Anaphylactic Shock in Dogs is Scary.

Anaphylactic shock strikes fast and deadly if you don’t react immediately, even if you don’t know what you’re looking at as you run out of your back door because your son yelled that you needed to come outside now because Gracie, his Pit Bull Terrier mixed breed dog, couldn’t get up.

Two days ago,  in the back yard,, after a joyous romp with Tessa (our Min Pin mixed breed dog), after which Gracie trailed behind my son as he walked around the yard, she threw up twice before falling over on her side. I almost fell over her as I dashed out the back door, She wasn’t getting up.

Her gums were white. She was panting heavily. (Time on the clock: 12:20 PM)

All of which I described to the young woman who answered the phone at my vet’s office, explaining that my son’s dog was down; that we were bringing her in. Now.

We’re fortunate that our vet is less than ten minutes drive from where we live. Not so fortunately, after thoroughly examining Gracie, Dr. M found nothing wrong. Heartbeat normal, palpitating her body didn’t suggest anything dire going on, a very slight temp. Gracie was alert and responding to what was going on around her. (Time on the clock: 1 PM.)

We went home.

Gracie walked into our house all by herself. No visible signs of anything wrong.

We crated her. As I sat outside of the crate, watching her settle in, I could see red hives all over her groin area, underneath the arm pit of her front leg, spreading across her chest, while simultaneously grabbing my cell phone, punching in the number for the vet and, less than two minutes later, describing all of this to Dr. M.

Gracie’s eyes were dull. Her head hung down.

“Bee strings. If you don’t have any Benadryl to give her, come back in.”

Even if we’d had Benadryl on hand, we were going back to the vet’s office. Loading Gracie back into the car, another 8-10 minute drive, we slipped into the side door nearest one of the exams rooms, where Dr. M met us and quickly injected a combination Benadryl-like serum and steroid into Gracie. And then we waited.  (Time on the clock: 1:20 PM)

We stayed at the vet’s until almost 3 PM. Gracie threw up six times – mostly water and whatever was left of her breakfast. One of the vet techs noticed that her lower lip was hugely swollen; the hives started to fade shortly after the injection.  Sitting with her and talking with Dr M and several of the staff (who wandered back to check on her during that 2 1/2 hour time period) was when our brains began to register that Gracie had gone into anaphylactic shock in our yard; that she could have died.

By 5 PM that night, "head shot of female pit bull terrier" Gracie was acting like herself. We didn’t feed her with the other dogs. Instead of letting her drink water, we offered her ice cubes. When she had to go outside, she went out on leash.  I kept replaying the phrase, “Gracie went into anaphylactic shock over and over again in my head like a broken record.  She could have died.

Last night, watching Gracie roll over so that she was belly up, I saw a thumb-sized, oval red area on the underside of her jaw. A last visible marker – one place where she’d been stung.

Two days later, we’re thinking about how to treat the yard because it is loaded with bumble bees, hornets and other stinger-like insects. They like the clover in the grass and they love all of the flowers. I called a friend of mine who’s an exterminator – he came out the morning after Gracie’s anaphylactic shock episode to check for underground nests. Apparently, we don’t have any.

My son spoke with or had email conversations with some of his co-workers out at Lollypop Farm. One of them has a Boxer dog that’s allergic to bee stings. She’s put together several emergency kits for her dog that include liquid Benadryl (faster absorption than tablets and probably easier to get down a dog’s throat). These emergency kits are kept in the house, in the car, attached (somehow) to the dog’s leash. She’s promised to show my son what she includes in this kit so that we can duplicate that.

Yesterday, I was terrified to take Gracie out into the back yard: where she likes to sunbathe, where she and Tessa have found their running dog zen and have such an amazing time together. I know we can’t keep her in a bubble; so what we will do is figure out how to keep her safe.

What to know and what to watch for:

If your dog has an allergic reaction to a bee or other insect bite, your dog’s immune system reacts instantly. The organ that you worry about is the liver and what you might see are any of the following:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Sudden onset of vomiting
  • Sudden onset of diarrhea
  • Extremities may feel cold
  • Seizures
  • Gums will appear pale or white
  • Death

Anaphlactic shock is life-threatening. You need to get your dog to your vet (to any vet) immediately. It can happen because of an insect bite, it can happen because your dog has an allergic reaction to a drug or vaccine injection, it can happen because your dog has food allergies.

We’re not exactly sure when Gracie was stung. She and Tessa had been running around in the yard for about 15 minutes before Tessa and I went inside. My son and Gracie were outside (just the two of them) for, perhaps, another 8-10 minutes before my son yelled for me to come back out. He had watched Gracie throw up (twice) and then collapse on the ground. I knew to lift up her lip and look at her gums, which were white. We both knew – even if Gracie’s gums had been a healthy looking pink – that our one goal was getting her to the vet ASAP.

We’re still mulling over how to handle the yard – our beautifully fenced, spacious back yard that’s no longer completely safe for Gracie. If you’ve ever dealt with this and have any suggestions for yard safety or if your dog has ever experienced anaphylactic shock, please leave your comments directly on my blog. This way, we can all help each other.




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