Are Bug Stings an Emergency?

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

The 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 an ice pack too, but Cookie hates it. I didn’t want to traumatize her more in an attempt to help her. Half an hour later she seemed back to normal. I was watching her carefully, though.

Are Bug Stings an Emergency?

How it can become an emergency

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.

Throat swelling

Swelling itself can lead to an emergency if severe and/or mouth or throat are involved. Allergic reactions to stings can range from mild to severe and life-threatening.

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

Are Bug Stings 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 a couple of hours. If it got any worse, we’d gone to a vet.

Symptoms of adverse reaction

Mild reaction
  • fever
  • loss of appetite
  • and mild lethargy
Moderate reaction
  • hives
  • swelling and redness of the lips, around the eyes and neck

Severe reaction
  • anaphylaxis

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.

Toxic bites

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:
Spider Bites in Dogs: More Creepy Crawlies

Further reading:
First Aid for Insect Stings in Dogs

Categories: anaphylaxisEmergenciesInsect stingsSwellingSymptoms

Tags: :

Jana Rade

I am a graphic designer, dog health advocate, writer, and author. Jasmine, the Rottweiler of my life, was the largest female from her litter. We thought we were getting a healthy dog. Getting a puppy from a backyard breeder was our first mistake. Countless veterinary visits without a diagnosis or useful treatment later, I realized that I had to take Jasmine's health care in my own hands. I learned the hard way that merely seeing a vet is not always enough. There is more to finding a good vet than finding the closest clinic down the street. And, sadly, there is more to advocating for your dog's health than visiting a veterinarian. It should be enough, but it often is not. With Jasmine, it took five years to get a diagnosis. Unfortunately, other problems had snowballed for that in the meantime. Jasmine's health challenges became a crash course in understanding dog health issues and how to go about getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. I had to learn, and I had to learn fast. Helping others through my challenges and experience has become my mission and Jasmine's legacy. I now try to help people how to recognize and understand signs of illness in their dogs, how to work with their veterinarian, and when to seek a second opinion. My goal is to save others the steep curve of having to learn things the hard way as I did. That is the mission behind my blog and behind my writing. That is why I wrote Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog, which has turned out being an award-winning guide to dog owners. What I'm trying to share encompasses 20 years of experience.

Share your thoughts