At least once a week we get a phone call from a pet owner who notices that her pet’s face is swollen. Of course the swelling is usually noticed at night after Ms. Smith has gone to sleep. That’s probably because her pet started to crazily rub his face along the floor and any other object, trying to provide himself some relief from the itching.
Ms. Smith can’t believe what her pet’s face looks like. If she looks more closely she may even notice hives appearing on his body. She’s already given him a Benedryl but it’s not working. What should she do?? “Sorry it’s so late, but you need to bring him in!”
This is a common emergency presentation. Most of the time, it’s not possible to determine what caused the allergic reaction, but it still needs to be treated. An insect bite or a new food may sometimes be the culprit.
Although the facial swelling looks terrible, we are more concerned whether Ms. Smith’s pet will develop any difficulty breathing. Also, all of the itching makes a patient very uncomfortable and agitated.
If the oral Benadryl didn’t help, then it’s time to employ some injectable medications. Usually this emergency requires only a short visit and luckily is not that expensive! Within a short period of time, the facial swelling and hives will disappear and Ms. Smith will be able to get a few hours sleep!
C. Wasserman DVM JD