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Signs Your Dog Is Having An Allergic Reaction

September 18, 2017 3 Comments

Signs your dog is having an allergic reaction

The above photo was taken 2 hours after Django received his first emergency steroid to reduce facial swelling and prevent inflammation of the throat

When our dachshund Django's nose, eyes and cheeks started suddenly swelling, we learned first-hand about allergic reactions in dogs. 

After two visits to the emergency veterinary, one overnight emergency stay, twelve doses of prednisone (an anti-inflammatory steroid and immune suppressant), and $881 in emergency vet bills... we now know A LOT about canine allergies - what symptoms to look for, common allergens, and available treatments.

Here is everything you need to know in case it happens to your pup.

What causes allergic reactions in dogs?

Just like humans, dogs are prone to allergies. Allergic reactions can range from very mild (with little or no symptoms) to incredibly serious and life threatening.

While the spectrum of dog allergens is wide, we've listed the most common allergens below:

  • Food allergens (grains including corn, wheat, rice, barley and oats are common culprits)
  • Tree, grass and weed pollens
  • Mold spores
  • Dust mites
  • Cleaning products and household chemicals
  • Fleas and ticks
  • * Insect bites or stings
  • * Medication or vaccines

We never actually learned what caused Django's reaction but suspect it was a bee or wasp sting. We had been on our regular morning walk around 8am. By 11m, Django's facial fur started showing little wrinkles around his eyes and nose. We didn't realize it at first, but this was the start of the swelling. Within 30 minutes (when we were en route to the emergency vet), his face had puffed up to the point where it was almost unrecognizable.

* The most serious and potentially lethal allergic reactions are often caused by insect bites, insect stings and medications (including vaccines). Although rare, dogs can experience anaphylactic reactions in response to these allergens. Anaphylactic reactions often begin with a feeling of uneasiness. Symptoms including itching and hives, swelling, wheezing and difficulty breathing can develop rapidly and must be addressed immediately.

Symptoms of a mild to moderate allergic reaction
  • Itchiness, excessive scratching
  • Hives; red skin or pink blemishes
  • Excessive paw licking (often due to swollen paws)
  • Hair loss or poor coat health
  • Chronic ear infections (often due to food allergens)
  • Gastrointestinal problems
  • ** Facial swelling

** Although often non life-threatening, treat facial swelling seriously and see a vet immediately. In some cases, facial swelling can extend to the throat and cause wheezing and difficulty breathing

    Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction

    While less common, dogs can also have severe and potentially life-threatening allergic reactions. Immediately take your dog to an emergency veterinarian if your dog is displaying any of these symptoms.

    • Wheezing, gasping, difficulty breathing
    • Fainting
    • Nose, facial and throat swelling
    • Sudden vomiting or diarrhea 
    Treatment for Severe Canine Allergies

    Treatments will vary based on the cause and degree of your dog's allergic reaction. Always consult your vet before giving any medication to your dog.

    Dogs that experience severe allergic reactions (difficulty breathing, facial and throat swelling) should immediately be taken to an emergency veterinarian. Your dog will likely be given an antihistamine (i.e. Benadryl) to immediately reduce swelling. If the antihistamine is not enough, or swelling returns after several hours, a strict regimen of anti-inflammatory steroids may be prescribed.

    The 4 types of allergic reactions
    Allergic Reaction Type Severity Level Outcome
    Anaphylactic
    High Feeling of discomfort and quickly developing into itching and hives, swelling, wheezing and difficulty breathing; Lethal if not treated immediately
    Facial swelling (edema) Moderate Rarely fatal, often treated by vet with antihistamines (i.e. benadryl) and/or a regimen of anti-inflammatory steroids
    Hives (Urticaria) Mild Red, itchy, raised welts; not life-threatening
    Dermatitis Mild Itchiness most commonly around the ears, paws, muzzle groin; not life-threatening




    3 Responses

    Jamie/Rexy_Ween
    Jamie/Rexy_Ween

    April 16, 2018

    Preach it! Rex is allergic to so many different things. I’ve become a pro when dealing with his allergies. His main allergies are seasonal. Start of spring, and then also fall. I keep apoquel on hand for when his allergies are extremely out of hand. (eye runniness, general lethargy). My vet always had recommended that I keep a doggy first aid kit since we take so many different lengths of walks. Liquid Childrens Benadryl and a medicine dropper is super helpful for insect bites or bee stings. I’m so glad you were able to get Django the help he needed!

    Nicole
    Nicole

    September 18, 2017

    My doxie, Peanut Butter, is actually allergic to one of his vaccines. The first time he had it his whole face swelled up and he was kept in ER overnight. The next time I told the new vet about the allergy and they ignored me and it happened again. Finally, by his third one, they opted to first give him an antihistamine and then the shot. Everything went perfectly. So I totally know what you went through. Glad Django is ok!

    Kim Hawks
    Kim Hawks

    September 18, 2017

    I’m so sorry to hear this happened, but thrilled Django is better. I know y’all were scared to death!! What was he allergic to?

    Leave a comment


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