Anaphylaxis in dogs is a severe allergic reaction that can cause anaphylactic shock, respiratory or cardiac failure, or even death in your cherished canine companion. This reaction can either be localized to one particular part of his body or be more general and result in several of his major organs shutting down.
Since almost any foreign substance can cause an allergic reaction in a dog, anaphylaxis is, therefore, highly unpredictable. However, anaphylactic reactions are often triggered by a specific allergen to which he’s previously been exposed. And because it’s virtually impossible to prevent that initial exposure, once an allergen has been identified, it’s vital to avoid repeated exposures to it.
The most common allergens responsible for anaphylaxis include insect bites and stings, food or certain chemicals in that food, injections of medication or vaccines, and other types of medications.
Symptoms of anaphylaxis requiring IMMEDIATE veterinary attention include vomiting, diarrhea, pale gums, cold limbs, excessive salivating or drooling, wheezing and difficulty breathing, increased heart rate or a weak pulse, seizures, shock and coma. The first organ in a dog to be affected is usually the liver, which causes extreme upset to the digestive system, and unlike people, dogs may not always exhibit such signs as swelling of the face or throat.
Thankfully, some instances of anaphylaxis in dogs are more localized and less acute. And although your dog’s symptoms may be less severe, he will still require prompt veterinary care. Why? Because these symptoms can develop into anaphylactic shock if he’s had repeated exposure to that allergen before you’ve learned what it is.
These less acute symptoms include congestion, a dry and chronic cough, difficulty breathing while exercising, hives, swelling, bumps, rashes or itchy areas on his skin and vomiting after eating certain foods.
Obviously, the treatment for anaphylaxis in dogs depends on the cause of his anaphylaxis and the severity of his condition. If, for example, he’s been stung by a bee and the stinger is still present, your vet will immediately remove it. Then, your vet will work to stabilize him and bring his reaction under control by injecting him with adrenaline and giving him antihistamines and hydrocortisone. In more extreme cases, your dog may also require oxygen and intravenous fluids to keep his blood pressure from dropping, after which he’ll be strictly monitored for a day or two.
If your dog has ever suffered an allergic reaction to an injection of medication, a vaccine or any other type of medication, you must tell your vet about it and ensure that information is added to your dog’s file. Your vet will then know to look for alternative injections, medications and/or to exclude certain vaccines in the future.
In the case of food allergies, ask your vet about changing your dog’s food to one without any of the ingredients or chemicals that are so toxic to him. If your dog is allergic to insect bites and stings, ask your vet about carrying an Epipen (a small syringe containing epinephrine that highly allergic people carry) on walks or when your dog is outside in the event that he suffers an anaphylactic reaction to a bite or sting. Remember, please, that you must still bring him to your own vet or to the nearest veterinary clinic immediately afterwards. Never underestimate the importance of being an informed dog owner.
By Nomi Berger