Responding to Allergic Reactions

Spring and summer means spending more time outside in the beautiful weather.  Since most allergic reactions are caused by insect bites or stings, the warmer temperatures mean we see a lot of patients with allergic reactions during the warmer weather.


Many people immediately relate facial swelling and hives (red, swollen spots on the skin) with an allergic reaction.  However, allergic reactions can also cause some lesser known symptoms.

  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea: The body releases a substance called histamine during allergic reactions.  Histamine is very irritating to the lining of the stomach and intestines, resulting in vomiting and sometimes diarrhea.  This is usually short lived and resolves as the allergic reaction clears.  However, some dogs require help to feel better sooner.
  • Difficulty breathing: In addition to swelling of the skin, allergic reactions can cause the tissues in and around the airway to swell.  This can cause life threatening difficulty breathing.  Immediate veterinary care is required in these cases.
  • Collapse, disorientation, or pale gums: In severe anaphylactic reactions, the body can go into life threatening shock.  This means the body is unable to pump blood efficiently through the body.  Occasionally the body can spontaneously recover within a few minutes, but patients often require immediate, aggressive veterinary care to recover.


What should you do if you are concerned about an allergic reaction?

  • Have your pet evaluated by a veterinarian immediately if you notice any difficulty breathing, pale gums, collapse, or unsteadiness. Lifesaving treatments to protect the airway and improve blood flow can then be started if needed.  Medications to help calm the reaction will also be given.
  • If you notice only mild facial swelling or hives, you can try a dose of Benadryl (diphenhydramine) at home. Call a veterinarian for a dose recommendation based on your pet’s weight.  If there is no improvement within 20-30 minutes, or the swelling is severe, you should have your pet evaluated by a veterinarian.  Injections of medications to calm the reaction are often needed.  Medications to stop vomiting and resolve diarrhea can also be started if needed.


If your regular veterinary office is not open, we would be happy to see you at the Animal Emergency Hospital.  We are open 24 hours a day, every day of the year to provide veterinary care when your pet needs it.

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Porcupine Quills – A Prickly Situation

Summer is here, and it is finally time for pets and families to be outside again!  This also means that wildlife animals are wandering throughout neighborhood woods, and family dogs can unknowingly surprise a prickly porcupine.  An enjoyable stroll quickly turns into a painful face full of porcupine quills for the dog, and the doctors and staff at AEH are here to provide relief and remove the quills as soon as possible.


In addition to being extremely uncomfortable, porcupine quills can move under the skin and cause further internal damage by migrating to different parts of the body if they are not removed promptly.  Most of the time, if the family attempts to pull out the quills at home the dog is too painful to allow this. There is also a greater risk that a quill will break off during removal, leaving a sharp quill fragment underneath the skin that will cause discomfort, infection, and could migrate to other parts of the body.


Treatment at AEH starts by giving pain relievers and antibiotics, then briefly putting the pet under anesthesia in order to thoroughly remove porcupine quills from the face, inside the mouth, and anywhere else on the body.  The skin and tissues in the mouth are also felt very carefully for any quills that have broken off underneath the skin and surgical removal of these quill fragments is done if needed.  After this procedure is done to remove the quills, the dog feels much better!  He or she is prescribed oral antibiotics to prevent infection at all the small wound sites created by the quills, pain relievers, and anti-inflammatory medication to treat any inflammation and discomfort.


So if your curious pup is ever unfortunate enough to be quilled by a porcupine, remember that AEH is here for you at all hours to promptly remove the quills and get your pet feeling better again! 40337 Rousch (1)

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Unexpected Injury

Daisy Rea is an ADORABLE German Shorthaired Pointer who was brought in to AEH after her owner discovered that she had a stick stuck in her right eye. She had been outside in a fenced in area with the family’s other dog, and when her owner called her in she was acting very lethargic. When her owners looked closely, they immediately noticed what was wrong and brought her straight in for evaluation!

When Daisy Rea arrived at AEH, she was immediately given an injection of a pain reliever to help make her feel more comfortable and an E-collar was placed so she wouldn’t scratch it and cause more trauma. Once this took effect, we were able to examine her eye closely but it was still impossible to tell if the stick damaged the eye itself deep in the tissues, or if Daisy Rea was very lucky and the eye was safe. We wouldn’t know until she was anesthetized and the stick could be removed. We would either be able to remove the stick and clean the tissues, or have to remove the entire eye if the damage was severe. The doctor and staff prepared for both options, and had full anesthesia and a special pack of ophthalmic tools ready. Daisy Rea was fully prepped for surgery, and then we got the best surprise – as she was walking to the anesthesia table, the stick came out! We are constantly amazed by what the body can do, but the stick did leave a big, dirty hole behind and wounds like this where bacteria from the outside world have been deposited under the skin have a very high risk of developing an abscess (pocket of infection). Also, there was still the risk of trauma to the globe.

Daisy Rea was anesthetized and the wound was explored. The doctor was able to remove multiple pieces of bark and other debris from the wound, and flushed it thoroughly to help decrease the risk of an infection. A special stain was applied to the surface of the eye to check for damage to the outer layer. Fortunately for Daisy Rea, we determined that the stick did not puncture her eye, the surface of the eye had been spared, and most of the muscles around her eye remained intact!

