A French Bulldog is brought into the veterinary hospital. His face is visibly swollen, and he is breathing with great effort and difficulty. His skin is covered in bumpy hives. The owners were obviously very concerned as they were seeing the rapid progression of the symptoms for, what seemed like, no known reason. The veterinary assistant assessed the dog and immediately took him in the treatment room for the veterinarian to examine the patient. The veterinarian determined very quickly that the patient was suffering from a severe allergic reaction. As the cherry on the sundae, the veterinarian found a bee stinger still stuck on the dog’s lip! The veterinarian started the treatment, administering oxygen to offer respiratory support and intravenous medications, steroids and antihistamines. During the conversation with the owners, the information started to trickle out in regards to what happened. The dog enjoys chasing flies, lasers, lights, feathers, etc. He was just outside in the backyard for 15 minutes taking a potty break. After that, he came in with his face swollen and raspy breathing. The veterinarian pointed out that this fits with the very possible scenario that the dog was outside, unsupervised, was chasing a bee and got stung by it. The venom from the bee caused the dog’s body to over-react to it and cause a severe allergic reaction. It was a good thing they had brought the pet in when they did, since this could have a serious and deadly outcome. The French Bulldog was discharged from the hospital next morning.
The dog was very lucky! Anaphylaxis (or allergic reactions) is a life threatening condition and it requires immediate veterinary attention!
Symptoms To Watch For
Not all allergic reactions are life-threatening. Anaphylaxis is characterized by a rapid onset of symptoms after the exposure to a foreign substance (insect stings, certain medications, rarely vaccinations etc.) to which the body reacts with an allergic response. The symptoms may include diarrhea, vomiting, lethargy, drooling, hives, pale gums, elevated heart rate, weak pulse and respiratory distress. When the circulatory and respiratory systems are threatened, we consider this an anaphylaxis or allergic shock and it is classified as an emergency.
The definitive diagnosis can take time, which is why the timely treatment needs to be started as soon as possible. If the condition is left untreated, the time from exposure to death can be within an hour. Different medications and treatments are available for supporting the heart and blood pressure, and they will also control the release of the chemicals that perpetuate the anaphylactic reaction, called inflammatory mediators. Oxygen access needs to be secured, in critical situations. This can include oral intubations or placement of the oxygen tube directly into the trachea. Depending on how severe the anaphylaxis was, the hospitalization usually lasts between 24 to 48 hours.
If you recognize the anaphylaxis early and seek aggressive veterinary intervention, the chances of survival increase exponentially. Owners should keep an eye on their pets, especially outdoors where there is possibility of venomous insects.