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.