My dog had a swollen face – major allergic reaction not the usual hives!

Last week was a bit of a shocking week for me. As many of you who read this blog regularly will know, Layla (my whippet) has multiple allergies (see this post for an explanation). Usually her allergies are displayed as itchy ears, an upset stomach or at times, hives on her head (and rarely her body). This time she had a major allergic reaction causing a swollen face!

Whippet with hives
dog with hives on muzzle

Last Sunday was another hot and humid day and I left it until 6:30 pm to take her for her walk.  As it was so humid I didn’t take her too far but I let her off on the lane down to the church. The lane has fields either side, which this year contains barley.  Layla just happened to meet up with a doggy neighbour, Maddie, whose mum had the same idea as me (short walk to the church as it was too hot for more).  Maddie and Layla went off for a bounce in the field.  Yes, I know, some of you have issues with dogs bouncing in fields, but dogs will be dogs and if that’s the worst of my crimes then I don’t think I’m doing too badly! Anyway, they were only on there about 30-40 second in total before we carried on down the lane and then returned back home 20 minutes later.

Lane leading to church during the Bluebell ride

When I got home, I left Layla lounging on the sofa, whilst I went out to water the plants in the greenhouse. No more than 10 minutes after returning home Layla came running out of the house and into the garden looking a little agitated. Even from 10 meters away I could see her face didn’t look right and I knew she was having a reaction to something.

Our usual routine is for me to give her homeopathic Apis (as prescribed by her homeopathic vet) and then if the reaction is uncontrolled, give her an antihistamine. I could see this reaction was more severe than usual so I gave her an antihistamine straight away and supplemented with Apis to help control the reaction. It took 2 doses of Apis (at 15 minute intervals) for the symptoms to subside. Her face was hot to the touch, red and she was incredibly itchy (a typical Apis reaction).

Whippet with swollen face - allergic reaction
Dog wityh swollen face - allergic reaction

Once I knew I had the reaction under control I put her in the shower to wash off whatever she was reacting too. She had an all over shampoo and I made sure her face was thoroughly rinsed with cool water. I’ve never seen her tolerate water on her face like she did while she was having the reaction; it must have been so cooling. I also rinsed her eyes with an eye wash that’s usually reserved after trips to the beach when her eyes have sand in them.

CleanOcular eye wash for dogs

Usually when she has a reaction it makes her cold and her gums go pale.  She is often improved my rest and being tucked up under a blanket on the sofa to warm her.  This time, after her bath, she chose to go in her cosy cave and sleep off the worst of it.  It is obviously exhausting when this happens to her. I know when the reaction has reached its peak, and the Apis is working, when the swelling starts to flatten and spread – as you can see from the photos below.

Layla in her Cosy Cave
Layla sleeping off her allergic reaction

That night I went to bed with a whippet that looked like a Shar-Pei….and woke up with an English Bull Terrier!

Whippet looking like an English Bull Terrier the morning after an allergic reaction
Dog with a swollen face the morning after an allergic reaction

I took 4 days for the swelling to subside. I noticed that as the days went on the swelling reduced from the top of her head first, then her muzzle, and then her jaw. All the time it seemed to be draining down her neck giving her what I can only describe as a ‘waddle’ (anyone remember Ally McBeal?)

Finally, by Thursday my gorgeous girl has her beautiful whippet face back and her normal exuberant personality.

dog with 'waddle' after facial swelling starts to subside
Day 1 post allergic reaction,
Day 1 Post allergic reaction - generally puffy face
Day 1 afternoon post allergic reaction - face swelling starting to subside
Day 2 post allergic reaction - most of the facial swelling has gone - just a bit left around the lower jaw and neck

I’ve stopped and thought about what it was that she reacted to, my initial conclusion being the barley pollen. But after further thought I wonder whether the long spell of dry weather has somehow concentrated the chemicals, sprayed on to the fields, into the leaves of the barley. As she ran through the fields it was this chemical she reacted to. My only consideration for this comes as I remember when I kissed her muzzle it made my lips tingle. I also remember that while on that fateful walk, I picked some pollen from the corner of her eye, then rubbed my cheek and my cheek also tingled. I thought nothing of it at the time due to my own odd chemical sensitivities. Though I do find the chemical hypothesis to be a valid one, truth is I’ll never know.

Having spoken to our vet, I’m keeping her on antibiotics for a few weeks just to help calm her immune system and get over the worst of the pollen season. It seems there is the option to give her some steroid should the reaction be worse (hopefully there’s not a next time!) and it may be I could keep that at home. I try to avoid steroids if at all possible, and although it wasn’t used on this occasion I would use it if I could not get the reaction under control.

It seems with such a late spring everything is producing pollen at the same time. I really feel for hay fever sufferers at this time of year. Summer is wonderful …..I just wish I didn’t have Layla reacting to things at the back of my mind.

Like what you're reading? Well sign up below to my email list and not only will you be kept up-to-date with blog posts, you'll also be first in line to receive any special offers or promotions before they are released to the general public.