Q: My dog Macy likes to chase bees when they’re on the ground. Are bees as dangerous to dogs as they are to us? She once actually ate one, and it didn’t seem to bother her. We seem to have a lot of bees around this time of year and a hive nearby. Should property owners leave them alone or call an exterminator?
A: Let’s start with the issue of bee stings:
Both dogs and cats can be stung by bees, even through dense fur. So don’t assume that chasing bees is always benign. It could be that Macy only chases dying or debilitated bees that are on the ground, which is why she doesn’t encounter issues.
Bites to the face are by far the most common. As with Macy, investigating bees snout-first is typical. Which is why snouts are most typically affected. Most dogs will suffer no reactions beyond the yelp-inducing pain of the poisonous sting, but a percentage will suffer swelling around the site. In some cases this swelling can be severe.
Swallowing bees can prove particularly problematic if a pet is stung inside the oral cavity. Though presumably rare (the incidence is unknown), the possibility of throat-area swelling could theoretically be life threatening. I’ve personally never witnessed a case like this. Regardless, I wouldn’t go encouraging Macy to chase bees, much less swallow them!
If she does get stung, an ice pack applied to the area is probably all she needs. In other words, treat it as you would your own bee stings. If she experiences significant swelling you should treat the situation as an emergency. While only rarely life-threatening, swelling is both uncomfortable and readily treated by your veterinarian.
As to what you should do about a beehive on your property:
According to the Florida Department of Agriculture (freshfromflorida.com), you have two choices: Have it a) relocated or b) eradicated.
If the bees have a friendly temperament, a local beekeeper might relocate the hive. This may theoretically be the most environmentally friendly approach, but it may not be feasible to a) find a beekeeper (ask for their license) or b) find local bees with a domesticated attitude suitable to an agriculture setting.
Luckily, there are plenty of licensed bee removal specialists in our area. Absolutely never try to remove a hive yourself lest you wind up with bigger problems than a dog who likes to chase bees.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.