Just like us, pets can have an allergic reaction to certain insect stings, more commonly bee stings. In most cases this is not life-threatening but rarely it can be, and it is therefore very important to seek immediate veterinary attention for your pet if they have been bitten by an insect, especially a bee, and especially if they have had an allergic reaction before.

On the low-end of the scale, pets may have an allergic reaction only, however, at the high end of the scale they can have an anaphylacticreaction, which can be life-threatening.

Signs of an allergic reaction include:

  • Sudden swelling of the face (around the eyes, cheeks and lips and muzzle) and occasionally paws
  • Hives (small bumps that appear over the entire body)
  • Itchiness at the site of the bite or all over (i.e. rubbing, pawing, licking and scratching)

Signs of a more severe anaphylactic reaction include:

  • Vomiting
  • Weakness or difficulty standing or walking
  • Collapse
  • Dizziness and disorientation
  • Swelling of the tongue or upper airways which can obstruct breathing
  • Laboured or rapid breathing
  • Noisy breathing, especially in brachycephalic or flat-nosed pets
  • Pale or even blue gums

Again, an anaphylactic reaction is life-threatening and your pet needs to be taken immediately to your local emergency vet. Unfortunately, there are no pet ‘epi-pens’ that can be kept on hand to treat an anaphylactic reaction such as this.

As with any emergency, have someone call your local emergency vet to let them know you are coming while you organise to transport your pet as quickly as possible. This is to ensure we have everything ready in advance for when your pet arrives to ensure we can administer life-saving treatment. Remove the stinger with your fingernail or the edge of a tweezer,then apply a cold pack to the area of swelling on the way to the clinic.

Treatment will include:

  • Antihistamines, usually as an injection then follow-up tablets if deemed necessary
  • Steroids as an injection
  • Close monitoring of vital signs and blood pressure
  • Monitoring for 30 minutes to a few hours until the swelling has subsided
  • Adrenaline may be required in cases of life-threatening shock
  • Intravenous fluids
  • In severe cases, your pet may require to be placed under general anaesthetic to secure their airways if they are struggling to breathe and may have to stay in hospital for at least 24 hours

The swelling usually starts to subside within 30 minutes, but can take up to 24 hours to resolve completely. Once the swelling has subsided sufficiently that we are no longer concerned about more severe complications, we will send your pet home.

Ongoing hives and itchiness may be expected over the next few days. Again, antihistamines will often be prescribed to you to manage this at home.

Again, if your pet has had a reaction to an insect bite or sting in the past, bring them to your nearest emergency vet as soon as possible to prevent life-threatening complications!