Summer Dangers to Dogs: Cookie Gets Stung by a Bald-faced Hornet


That summer, the insects were nasty, starting with black flies and mosquitoes and ending with deer flies. There were days we couldn’t really go outside at all unless we wanted the dogs to get exsanguinated.

Summer Dangers to Dogs: Cookie Gets Stung by a Bald-faced Hornet

The season of the bloodsuckers was almost over, but other bugs have cropped up.

On our walk into the woods, we found one bald-faced hornet nest, where we couldn’t have gone until the mosquitoes and deer flies got better. It was large, undisturbed until then. Fortunately, this one was hanging on a tree, as it’s supposed to, readily visible so we could avoid it.

Summer Dangers to Dogs: Cookie Gets Stung by a Bald-faced Hornet
Getting stung on the eve of her adoptoversary; is not fair.

But not all these buggers play by the rules.

Summer Dangers to Dogs: Bald-faced hornet nest.
Bald-faced hornet nest. Image BugGuide

What I observed

On Sunday evening, I took Cookie for our walk-about, as we did at the end of each day, checking on rodent activity around the house. I thought we walked every inch of the place by now, but, apparently, I was wrong. As we passed a patch of tall grass, Cookie pounced in as she usually does when she detects rodent activity.

She pounced into the tall grass to immediately fly back out of there. She was shaking her head and started rubbing it against the bush and weeds.

There was no yelp, but I could tell she got stung or bit by SOMETHING.

What happened?

Because I couldn’t see anything, and there was no swarming or buzzing, I got worried that it might have been a snake. But, of course, we saw garter snakes and green snakes around here, but those are not dangerous.

Summer Dangers to Dogs: Butler's Gartersnake
Butler’s Gartersnake. Photo Reptiles and Amphibians of Ontario
Summer Dangers to Dogs: Smooth Greensnake
Smooth Greensnake. Photo Reptiles and Amphibians of Ontario

A few days ago, we came across a giant brown snake I’d never seen here. It was in a different area. It was just lying there, not moving. I didn’t even know whether it was dead or not. Not wanting to take a chance, we got out of there; I didn’t really want to hang around having Cookie with me to have a really good look at it. I noted the size – it was pretty large, rather thick for its length – and I was sure it didn’t have any distinct pattern. It was more of a dark mud color.

I brought Cookie inside, and hubby and I went back out to see if we could get a better look and maybe snap a photo to identify it correctly. But when we got there, clearly, it wasn’t dead.

My concern

We looked up regional snakes, and it was most likely a water snake.

Summer Dangers to Dogs: Northern Watersnake
Northern Watersnake. Photo Reptiles and Amphibians of Ontario

Those aren’t dangerous either, but because I wasn’t entirely sure about our identification, we stayed away from that area just in case.

There were no sightings of rattlesnakes here, and the snake didn’t sound any warning, even though I got pretty close before I spotted it. Because I am a worrywart, though, I became concerned about the possibility.

Summer Dangers to Dogs: Massasauga Rattle Snake
Massasauga Rattle Snake. Photo Reptiles and Amphibians of Ontario

When she flew out of that tall grass, I was quite worried.

I immediately took her inside to keep her from further activity. We checked her nose and mouth for evidence of any puncture marks. I couldn’t find any, which gave me hope that perhaps it wasn’t a snake after all.

The mouth already started to swell a bit. So I gave her Benadryl, and I left her with hubby to keep an eye on her and went back out, hoping to maybe find out what it could have been that got her.

I knew that if it was a snake, I wasn’t likely to find it there anymore, but I had to go and try anyway.

Mystery solved

And then, to my relief, I found it – a sizeable bald-faced hornet nest, sitting right in the grass.

It must have been the bald-faced hornet that stung her. They weren’t swarming, perfectly happy to go about their business as if nothing had happened. It was a miracle, and I’m thankful to God that all she got was one sting. Typically, with any disturbance, they swarm and attack in great numbers.

Summer Dangers to Dogs: Bald-faced hornet
Bald-faced hornet. Photo Wikipedia

Potential sting adverse reactions

There are still risks with a dog getting stung.

There is venom in the sting. Enough swelling can cause difficulty breathing. An allergic reaction can cause anaphylactic shock.

I came back in, reporting what I found; hubby is charged with the task of eliminating the nest.

We kept a close eye on Cookie, ready to jump into the truck and rush to the emergency vet.

The right side of her muzzle was swollen, but she seemed fine otherwise. In a couple of hours, the swelling started going down, and by morning Cookie was as good as new.

I’m very thankful this didn’t develop into an emergency situation.

Bald-faced hornets aren’t hornets but belong under the yellowjacket species, so they are technically wasps. Their stingers are not barbed, so that they can sting multiple times. I didn’t find the stinger on Cookie; either the hornet “kept it” or Cookie rubbed it off.

All is well that ends well

I don’t know if Cookie had a chance to learn from this; it all happened very fast, and it’s not clear whether she could even notice what got her. But, on the other hand, she does seem to have healthy respect when she sees a bee. So maybe she learned those buzzing things are best left alone. I hope so.

Did your dog ever get stung?

Note: The typical dose of Benadryl for dogs is 1-2 mg per pound of body weight.

Related articles:
Facial Swelling in Dogs: Why Is My Dog’s Face Swollen?

Categories: ConditionsInsect stingsReal-life StoriesSwellingSymptoms

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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.

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