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.
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 the 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.
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 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 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.
Symptoms to Watch for in Your Dog: Sudden Weight Gain
Swelling in Dogs