vet.

Last time when Cookie stepped on a bee, she was very unimpressed. She was limping, shaking her foot, I could see it hurt a lot. Typically, I give Benadryl, but because Cookie was showing major signs of pain, I also gave her one Deramaxx. (As much as I am not a fan, I keep renewing my stash, so I have some dog-appropriate NSAID on hand when needed.) That time it didn't even swell much, though some other times it did, such as when she got stung by a hornet it did swell up.

I tried and ice pack too, but Cookie hates it. I didn't want to traumatize her more in the attempt to help her.

Half an hour later she seemed back to normal. I was watching her carefully, though.

There are times when bee or hornet stings can be an emergency.

Just like with people, in some cases, a sting can cause a violent allergic reaction and even anaphylaxis. Fortunately, this is rare, but it could happen.

Swelling itself can lead to an emergency if severe and/or mouth or throat are involved.

If my dog showed any further signs beyond initial pain and moderate local swelling at the site, I'd see a vet quickly.

Allergic reactions to stings can range from mild to severe and life-threatening.

Mild reactions can include fever, loss of appetite, and mild lethargy. A moderate reaction can present with hives or swelling and redness of the lips, around the eyes and neck, This can progress to anaphylaxis. Would you want to take a chance?

A severe reaction, then, is the anaphylaxis itself. A dire emergency.

I should note that crawling insects can be even more dangerous.

A sting may or may not lead to major trouble. Spider bites, on the other hand, depending on the species, can be a major disaster depending on the species living in your area.

Be diligent, don't take chances.

Related articles:
Dog Medical Emergencies Survey
Dog Medical Emergencies Survey Results
Is Unproductive Retching an Emergency?
Is Difficulty Breathing an Emergency?
Is Panting an Emergency?
Is Severe Pain an Emergency?
Is Limping an Emergency?
Is Vomiting Bile in the Morning an Emergency?
Is Profuse Vomiting an Emergency?
Are Convulsions or Seizures an Emergency?
Is Loss of Appetite an Emergency?
Is Reduced Activity an Emergency?
Is Severe Lethargy an Emergency?
Is Inability to Stand an Emergency?
Is Inability to Urinate an Emergency?
Are Cuts and Abrasions an Emergency?
Is Bleeding an Emergency?
Is Blood in Vomit an Emergency?
Is Fresh Blood in Stool an Emergency?
Is Black, Tarry Stool an Emergency?
Are Pale Gums an Emergency?
Is an Unresponsive Dog an Emergency?
Is Coughing an Emergency?
Is Choking an Emergency?
Is Head Pressing and Emergency?

Do you know what your dog is telling you about their health?

Learn how to detect and interpret the signs of a potential problem.

An award-winning guide to better understanding what your dog is telling you about their health, Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, is available in paperback and Kindle. Each chapter includes notes on when it is an emergency.


  1. There are definitely times when a sting is an emergency. We had one when Tut got stung in the nostril!

  2. My Step-Nan's dog died from a bee sting in its mouth so this advice here is so valuable. Thank you for writing this piece, it will save lives of much loved pooches.

  3. Great tips! I had a dog once that got stung by a wasp on the nose. Despite the large size of this dog, he let everyone know he had been stung, even the neighbours heard his whelps! I kept close check on him and he did develop a swollen lip, and I checked with my vet just to make sure he would be alright. Funny how he avoided wasps after that.

  4. Nice post. Yes, swelling or shock can be quite the issue. Dexter got stung by a bee last summer in the mouth, I was on high alert.

  5. I don't think any of our crew have been stung. I'm sure I would have noticed swelling and/or limping. Thank you for the reminder about Benadryl - I need to pick up a new bottle (not expired) to have on hand. As always, great information. Thanks!

  6. We have a lot of woods and a creek behind our house and thus a lot of insects. Luckily, Gonzo has been stung only once on his nose. He now knows to stay away from the clover.

  7. I probably wouldn't think of a bug bite as an emergency but a bee or wasp sting I would have checked out.

  8. I never thought if a bee sting would be an emergency. I think it would be a good idea to keep some benadryl in the pet first aid kit in case this happens.

  9. Unless there is an allergy, stings are mostly just a nuisance for everything. But you're right - crawly bug bites can be scary! I don't let my cats down in the basement because it's unfinished and I know it has spiders.

  10. Mr. N is allergic to bee stings. So they're a definite emergency for us.

  11. Bee stings aren't any fun! As far as I know my dogs aren't allergic to bees, but I'm not sure they've ever been stung. I would take them to the vet if they got into a bees' nest since they are all pretty small. Otherwise, I would wait and see how they were doing.

  12. Your basic premise of watching your pets closely to see if there is a major reaction such as trouble breathing is what I would have thought. Keeping Benadryl on hand is probably a good idea.

  13. Great info! We haven't had anything crazy happen as of yet around here, but I'm hyper vigilant about bugs! I am NOT a fan of spiders! We keep allergy meds around, and a full medical kit just in case :)

  14. Bug bites suck for humans and our pets! I'd do the same thing. If the swelling or discomfort is super mild and my pet was acting normally and eating and drinking I wouldn't take them. However if anything was impeding their breathing or sever swelling, they would be heading to the vet. Hmm...I never knew Benadryl could be used in pets too.

  15. Good information, thanks! Icy got stung on her snout by a scorpion. Her mouth was twitching and she was scared & in some pain. Of course it had to happen at 11pm. We were terrified so I called the emergency Vet. They told us to watch her through the night and if it got worse to bring her in. Thankfully, after a few hours she was ok. That was one scary, sleepless night!
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them


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