However, at the time of surgery, the eye was too swollen to know for sure if she would be able to move it normally, or if she would still be able to see, so we were anxiously awaiting an update from her owner. We recently heard back that the swelling has improved, she is moving the eye, there is no sign of infection, and she seems to be able to see! We are so happy for her, and glad her owners took action quickly to get her injury taken care of!

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Lily Toxicity

As the warm weather of spring approaches, who wouldn’t want to celebrate this change in season with flowers freshly in bloom? Unfortunately for some pets, exposure to certain flowering plants can result in a life-threatening outcome. Cats are specifically at high risk of developing toxic side effects following ingestion of lilies. These flowers are commonly included in bouquets or floral arrangements during the Easter holiday but many pet owners remain unaware of the risks. All parts of lilies are toxic, including the stem, petals, pollen, and leaves. Cats are uniquely sensitive and can become extremely sick after ingesting as little as a half of a petal or even drinking water from a vase that contains pollen. Within 1-6 hours of ingestion, cats tend to show signs of gastrointestinal upset (vomiting, anorexia, hypersalivation). The most concerning side effect associated with lily ingestion in cats is acute renal failure. Signs associated with kidney failure are typically seen 12-36 hours post-ingestion. This is a toxicity that should not be taken lightly since mortality rates can range from 50-100% in untreated cats.

The key to this toxicity is early identification and treatment. If your cat has a history of exposure to true lilies (Lilium spp.) or day lilies (Hamerocallis spp.) and is starting to show abnormal signs, then the chance of survival is drastically increased the sooner they can be evaluated by a veterinarian for immediate therapy.

The team of veterinarians at the Animal Emergency Hospital treat pets affected by a toxicity on a routine basis and are very knowledgeable on this topic. If lily toxicity is suspected, your veterinarian will likely recommend that blood work is performed to evaluate baseline values and determine if evidence of kidney damage is present. The objectives of treatment are to decrease absorption of the toxin from the GI tract and prevent or treat kidney damage with aggressive IV fluid therapy. Some patients require multiple days of hospitalized treatments, but if caught early can result in a favorable outcome. A recent study reported that early intervention resulted in 90% of exposed cats surviving, without permanent renal damage. If you suspect that your pet ingested a toxic substance, you can contact the Animal Emergency Hospital and we will consult with the veterinarian on staff to provide further guidance regarding your pet’s care. With regards to lily toxicity, acting as quickly as possible can make a difference in life-threatening outcome!

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Hot Dog!

The warmer weather has me excited to get outdoors again. While the warmer weather is more than welcome (in my opinion), please remember too much of a good thing can be harmful.  Follow these DO’s and DON’Ts to help you safely enjoy time outside in warm weather with your dogs.

    • DO NOT leave animals alone in the car! Even if the windows are cracked open! Even if it is “not that hot” outside! Even if it is a cloudy day! Even if it is only for a few minutes!
  • DO allow access to plenty of fresh water at all times.
  • DO provide a shaded area to rest on a sunny day.


    • DO NOT start out with a long run or hike if your dog is not used to it. Just like people, animals need to build endurance and ease into an exercise program. Start off with slow, short walks and gradually increase the pace or length.
    • DO allow a warm up and cool down period for exercise. Stop immediately and contact your veterinarian if your dog has difficulty breathing, seems to lag behind, or walks unsteadily.
  • DO exercise during the cooler times of the day.


  • DO remember that dogs cool themselves off by panting. Be extra cautious if your dog has noisy, loud breathing normally (like a Pug, Boston terrier, Bulldog, or other flat faced breed). Dogs that continuously enjoy strenuous exercise (Labradors, Golden Retrievers, etc) and very thick-coated dogs should also be monitored closely.

What happens if I think my dog got too hot? Stop activity and remove from the warm environment.  Then contact your veterinarian immediately for additional instructions.  If after normal business hours, call the Animal Emergency Hospital.

We recommend you have your dog evaluated by a veterinarian immediately. Heat stroke is life threatening and unseen complications can develop over the next 12-24 hours even if your dog appears normal.  Depending on the situation, we may instruct you to wet down the hair coat with cool (not cold) water before coming in.  Ride with the windows down or air conditioning on during the car ride.  Treatment often consists of immediate cooling, replacing lost fluids, and monitoring for further complications.  Kidney failure, seizures, abnormal clotting, and blood pressure abnormalities are just a few of the life threatening complications from heat stroke.

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IMHA – Keeping your Pet Pink on Valentine’s Day!

With Valentine’s Day coming up, pinks and reds are the colors that fill most of the decorations of this holiday celebrating love. As you appreciate the rosy heart decor that brightens homes and businesses, take a moment to familiarize yourself with your dog or cat’s normal gum color.  It should be a light shade of pink as well!

