Horse Side Vet Guide ®

Equine Health Resource

Bee or Wasp Sting, Ant or Spider Bite, Witnessed

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

Code Red - Call Your Vet Immediately, Even Outside Business Hours

  • If there is severe swelling and your horse is making respiratory noise or seems to be having difficulty breathing.
  • If the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE) in the resting horse indicate fever (Temp >101F/38.3C) or heart rate greater than 48 BPM.
  • If you notice bumps (hives) developing on the horse's skin.

Code Orange - Call Your Vet at Their First Available Office Hours

  • If you notice significant swelling or pain at the site.
  • If this is the only sign and the horse seems normal otherwise.

You saw a bee, wasp, spider or ant sting or bite your horse. Now what? Most horses react as we would, with local swelling and pain. Bee stings typically swell quickly.

If your horse was only stung once, or otherwise appears normal, you can probably treat this yourself, but you must carefully watch your horse for signs of an allergic reaction over the next several hours. These might include: severe swelling, hives, high heart rate, or difficulty breathing. These can be signs of anaphylactic shock and must be treated promptly by a vet.

WHAT TO DO

Assess the horse’s general health using the Whole Horse Exam (WHE), paying particular attention to the heart and respiratory rates. If these rise, it could be a sign of anaphylactic shock.

You will often see a stinger, which you can gently remove. However, be careful not to squeeze the stinger during removal, or you may inject even more venom into your horse. Horses with hypersensitivity to stings or insect bites may respond with hives (urticaria) or face swelling, and some can develop severe and life threatening allergic reactions (anaphylaxis). Most often they just have local pain and swelling.

Ice the site, and then dab a bit of Ichthammol or baking soda on it. You could also leave it alone. If you have bute, Banamine or an antihistamine like Benadryl® (diphenydramine), your vet may suggest you use it.

WHAT YOUR VET DOES

Depending on the severity of the situation, your vet may need to evaluate and treat your horse. If your horse suffered a severe attack and was bitten or stung numerous times, prompt assessment by your vet is advised.

Early treatment with prescription steroids or antihistamines may prevent or lessen a full-blown allergic reaction. If the injury is near or on the face, monitor your horse closely for difficulty breathing. Stings near the eye can cause the eye to swell shut.

Note: If you notice that bees are beginning to build a nest in an undesirable location, consider contacting your local beekeeper (or County extension agent), who may be happy to relocate them to a more desirable place. A win-win.

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP

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