07 February 2013

Sudden Onset Facial Swelling In The Dog

dog swollen face onset

My dog has suddenly got a swollen face, eyes, lips, muzzle.

When I moved down from Scotland as a young vet and started my own practice close to London this used to happen as regular as clockwork each Autumn, at first I had no idea what it was. Very concerned clients used to call me out of hours as their dog’s face had suddenly and sometimes dramatically got swollen.
At first I had no idea what this could be but I took advice from a neighbouring colleague and he suggested it was most likely an allergy to a flying insect bite common at that time of years in those parts. And of course he was right because the condition pretty well responded to standard anti-allergy drugs and I continued to see it each autumn for the next twenty eight years.

Here is some more info :

If this is a type of allergy what would the symptoms be? : I have to say that any sudden onset swelling on the face area including the eyes, lips and muzzle is typical of an allergic reaction in the dog, later, also concurrently hives or bumps on the skin elsewhere on the body may also develop. These can occur anywhere on the body not just the face. Sometimes these dogs can vomit or become lethargic on top of the other symptoms but this is rarer though.

How is it treated? : If in doubt you should get your vet involved as prescription anti-allergy drugs will work best. However in many parts of the world such as the USA  people often have over the counter anti-allergy drugs handy in their houses a favourite seems to be Benadryl { Diphenhydramine } this drug is reported to have high margin of safety in the dog.

Link to the use of  Benadryl in the dog including dose rates and side effects.

If an allergic reaction is the diagnosis then you should do no harm with this class of drug and although sometimes the symptoms can be very dramatic this is in almost all cases a very minor disease which would resolve anyway given a couple of days no matter what you do.

Of course I have to add the proviso that if your dog deteriorates at all or there are other symptoms other than the facial swelling and skin hives or it does not quickly resolve you should consult your vet as soon as soon as you can.