Thursday, May 31, 2018

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: Swelling

Last time, we covered potential causes of swelling that is so major that it might appear as sudden weight gain.

Normally, though, when talking about swelling, you'd imagine something much more localized whether on the face, limbs or anywhere else on the body. An example that most likely comes to mind is swelling due to a bug bite or sting.

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: Swelling (Edema)

Insect bites and stings are a common cause indeed.


Even with that, though, it does not mean you ought to automatically dismiss that as something trivial. Depending on where you live, you should be aware of any poisonous critters whose bite could seriously harm your dog.

Most of the time, bug stings and bites are not an emergency. But if your dog is allergic, it can become one quickly if the swelling progresses to the throat or if your dog goes into anaphylactic shock. Do you know what signs you need to be watching for?

Even higher vigilance is needed when it comes to spiders, scorpions or snakes. Do you know what venomous critters are crawling around in your area? Some are deadly in themselves and even bites from relatively benign ones can result in massive infections. If you suspect your dog got bitten by a venomous spider or a snake, seek medical help immediately.

The swelling caused by an insect bite/sting is called urticarial or angioedema. It is a hypersensitivity (or allergic) reaction.

Beside insect bites/stings, a common cause of facial swelling is a tooth abscess.


While edema happens when small blood vessels leak fluid into tissues or body cavities, usually as part of immune response, an abscess is filled with pus. Where there is pus, there is generally an infection. Beside fluid, it also contains white blood cells, dead tissue, and debris formed as the body is fighting the invading organisms.

An abscess is more defined than a swelling though there can be further swelling around it. An abscess is painful to touch.

Hematomas


A hematoma is an accumulation of blood in places where it doesn't belong, outside the blood vessels. A hematoma is usually caused by trauma leading to rupture of blood vessels. For example, an ear hematoma is caused by trauma to blood vessels in the ear flap, commonly from excessive head shaking in response to an ear infection. Hematomas are generally painful.


Swollen lymph nodes


Lymph nodes are part of the immune system and can swell readily in response to local or systemic causes. Locally, in response to an infection or another inflammatory event. The scary part is that cancer, lymphoma, is one of the potential causes of lymph nodes swelling. Even scarier, such swelling can look exactly like swelling from any other, much less dangerous cause.

So how do you know what you're looking at?


That's the thing, isn't it? For the most part, you don't. And that's leaving hard lumps and bumps aside.

Case in point, JD's swelling above his eye. When it happened the first time, we figured it was a bug bite or sting. I gave him some Benadryl and it brought it down. Except it popped up again two days later, in the same place. And it wasn't going away the second time around.

JD's vet poked him and prodded. There was no dental issue, there was no eye issue, there was no evidence of a foreign body or infection around the eye. That same week they had two similar cases which were both caused by a splinter in a soft palate with the infection finding its way out the best way it could, swelling up over the eye. "Does JD chew sticks," they asked? Yes, sometimes he did.

JD got antibiotics and the swelling went away. Two weeks later this time, it returned. You can read the rest of the story here.

Whether it was the infection that made its way to places the antibiotics couldn't deal with, or whether it was cancer, it was JD's undoing. My motto? You can never be paranoid enough, particularly if a swelling isn't behaving the way you'd expect.

To take some edge off, sometimes things work out better than you'd expect. When Jasmine's neck lymph nodes overnight swelled enough to cause severe coughing, we feared lymphoma. Yet, after two days of therapeutic trial with antibiotics, she was back to normal.

Err on the side of caution


Even I don't run to a vet with every bee sting. But when that happens I have one foot out the door. I watch how large it gets, where it spreads to, whether there are any other concerning signs. I am less worried about a bee sting in the foot than in the face but even that one could cause anaphylaxis with a bit of a bad luck.

With any other swelling, particularly those that stay for more than a day, are painful or cause other trouble, I'm on my way to a vet. If I suspected a venomous bite, I'd be burning rubber.

Do you know what your dog is telling you about their health?


Learn how to detect and interpret the signs of a potential problem.


Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog now available in paperback and Kindle. Each chapter includes notes on when it is an emergency.

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog is an award-winning guide to help you better understand what your dog is telling you about their health and how to best advocate for them. 

Learn how to see and how to think about changes in your dog’s appearance, habits, and behavior. Some signs that might not trigger your concern can be important indicators that your dog needs to see a veterinarian right away. Other symptoms, while hard to miss, such as diarrhea, vomiting, or limping, are easy to spot but can have a laundry list of potential causes, some of them serious or even life-threatening. 

