The Pet Corner: Allergic reactions can be life threatening

Published 8:56 am Wednesday, September 26, 2018

By Dr. Jeff Castle

Once again spring has sprung, summer has come and gone and now most of us are wondering when the heat is going to stop.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say I’m ready for cold weather, but I would like for the intense heat and humidity to slack up just a bit as well as all the rain.

It would be nice to be able to walk from the house to the car without working up a sweat or getting soaking wet.

Sapphire, our 4-year-old Golden Retriever, certainly doesn’t like the scorching hot days. She darts outside to go potty and then right back inside to lounge around in the comfort of air conditioning. She won’t even eat her dinner until late at night when things have cooled off some.

Marlo, our feisty Yorkie, doesn’t let the heat bother her at all. She especially likes to chase bees in the front yard totally unaware of the potential danger, the stinger, dangling from the underside of the bees.

The stinger of a bee or wasp frightens most people who have experienced the searing pain of being stung by one of these flying pests with poisonous daggers.

Even more frightening is the thought of being stung if you are allergic to bees or wasps. Most everyone experiences the pain and local swelling of venomous insect stings, but only a small percentage are actually allergic.

An allergic reaction or immediate hypersensitivity is known as anaphylaxis.

Pets who are allergic have the same hypersensitivity reaction as people. Just like people, most pets will only experience the initial pain and local swelling from venomous insects. However, those pets who are allergic are prone to life threatening reactions.

Spiders may not fly, but they can cause also an anaphylactic reaction just as bad as bees and wasps.

Anaphylactic reactions are not only caused by venomous insects. Other common causes of anaphylaxis are foods, medications, vaccines, chemicals and environmental pollutants.

With anaphylactic reactions, the body’s immune system over reacts to the foreign substance resulting in the hypersensitivity reaction. Most cases of anaphylaxis are thought to be hereditary.

The one thing many people don’t realize about anaphylactic reactions is before a reaction can occur, the person or pet must have a previous exposure to the foreign substance.

A good example is the first time a dog is stung, a short-term localized reaction occurs. This causes the immune system to develop a response that will somewhat “remember” the foreign substance the next time the dog is stung causing a much more serious reaction.

The clinical signs of anaphylaxis most commonly seen in pets are itching, hives, a swollen face or muzzle, salivation, vomiting, diarrhea and difficult breathing. The seriousness of the reaction is related to swelling and constriction of the airways as well as problems with blood circulation.

The reaction occurs very quickly which means it is imperative to seek medical attention for your pet immediately.

Treatment for anaphylactic reactions generally consists of stabilization to prevent or minimize shock. It is important to ensure there is an open airway and blood pressure is maintained.

Basic supportive care such as intravenous fluids is often necessary. The most effective medications for anaphylaxis are steroids and antihistamines.

Most pets will be given injectable medications to ensure rapid absorption of the steroids and antihistamines. However, if it is impossible to have your pet seen by a veterinarian immediately, then you should administer an antihistamine such as Benadryl as soon as possible. Pets require 1 milligram of Benadryl per pound of body weight. For example, a 25-pound dog would receive 25 mg of Benadryl.

After giving Benadryl, you should seek medical attention for your pet immediately.

If your pet shows any signs of an anaphylactic reaction, see your veterinarian as soon as possible to ensure your pet lives a long, healthy and happy life.

Dr. Jeff Castle is a veterinarian at Clark County Veterinary Clinic.