Your cat may love chasing bees around the yard, but he certainly won't enjoy catching one. Bee stings are a common pet injury throughout much of the United States, at least during warm seasons. Basic first aid to relieve pain and swelling is usually enough to treat a sting. As a precaution, keep your cat indoors and watch for signs of an allergic reaction over the ensuing 24 hours.
Spotting a Sting
Unless you see your cat get stung, you have to recognize the symptoms to provide prompt medical assistance. Local swelling develops as the bee's toxin seeps into the tissue around the puncture wound. The skin quickly becomes itchy and painful, so your cat may paw or lick at the area persistently.
The paws, face and head are common targets for bees, although they can strike just about anywhere on your cat's body. Stings inside the mouth or throat are dangerous for any cat, because the swelling can obstruct vital airways.
Contact your vet immediately if you suspect your cat was stung internally.
Cats suffering from a severe allergic reaction generally experience respiratory distress. Your pet may breathe rapidly and wheeze as he struggles to get oxygen into his lungs. Other classic signs include:
- Local swelling that expands far beyond the initial puncture
- Loss of muscle strength throughout body
- Extreme lethargy and other behavioral changes as the reaction progresses
Anaphylaxis is potentially fatal and requires immediate medical intervention. Consult your vet or a local animal hospital for instructions on caring for your cat during a reaction. Take him to the nearest facility as soon as possible to stabilize the condition.
If you are unable to reach help in time, the vet may recommend administering a dose of Benadryl, if it is available. Follow your vet's advice on dosage according to your pet's size.
Fortunately, most felines are not in mortal danger after a bee sting. Basic treatment focuses on easing the cat's discomfort and reducing swelling until the effects of the toxin subside.
Things You'll Need
- Water and baking soda
- Ice pack
Step 1: Remove the Stinger
Gently part the hair around the injury and search for a stinger embedded in your cat's flesh. Look for a dark speck near the center of the swelling. Some bees do not have barbs, so there may not be anything to remove.
Scrape a plastic credit card or similar object across the skin over the stinger. Don't squeeze or press the skin, as this increases the rate at which venom spreads into your pet's body.
Do not remove the barb with tweezers or your fingers, it can make the irritation worse.
Step 2: Apply Ointment
Mix baking soda and water in a bowl or cup to make a runny paste. Dab the mixture around the swollen area to reduce itchiness and pain. You can also use other cat-safe skin ointments, like calamine lotion, to ease your pet's discomfort. Ask your veterinarian before using any skin product that is not designed for felines.
Step 3: Cool the Wound
Wrap the wound with a towel and ice pack for a few minutes to reduce swelling. Don't hold frozen objects directly to the skin. A cloth bandage or rag soaked in cool water can also serve as a compress.