Allergic reactions to food, insect bites, pollen are relatively common in pets. Itching and swelling (ears, skin, feet) are the most common symptoms. Clinical signs can last anywhere from a few hours to the whole season. Certain breeds seem to be more prone to allergic reactions than others. For instance, Chihuahuas, Bulldogs and Boxers commonly present to emergency room soon after being bit by an insect. These guys seem to be ‘frequent flyers’ for these events. Some respond to a few doses of benadryl at home while others require a trip to the veterinarian for steroids. Although pets initially respond to treatment, the allergic component remains in the body for a few days and despite medication the pet may experience return of hives and facial swelling, although less severe, over the following 48-72 hours.
While dogs tend to have hives and facial swelling, cats seem more apt to develop red ulcers, called ‘rodent ulcers’ on the lips, red itchy lesions above the eyes or on the temple region of the head. Food allergies frequently result in intense itching of the head and face.
These types of common reactions are irritating, inconvenient but generally not life-threatening. They can be managed with a few medications and in a pinch, a cool ice-pack.
The more serious condition, called anaphylaxis, is a rare event where a pet goes into shock immediately (within minutes) after being bit by an insect or receiving a vaccine. These pets often will collapse and experience vomiting and diarrhea. Breathing may become difficult as well. It is not unusual for a pet owner to not even realize that their pet has been stung by an insect and these guys can stump even experienced veterinarians when they initially present to the emergency room. As they present for shock, however, they are generally treated for shock, and measures to increase blood pressure are taken. This often includes giving a dose of steroids if blood pressure does not respond to common measures taken with shock. If a pet owner has a dog or cat known to have anaphylaxis, an EpiPen or syringe of epinephrine should be kept at home and taken with the pet when away from home. Dogs weighing over 45 lbs can use the standard 0.3 mg epinephrine EpiPen. Dogs weighing between 20-45 lbs can use the EpiPen Jr. For dogs weighing less than 20 lbs and cats, it may be more appropriate to have a syringe at home containing the proper dose as even the EpiPen Jr. may be too much. Your veterinarian can show you how to administer an injection to prepare you for an emergency situation.
If you have given your pet an injection of epinephrine due to a severe allergic event, he or she may look great, but keep in mind the epinephrine is very short acting and you need to take your pet to the emergency room immediately so that longer acting medications and supportive measures can be given.
In Summary signs of anaphylaxis:
*vomiting/diarrhea soon after being stung
*collapse/weakness after being stung
*signs of shock without any known sting is possible (but rare)
Izzy is a middle-aged Clumber Spaniel. She likes to eat things, but REALLY loves eating rocks. In the past 3 years she has had surgery twice for the very same thing … eating as many rocks as will fit into her stomach! Take a look at the x-ray below
Although no one really understands why little Izzy loves to eat rocks, we think that there must be a genetic predisposition. For example, Izzy’s mom ate rocks, her mom’s mom even ate rocks!
Although Izzy eats these rocks on a regular basis (will need to wear a muzzle when outside to prevent) it’s only when she eats the wrong one, one that is larger than a ping-pong ball. And oooops! Everything comes to a screeching halt … except for poor Izzy’s adopted mom that gets her into the car for a ride to the ER!
*look closely and you can see the larger rock that crashed the party …
Zinc toxicity can be a life-threatening emergency. The most common source of zinc for pets is found in pennies. When the pennies are swallowed the stomach acid causes the dangerous zinc to dissolve and quickly enter the blood stream.
Ingested pennies need to be removed ASAP! This is done either by causing the pet to vomit or taking the pet to surgery. Once the pennies are removed it will take about 48 hours for the zinc to be eliminated from the blood stream.
We had the worst zinc toxicity case that I have ever seen in my 20+ years of practice. A young dog requiring a lengthy surgery then developed severe anemia requiring an emergency transfusion. After a few days of worry and intensive care we were able to send our little patient home. Her full recovery will still take many more days as the organs begin to repair.
Interesting fact: pennies minted in 1983 and later are composed of 97.3% zinc. Also, ever wonder where money travels before making it to you? Actually, it’s probably better not to think about it :o)
Please be safe!
Dr. Deborah Kelloway
We can all see how beautiful your pet is on the outside :o) but when he or she is not feeling well, what do things look like on the inside? X-rays are great for bone and gas structures (like lung), but when it comes to soft tissue, nothing can beat the diagnostic superiority of ultrasound. Echo (sound) waves are used to penetrate water (which is what soft tissue mostly contains). These sound waves bounce off of the tissue and return to the operator’s probe. Depending on the type of tissue will determine how fast the sound waves return to the probe. The varying speed of echo wave return is what creates the various levels of gray and ultimately the image on the screen. Fascinating! And really useful.
We have been open in Concord for just a little over 1 week and each serious case that came through our doors experienced life-saving, valuable information based on ultrasound. Each required immediate surgery and are doing well.
Below are a few cases with photos:
A middle-aged hound dog was referred by his veterinarian for ultrasound out of concern for an abdominal mass. The pet had been vomiting for a few days and there was concern that cancer was the cause for the vomiting. However, after a thorough exam of the abdomen, the ultrasound demonstrated foreign material (likely a sock) within the upper part of the intestine. The pet was taken to surgery and a long section of very smelly fabric was removed!
A little dog presented for vomiting multiple times within a 12 hour period. Although looking pretty good in the exam room, 8-9 events of vomiting is a lot and the owner was very concerned. Ultrasound was pursued and it was immediately apparent that the gallbladder was leaking. The patient was taken to surgery and the leaking gallbladder was found to be barely attached at its base! Removal of the gallbladder proved to be life-saving.
This morning, we were presented with a lovely middle-aged dog that had been vomiting and not feeling well for about 3 days. Although she did not have a fever (surprising) and no discharge from under her tail (even more surprising!), the abdominal ultrasound demonstrated an enormous uterus full of infection and ready to rupture. No time was wasted. She was treated for shock and whisked into the surgery suite. Take a look at this amazing structure — which weighed 7 pounds 14 ounces! (Cover your eyes if you are squeamish.)
Stay tuned if you find ultrasound interesting. We will post more interesting cases soon!
This is the season where we see dogs coming into the ER with porcupine quills. Some dogs will get a few quills in their muzzle and quickly retreat. However, many larger breed dogs will not be deterred by a few quills and continue to attack the porcupine. The end result … often hundreds of quills in the muzzle, mouth, front limbs, chest. If your dog has only a few quills, they can often be removed with pliers and a quick pull. However, anything more that 2-3 quills, will result in a very stressed pooch if the quills are pulled without sedation. If only a handful of quills are present, light sedation is all that is required. If there are many quills (>50) then most dogs will need to be anesthetized to allow a team of technicians and veterinarian to work diligently in locating and removing the quills.
It is not uncommon for 1-2 quills to remain. Either it is not noticed or it is simply too deep to be safely removed. These quills eventually migrate, usually to the surface where their owners may notice a sharp protrusion (generally days to weeks after the event) from the skin. If the pet allows and the quill is sufficiently exposed, then a quick, firm pull to remove the quill is often possible.
Quills are not easy to see by any other means other than the naked eye. Sophisticated diagnostics such as CT and MRI often do no allow visualization of quills. Occasionally dogs may have a quill protruding into the heart sac causing blood to build up around the heart. These quills can sometimes be seen with ultrasound.
Pet insurance is recommended for any pet, but accidental pet insurance is definitely a very good idea for any porcupine offender! Dogs do not learn their lesson after the event but rather seem to get even more worked up about porcupines with any future encounters.