What to do if my pet gets bitten or stung

Sometimes wasps or bumble bees look very inviting for curious dogs and cats to chase. Our pets don't always realise the danger in this, but as their owners we certainly do! If your pet comes home with a bite or sting, there's lots you can do to help them.

Wasp or bee stings are quite common in cats and dogs. We’ve all seen photos online of swollen paws and cheeks where pets have got a little too close to them (even swallowed them)! We’ve put together some tips on bites and stings.

 

Bee and wasp stings

Dog staring at bee that is flying eye-level with it

How do I know if my cat or dog has been stung?

If you’ve ever been stung by a bee or wasp, you’ll know how painful it can be! It’s no different for our pets, who might let you know they’re uncomfortable. Signs to look out for can vary, but include:

  • Swelling
  • Licking or biting the sting
  • Whining and crying
  • Hives
  • Limping or holding up a paw
  • Drooling.

If a bee stings your pet, the sting will be left in the skin which is also a clear giveaway. Wasp stings don’t have this tell-tale sign and may sting your pet more than once. If you’re worried, it’s best to call your vet. The most obvious stings tend to happen on your pet’s face – curious noses poking too close are an easy target! But treading on bees and wasps are a common occurrence, too.

Allergic reactions to stings

Some cats and dogs can be allergic to bee or wasp stings, just like we can. If your pet has an allergic reaction, they can have more severe symptoms:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Rash or swelling
  • Collapse.

If your pet has an allergic reaction to a bee or wasp sting, it’s vital you get them to your vet as soon as possible. You can read more about severe allergic reactions in dogs on our PetWise Pet Health Hub.

What to do if your dog or cat is stung

If your pet is showing signs of swelling around the mouth or throat area, don’t try to treat this at home. Go and see your vet immediately.

If your cat or dog is stung by a wasp or bee anywhere else, don’t panic. Follow our simple steps:

Bee stings

  • Try to pull the sting out if you can, never squeeze the sting because it might make it worse!
  • Bee stings can be treated with a solution of bicarbonate of soda mixed with water. This neutralises the sting and you can apply this as a compress soaked into a cotton wool pad (avoiding eyes and mouth areas).
  • You can also use a covered ice pack on the sting to try and sooth the area and bring the swelling down.
  • Closely monitor them for signs of an allergic reaction.

Wasp Stings

  • There won’t be a sting left behind and there may be more than one sting. Don’t squeeze the sting as it can make things worse.
  • Treat wasp stings with vinegar. You can soak a cotton wool pad and apply this to the sting, which will help to neutralise the sting and make it feel more comfortable (avoiding eyes and mouth areas).
  • In addition you can apply a covered ice pack to soothe the area and bring swelling down.
  • Closely monitor for signs of an allergic reaction.

If the sting is in your pet’s mouth or near their throat, take them to the vet because this can interfere with their breathing. If your pet has an allergic reaction, take them to your vet immediately.

 

Insect bites

Cat hiding under bushes looking out

When our pets are exploring outside, they come across all sorts of insects just like we do! Bites they might get outside include:

  • Ticks (ticks need removing swiftly once found, but carefully. Speak to your vet or vet nurse for advice on removal and future prevention)
  • Mosquito bites
  • Ant bites
  • Fly bites.

While it’s rare for your pet to have an allergic reaction to an insect bite, if you think they’ve been bitten keep a close eye on them. Remember to call your vet if you’re worried.

If it is unclear which insect the sting was from, use a cold compress to reduce pain and swelling.

What do insect bites look like?

If you’ve ever been bitten by an insect, you might already have an idea of what their bites look like! Here’s what you should look out for:

  • Mosquito bites – you’re more likely to see the mosquito on your pet than the bite itself.
  • Ant bites – these might come up in small red lumps, usually on your pet’s stomach area.
  • Fly bites – these might appear as red lumps or scabs. You might want to clean these out.