Your dog loves chasing bugs, and she's finally been stung by a wasp. Here's what to watch for, how to prevent, and how to treat these painful insect bites.
illustration of a wasp flying around a dog's face
Credit: Caitlin-Marie Miner Ong

Wasps, big or small, might freak you out, but they usually mind their own business and aren't desperately seeking to sting you or your dog. Wasps are a crucial part of Mother Nature's ecosystem, eating lots of annoying bugs around your home and yard.

However, wasps are prone to building nests just out of reach where you live: on backyard tree limbs, under house eaves, and in corners of outside doorways. That means you or your dog might accidentally (or on purpose) mess with a wasp nest, and that can lead to a wasp sting on your dog.

Don't panic if your dog yelps, and you see a wasp or two around, says Renee Schmid, DVM, DABVT, DABT, Senior Veterinarian Toxicologist at Pet Poison Helpline.

"I've never seen an animal with a severe allergic reaction or skin reaction from a bee or wasp," Schmid says. But it is possible for dogs to be allergic to wasp stings, just like people.

If your dog seems especially agitated, in pain, or exhibits signs of shock (see below), a call or visit to the veterinarian is the first step to take.

Signs and Symptoms of Wasp Stings in Dogs

If a wasp has stung your dog, signs can vary widely, but in most cases, they're irritating, painful and not life-threatening, Schmid says.

"Most dogs will develop a local reaction, with swelling near the site or a wasp sting or insect bite," she says. "There may also be redness and pain that develops before the swelling."

Was it a wasp? Maybe you don't know. Bee stings can leave a stinger, but insects like wasps leave no evidence other than a bite. Ant bites often cause a small pustule to form, with some mild tissue damage and pain, according to Schmid. Wasp stings can be worse:

"The chemicals in wasp stings are really designed to kill," she says. "Components in wasp venom break down cell membranes and tissues, destroy red blood cells, and have direct effects on heart and blood pressure."

That all sounds horrible, but the amount of wasp venom in a single sting is negligible. That changes with multiple stings, Schmid says: "If a pet was stung multiple times, they should be taken to a veterinarian immediately, as their risk of reactions is much higher."

A severe reaction after a dog is stung by a wasp is rarer, but possible, with an allergic reaction that may come with anaphylactic shock.

If your dog is allergic to wasps, signs like these can develop within 10 minutes of a sting:

  • Difficulty breathing, with constriction of airways and/or swelling around the larynx
  • Weakness
  • Lethargy
  • Hypotension, or low blood pressure.

In these cases, Schmid says dogs should be taken to a veterinarian immediately, as their risk of health consequences is much higher.

How To Treat a Wasp Sting on a Dog

Taking your dog to a veterinarian to seek treatment is one option, Schmid says. Your local veterinarian should have the medications needed to handle these exposures.

"Dogs do well with the treatment we use for an allergic reaction, with a short-acting steroid and antihistamine," she says.

If the sting is not in an area causing blockage of the face or neck and signs are mild, you could treat your dog's wasp sting at home with an antihistamine like the brand-name Benadryl or even diphenhydramine, which both treat allergy symptoms. But only give medicine to your dog after consulting with your veterinarian, Schmid says. Doses are not the same for people and pets, so ask your veterinarian for advice on what medicine to avoid and how much is the right amount.

Preventing Future Wasp Stings

Wasps are successful members of our shared ecosystem, so you probably can't live a life without wasps. Schmid suggests watching for nests as they just start to develop around sheds, awnings, recessed light and holes around your yard and house exterior. Contact a pest control service or use wasp spray on the nests yourself, then dispose of them to prevent larger colonies from forming.

The best advice? If your dog is endlessly curious about chasing bugs and your area is buggy, do what you can to make sure wasps and other pests like deer ticks and spiders aren't commonly found around your home.