If your pet’s gum color ever appears to be pale or white instead of pink and he or she is acting tired, not eating, or otherwise acting abnormally, you should bring your pet to your regular veterinarian (or to the Animal Emergency Hospital after normal business hours) to be evaluated. A friendly Labradoodle named Fritz came to AEH when he seemed tired, was not interested in eating, had red-tinged urine, and his gum color was found to be pale on his physical exam.  There are many possibilities as to what could have been causing his symptoms, but his blood tests revealed that he had an immune-mediated disease called Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia (I.M.H.A).  His own immune system was over-active and had destroyed some of his body’s own red blood cells.  Fritz’s blood level was low enough from this disease that he needed a blood transfusion that evening to treat his anemia.

Just like people, pets can sometimes be sick enough to need a blood transfusion right away! AEH has the advanced capability to administer blood transfusions to pets in hospital, and these are performed routinely on patients whose blood levels are dangerously low.  Packed red blood cells are commonly used, but the staff at AEH are also trained to administer plasma or to collect whole blood from a healthy dog or cat blood donor to then be administered to an anemic patient.  The patient is monitored throughout his or her transfusion to make sure that they don’t develop a reaction to the blood product they are receiving.  Depending on their past history and what type of blood product they are receiving, patients also sometimes need testing before a transfusion to determine their blood type, and if their blood might react to a specific blood product.  The staff at AEH are extensively educated on these procedures and can quickly act if a transfusion is needed.

Fritz was a larger dog that needed two double units of blood administered to him to bring up his blood level as he was started on a course of drugs to suppress his immune system from over-reacting and continuing to destroy his red blood cells. Fritz was feeling much better after his blood transfusion, and after his stay at AEH he was monitored at home and by his regular veterinarian to make sure his blood level didn’t drop too low again.  Dogs with I.M.H.A. can need more than one blood transfusion while their medications are taking time to effectively suppress the immune system, so it is important after their initial treatment that owners and veterinarians are watching them closely and testing their blood level regularly to see if this is necessary.  We are happy that Fritz is back to being his playful self after treatment at AEH, and we encourage you to make sure your pets are staying “pink” this Valentine’s Day!

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Jersey’s Journey


This is Jersey! She is a 7-year-old Beagle who went through quite an ordeal a few weeks ago.

Jersey jumped off the couch on a normal Friday evening and cried out afterward. That night she stood with a hunched posture and seemed uncomfortable. She went to see her vet on Saturday morning, and the vet found a bleeding mass on Jersey’s spleen. The vet suspected that when Jersey jumped off the couch, it must have bumped the mass and caused it to start to bleed. Jersey’s vet had a busy day of appointments, so Jersey’s owners drove 45 minutes to our facility for emergency surgery.

Jersey arrived and was rushed to surgery to remove the bleeding mass. She had already lost a lot of blood, and we needed to stop the bleeding as soon as possible. To do this, the bleeding spleen has to be completely removed. Jersey’s surgery went well, and the bleeding was stopped. Luckily dogs can live perfectly normal lives without a spleen, but if there is a disease on the spleen, that can cause some serious problems. Jersey had a visible mass on her spleen, so a small tissue sample (biopsy) was sent off to a lab to be analyzed. This test helps determine if the mass is malignant (cancerous) tissue or a harmless (benign) process.

As Jersey recovered from surgery, we found that she was significantly anemic because of the blood she had lost before the spleen could be removed. To treat this, we gave Jersey a blood transfusion. Our hospital has canine red blood cells from an animal blood bank, so we are able to quickly administer blood if a dog needs it. Jersey responded very well to the blood transfusion, and soon her gums were a nice bubble-gum pink rather than a very pale pink.

Jersey also started bruising more than expected after surgery, and we determined that she was unable to clot her blood normally. This is a complication that can occur when patients are bleeding or have severe inflammation. In those cases, they use up all of their platelets and other proteins necessary to form a blood clot. This can be life-threatening if the dog starts to bleed internally, but we were able to give Jersey the clotting factors she needed with a plasma transfusion before she developed any serious problems.

Jersey was reluctant to eat while hospitalized, but otherwise she seemed to be recovering very well. Her owners eagerly came in for a visit about 36 hours after Jersey’s surgery. As soon as Jersey saw them, she tried to jump up and was whining enthusiastically! When the owners offered her some of her favorite treats, she ate for them right away! She was just waiting for a taste of home to start to eat! Jersey was sent home that afternoon, and she has continued to improve every day at home.

A few days after surgery, Jersey’s test results came back. Unfortunately, the mass on her spleen was cancerous. Jersey has been diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma. This cancer starts in the cells of blood vessels, usually in the spleen or heart. While we have removed the spleen completely, there is a high risk that the cancer has already spread to other parts of the body through the blood stream. If that has happened, Jersey will likely become sick again within the next few months. The owners will pursue additional testing at their regular veterinarian to determine if there is evidence of cancer elsewhere in her body after the holidays. For now, Jersey is happy and playing at home, so the family plans to have a wonderful Christmas with their beloved family dog.

Jersey’s case is an excellent reminder that sometimes despite all we do, bad diseases happen to wonderful pets and caring families. We at The Animal Emergency Hospital understand the emotional connection that comes with pet ownership, and we will do all we can to help you through the stress of an emergency vet visit. If we find a problem, you can also rest assured that we will compassionately discuss the options and help you make the best decision for your family.

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