Bees can cause havoc for a bee allergic pet. Board certified veterinary dermatologists specialize in diagnosing and treating allergic conditions in pets, but one of the less commonly known therapies available to pets is bee or wasp venom testing and immunotherapy.
Some pets, like people, can be highly sensitive to a bee or wasp sting. For most animals, a sting is unpleasant, but for pets that are allergic, a bee sting can cause local reactions, facial swelling, hives, or in some extreme cases, even anaphylaxis (a serious and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction). Without immediate treatment, death may result in a severely sensitized allergic pet. The use of Epi-Pen injectable epinephrine products has been used in the past but is controversial in pets and many referral and research facilities advise against this as some pets can develop worsening signs which exacerbate the situation. While antihistamines or corticosteroids may be administered to help in a crisis, desensitization with bee venom as a preventative therapy is thought to be the best approach.
Reactions to bee or wasp stings can vary depending on the size of the pet, the location of the sting and the sensitivity of the pet. Many pets love to “chase” and ingest bees and envenomation in the oral cavity (injection of venom by bite or sting) can be particularly concerning. Pets may sometimes be stung without the knowledge of the pet owner. Veterinary dermatologists can test and begin immunotherapy for bee or wasp hypersensitivity. While not always 100% effective in controlling all allergic signs of envenomation from a venomous insect sting, it will significantly lessen the reactions and allows for medical management to be instituted in the most severely allergic patient.
If you have seen evidence of a reaction or suspect that your pet may be allergic to bees or wasp stings, it is wise to be cautious when taking your pet outdoors. Bee and wasp testing with subsequent hyposensitization therapy may allow for less concern for you and your pet when enjoying the great outdoors!
Reactions to bee or wasp stings in dogs are different than reactions to other insect like fleas and mosquitoes, and can be much more severe. Similar to humans, reactions may vary from pain at the site of the sting, to localized swelling of the area, to more system wide reactions including hives and even anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis is a systemic reaction that can be severe and in some cases life threatening. If an animal begins to have hives, facial swelling or collapses, they should be seen immediately by a veterinarian. If after hours, the pet should be taken to the nearest veterinary emergency clinic.
If the sting causes anything more than just pain at the site of the sting, it is best to see your veterinarian. Reactions to bee sting may vary, but if the animal has developed a hypersensitivity (allergic reaction) to the sting, symptoms may include hives, facial swelling and in some cases a life-threatening reaction like anaphylaxis.
Animals that develop more significant or severe reactions to bee stings or insects may have developed a hypersensitivity or allergic reaction to the insect. This type of reaction often produces more significant symptoms including swelling at the site of the bite or sting, more generalized hives or in severe cases even life-threatening reactions like anaphylaxis. If reactions of this nature are seen, the pet should be taken to a veterinarian or veterinary emergency clinic immediately. If reactions occur often or repeatedly or are severe, venomous insect testing and hyposensitization can be performed and may be able to de-sensitize the pet to these reactions.
While dogs can have reactions to bee stings, most are immediate, occurring within the first few minutes. Delayed reactions may occur to other insects such as fleas.
Insect encounters in pets may vary from the annoying bites of fleas, the occasional encounter with ants, or stings by bees or wasps. Reactions to these can be mild and consist of increased itching or pain at the site of the bite or sting, or more severe as in the case of a hypersensitivity or allergic reactions. Allergic reactions to bee or wasp stings can be severe and require immediate veterinary attention. Encounters with fleas or other insects warrant attention but are less likely to cause immediate or severe reactions.
Testing for insect allergy depends on the type of insect reaction suspected. For reactions to fleas, ants, mosquitoes and others, routine intradermal allergy testing typically includes these insects along with dust mites, a variety of pollens and molds. Reactions to venomous insects like bees, wasps and hornets are different and often cause more severe and immediate reactions. Allergy testing can be performed for these insects if reactions are significant and is done as a separate test from other allergens. The purpose of this testing is to then attempt to de-sensitize a pet to the reactions to these insects by administering immunotherapy (allergy shots).
An EpiPen is a pre-measured injection of epinephrine dosed for a human. While epinephrine can be a useful tool in managing allergic reactions, a human EpiPen should not be administered to a pet without consulting a veterinarian.
Reactions to stinging insects like bees, wasps, yellow jackets and hornets are typically immediate and would be uncommon to cause a reaction hours or days later.
Sepsis is the presence of infection within the bloodstream and is not typically a complication of an insect reaction in pets.
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