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog is a dog health advocacy guide 101. It covers a variety of common symptoms, including when each of them might be an emergency. 

Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog has won the following awards:

25 comments

  1. I always learn from your posts, I know call it my weekly lesson. Great post and thanks for sharing and teaching me more

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  2. Mr. N is allergic to bee stings so it's definitely something I keep an eye out for. He had to go to the ER last time.

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    1. Oh, yeah, if there already is an allergy that makes it that much scarier. Poor Mr. N ending up in the ER over a bee sting.

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  3. Health issues in our pets are so frightening. This sounds like it would offer some comfort and empowerment in knowing when to rush to the vet or not.

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    1. There is power in knowledge. The more one learns, the better they can discern when to rush to a vet and when they can deal with a minor issue themselves.

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  4. Another incredibly informative post and I agree, err on the side of caution and that's what I always do. If something doesn't seem right I call the vet. I'd rather bother the staff than overlook something that could be serious.

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    1. Thank you, Hindy. It is always better to be safe than sorry.

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  5. Congratulations on your book and on the awards it has won! My cat, Lexy, had a swollen lip once and I took her to the vet right away because I didn't know if it was serious. We never knew the reason, but she got an injection and it went away quickly.

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    1. Thank you so much, luv. Sometimes one never figures out what happened. As long as the problem goes away, that's all that matters.

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  6. Thanks for sharing this... It's really useful to know what to watch out for and what it could possibly be. ~ Dear Mishu

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    1. Thank you, hon. Empowering dog parents is the purpose behind my blog.

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  7. Great info on what to watch for. We've never had a "swollen" incident with our dog, but he does have lumps/bumps on his body as he's aged. We get them checked regularly and have had a few removed. We have, on the other hand, had swollen issues with one of our cats. Allergies!

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    1. It is very important to stay on top of any lumps or bumps and always aspirate every one of them. Just because a ten of them are lipomas, it doesn't meant the twenty first will be also.

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  8. This happened to my Glover once. May be rest in peace. I was worried about this just this past month with my Lyla. She seemed to have gained weight so I was feeling around to see if she was swollen anywhere. Then I realized she had just grown a lot of new fur! BOL it is funny now but was not so funny when I was worried about her. Great tips and good advice and now I know a lot better about what to look for!

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    1. BOL Well, that is the best-case scenario - weight gain from new fur! :-) Our guys seem to grow thicker undercoat with each year of age.

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  9. Lumps and bumps are scary. I'm always afraid of cancer. I had a cat who used to get a fat lip on a regular basis. At first we had all kinds of drama at the vet, but since we never found an answer we decided it was so sort of allergy. It came and went and we stopped worrying as long as there wasn't an open wound. I've had one with an abscess that he needed surgery to drain.

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    1. The good news is that less than 50% of lumps and bumps actually are cancerous. And most of those, if treated early, are curable with surgery.

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  10. Icy, my Husky, got stung by a scorpion on her snout the first night we moved into our new house! Her face was twitching and she whined a little. I was completely freaked out. I called an emergency vet and they told me to keep an eye on her, so we stayed up with her all night. Before morning thankfully she was fine. We got an exterminator immediately and began plugging up holes in the concrete wall along the yard - we think that's where she found them. So scary!
    Love & Biscuits,
    Dogs Luv Us and We Luv Them

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    1. That would absolutely freak me out as well. Particularly because scorpions are an exotic danger to me. I imagine living in area where they are common, one has a better idea when to freak out and when not. What I hear is that the bigger the scorpion the lesser the risk and vice versa. Not sure whether that is really true.

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  11. Whenever something is slightly askew with my dogs, I check your site first.

    This past winter, Theo had a swollen spot on his nose. After reading about spider bites, I called the vet (on a Saturday) and they said we could wait until Monday as long as he wasn't having trouble breathing. Fortunately, the swelling went down by Monday.

    He's been fine ever since, so I am pretty sure it was bug or spider bite of some sort.

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    1. Aww, thank you. It, of course, depends on the kind of spider. And whether or not it gets infected.

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  12. Even a cat owner like me read your posts and learns things. Yes, this can happen BUT be aware and know what can and might happen. Be Aware is the watchword.

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    1. Thank you, M. Some things are very different between cats and dogs but some are, indeed, the same or similar.

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  13. I've made it a practice to take my cats to the vet if I see any swelling or bumps. Luckily, I haven't had this issue too much. I always learn so much from your posts.

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