Would you be surprised to learn all the potential causes why your dog’s face could swell up? Some of those are scary things.
If it is summertime, and your dog swells on one side, the first thing that comes to your mind is likely an insect sting. The odds that you’re not wrong are going to be high.
Below is what Cookie’s face looked like after she got stung by a bald-faced hornet. I knew that’s what it was because I was there when she accidentally hopped in the nest neither of us knew was there.
Fortunately, this was as bad as it’s gotten. I gave her Benadryl and kept watching her like a hawk, but overnight the swelling went away. The concern with insect stings is a serious allergic reaction where swelling can spread and cause difficulty breathing or worse, cause anaphylactic shock. If her swelling spread, if she broke out in hives, was drooling, vomiting or having diarrhea, I would have gone to a vet even though it was just a hornet sting.
Symptoms of anaphylactic shock in dogs can include:
- severe swelling or hives
- excessive drooling
- difficulty breathing
- changes in gum color
- cold limps
Spider or snake bites
It is essential to know what kinds of poisonous creepy crawlies there are in your area that could have bitten your dog. If your dog is always supervised, you’d probably notice if there was the possibility of a snake bite. With spiders, being small and all that, it’s not as easy.
Again, if you don’t know what might have happened, the swelling gets worse and/, or your dog is showing concerning signs, see a vet. Signs can include muscle pain, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors and the like. You are also looking at the possibility of violent infections.
What if it’s neither stings or bites?
It was summertime when JD’s face swelled up right above his eye. We don’t have any nasty snakes or spiders around here. Naturally, an insect bite was what we figured has happened. We gave him Benadryl, and the swelling indeed went down. Except it returned. And then it returned again. Getting stung three times over such a short period didn’t make any sense anymore. We took JD to the vet who asked whether JD liked to chew on sticks. Sometimes he did. That made him the third case they’ve seen where a splinter from a stick made it into the hard palate and the infection traveled through the path of the least resistance.
JD was treated with antibiotics, but the swelling kept coming back after each treatment. Eventually, JD started having neurologic signs too; having a hard time standing, walking and keeping balance. At the end of the day, whether it was an infection deep in his brain, or cancer, it led to his undoing.
That is a fairly rare case, but it shows not to underestimate even such a routine thing like facial swelling.
A much more common cause of facial swelling than JD’s foreign body or cancer is dental disease. We did, of course, have the mouth and teeth checked thoroughly but there was nothing wrong there. An abscessed tooth, though, can definitely make your dog’s face swell up.
An infected swelling due to trauma is going to look quite similar, but you should be able to find the associated wound. With any infection bad enough to cause pronounced swelling your dog might also have a fever.
Other symptoms of dental issues can include:
- bad breath
- excessive drooling
- pawing at the mouth
- painful mouth sensitive to touch
- changes in eating and chewing habits
- abnormal discharge from mouth, nose or eyes
Make no mistake. A tooth abscess hurts. As well as dental disease can negatively impact overall health.
While allergic reactions, stings, and bites, and infections are the most common causes, you’d be surprised how many other–and often scary–things can result in facial swelling.
- fluid or blood build-up from trauma
- lymph node swelling
- muscle inflammation
- salivary fluid build-up
Swollen lymph nodes
Lymph nodes are part of the lymphatic system. They are small, bean-shaped, and situated throughout the lymphatic system. Their job is filtration and storage of immune cells.
As a result, they are quick to swell for many reasons when nearby tissues become inflamed.
Do you remember the old days when a doctor would feel your neck? That’s what they were checking–lymph node swelling.
The potential causes are allergens, infections auto-immune reactions, or cancer. The latter is the scary one.
Other symptoms can include:
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
If your dog’s lymph nodes swell up enough that you can see it, see a veterinarian. It is not good to let an infection fester and with a lymphoma, time is of the essence.
What is lymphoma?
Lymphoma is cancer of small white blood cells. The two types are B-cells and T-cells; you might have heard of those before. If your dog has lymphoma, it means that one of the two kinds of blood cells multiplies uncontrollably. B-cell lymphoma is most common in dogs.
As I mentioned, timely treatment is essential with lymphoma.
When your dog’s face swells, it might not always be something scary or sinister but it could be. Unless I know–or I think I know–what might have caused it, I would not delay a vet visit.
Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: Swelling
Facial Swelling in Dogs: Causes and Treatments