If your pet’s muzzle swells up like a balloon after an altercation with a bee, or you notice they are extremely lethargic and vomiting after a round of vaccinations, you need to know the steps required to help your four-legged friend. Some allergic reactions can be so severe that they result in anaphylactic shock, which is an emergency situation. Other allergic reactions can be successfully treated at home.

To guide you on the first aid your pet needs during an allergic reaction, our Town & Country Animal Hospital team is sharing our step-by-step guide for managing allergic reactions in pets. 

Step 1: Identify what caused the allergic reaction in your pet

Acute allergic reactions are typically different from environmental or food allergies, which cause itching and inflammation seasonally or year-round. An acute allergic reaction is a sudden response to an allergen, and will generally worsen with repeated exposure. For example, a pet who is allergic to a certain medication or vaccination will often display more serious signs each time they receive that product.

Discovering an allergic reaction’s trigger is critical for providing the proper treatment and preventing future reactions by your pet. Think back carefully to what happened before your pet reacted. Do you remember they yelped when they were bitten or stung, or you used a new home cleaning product that could have spurred a chemical reaction?

Step 2: Remove the offending allergen to halt the allergic reaction

If your pet is bitten or stung by an insect, removing the bug or stinger is key to stopping progression of the allergic reaction. Remove a bee stinger carefully by scraping it with a credit card rather than squeezing it with a pair of tweezers, which will only inject more venom into your pet. If your pet is allergic to fleas, comb out as many as possible, and then bathe your pet to minimize the reaction.

Bathing your pet in Dawn dish soap will strip off an allergenic chemical, or rinse away pollen and fleas. Once you have removed the offending allergen from your pet’s skin, you can follow up with a soothing oatmeal-based or soap-free shampoo.

Step 3: Ask your veterinarian about medicating your pet

Pets who are already on allergy medication, like Apoquel, may be able to increase their dose during an allergy flare. However, if your pet is not currently taking medication or supplements designed to manage allergies and skin conditions, speak to your Town & Country Animal Hospital veterinarian before administering at-home treatment. While antihistamines are generally safe, our team can recommend the most effective over-the-counter (OTC) medication and the correct dose for your pet. 

Step 4: Monitor your pet’s condition

All allergic reactions should be closely monitored for potential escalation. While your pet’s initial response to a bee sting or topical product may seem minor, an allergic reaction can quickly develop and become a more serious problem. Watch your furry pal for signs that indicate they need emergency veterinary care, which can include:

  • Rapid or excessive swelling of the face, eyelids, ears, and muzzle
  • Extreme lethargy
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Breathing difficulties
  • An elevated heart rate
  • An abnormal heart rhythm
  • Collapse

Step 5: Reduce the risk of a future allergic reaction

Limit your pet’s exposure to allergens, or avoid them completely, by:

  • Administering prevention — Parasite prevention can virtually eliminate problems caused by your pet’s flea allergy, so administering year-round flea, tick, and heartworm preventives can keep your furry pal comfortable.
  • Keeping your pet leashed — Keeping your pet on a leash and by your side when outdoors can keep their curious nose out of beehives, wasp nests, and anthills.
  • Using pet-friendly cleaning products — Cleaning chemicals can be highly caustic on your pet’s sensitive paws and skin, so choose pet-friendly alternatives for mopping your floors and shampooing your carpet.
  • Avoiding pollutants — Airborne pollutants, such as cigarette smoke, aerosol sprays, perfumes, and other scented items, can trigger sudden allergic reactions in your pet, so avoid using these products.

Allergic reactions can range in severity, and can rapidly escalate. If your four-legged friend has tangled with a wasp nest, exploded in a sudden case of hives, or is reacting adversely to a new shampoo, contact our Town & Country Animal Hospital team as quickly as possible.