Anaphylaxis and Anaphylactic Reactions

puppy with swollen head - anaphylactic reactionAnaphylaxis is the name given to a sudden, unusual or exaggerated reaction by an animal to a particular substance. It is always a very sudden (acute) reaction and in dogs frequently results in swelling of the face, head, ears and other parts of the body.

What substances are likely to produce anaphylaxis?

The cause is usually a foreign protein that is unrecognised by the body. Bee and wasp stings are frequently responsible. Certain drugs such as antibiotics, vaccines and local anaesthetics can also be implicated. Less common causes are certain moulds and pollens.

Is the condition life threatening?

Anaphylaxis always causes concern because the signs are so sudden. Frequently the swelling will disappear as quickly as it came. If the throat and airway (windpipe) or the lungs are involved the condition can be very serious, just like some forms of acute asthma in people.

What should I do?

If there is serious swelling you must contact us without delay. The condition is due primarily to a release of a substance called histamine and injections of antihistamines or adrenaline usually result in rapid recovery. If there is a swelling of the face and ears some dogs will scratch and rub at the swollen part. Try to prevent this.  Bathing with cold water helps to reduce the swelling and often brings about improvement. Similarly, antihistamine creams which can be purchased without prescription, do help if available.

Is the condition likely to recur?

Yes. Anaphylaxis is a type of allergy. Repeated exposure can result in repeated reactions sometimes increasing in intensity. It is similar to the reaction of some people with allergies.

"Anaphylaxis is a type of allergy. Repeated exposure can result in repeated reactions sometimes increasing in intensity."

My dog had an anaphylactic reaction following vaccination, does this mean that no further vaccines should be administered?

Not necessarily. This is a risk and benefit situation and depends on the individual circumstances. In many cases an injection of an antihistamine shortly before administration of the suspected drug or vaccine will overcome the problem with no side effects.

Please feel free to discuss this with us.

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