The most common reason your dog might get swelling on their neck are infections. However, more sinister things can be at play.
Could it be an abscess? A swollen lymph node? And what is the underlying cause?
Potential causes of swelling in the area of the face and neck include:
- dental issues
- insect bites and stings
- other bites and wounds
- foreign bodies
- auto-immune conditions
Make no mistakes, these things can also be quite painful.
Rio was a senior Doberman mix but he was quite healthy and vital. His entire life, Rio enjoyed playing and running through tall grass.
One day, Rio wasn’t himself. He seemed lethargic, dull, carying his head low, and wasn’t interested in food. It was hard to put a finger on it but something was bothering Rio. His mom made an appointment with their veterinarian.
At the vet office
Rio’s veterinarian examined him and concluded that Rio was a fit, healthy dog. The only thing the vet found was a golf-ball sized swelling under Rio’s jaw and a slight fever. All that made an infection the most likely culprit. The veterinarian send Rio home with antibiotics and pain medication and booked him for a follow-up appointment.
The follow-up appointment
When Rio returned to the clinic, he was back to his usual self, feeling good. The swelling, however, remained.
Rio’s veterinarian decided it was time to get to the bottom of it. Under anesthesia, he thoroughly inspected Rio’s mouth and throat and took x-rays of his skull and neck. Rio’s bloodwork didn’t show any abnormalities.
The only thing out of the ordinary was inflammation around the base of Rio’s tongue, bright red tonsils and a few pieces of grass and grass seeds stuck around one of the tonsils. Could the resulting irritation be what caused all the trouble?
Rio’s veterinarian carefully picked them all off with tweezers. Rio could go home. He was to continue his medications.
During a couple of weeks, Rio’s swelling went away and all seemed well.
Six weeks later
Six weeks later, though, swelling on Rio’s neck returned. This time, however, it was his lymph node that was unhappy–it was about five times its normal size.
While a local infection was the most likely suspect, auto-immune disease or cancer couldn’t be ruled out. Could the grass debris have been just a coincidence or an unrelated problem? Or did some remain and continued to cause issues?
Rio’s veterinarian biopsied the node and sent the sample to a lab. The analysis revealed that the swelling was caused by an infection and resistant bacteria were found.
After treatment with an appropriate antibiotic, the swelling went down again.
Did Rio pick the bacteria up along with the grass debris? Or did some of the sharp seeds penetrate through the tissues? If so, they would continue to cause problems while avoiding detection–these things don’t show up on x-rays. Even MRI and ultrasound can’t always find these things easily.
Rio’s problem continued to come and go. It was apparent that they need to try and find the seeds. The veterinarian referred Rio to a teaching hospital. With ultrasound, they were able to find several of the grass seeds embedded in Rio’s tissues. They were able to remove them with delicate surgery.
Finally, that made Rio’s problem to go away for good.