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What is Swollen Face?

While the definition for swollen face in dogs is quite simple, the potential reasons for this malady certainly are not. The swollen areas noted on your doggy family member may be of various sizes and shapes, waxing and waning under a variety of conditions, or, they may have developed suddenly or gradually over a period of time and they may or may not be symmetrical (the same size and location on each side of the face, head or muzzle).  Regardless of the circumstances of their appearance, they are all something which need the attention of your veterinary professional.

Swollen face in dogs is, quite simply, an enlargement or edema of a portion of the face, eyes, ears, head or muzzle of your family pet, which may or may not be symmetrical.

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Symptoms of Swollen Face in Dogs

The symptoms of the various potential causes are similar in a very general way.  Here are some of the symptoms you might see to accompany the swollen face in your dog:

  • Small bumps or hives, sometimes with hair standing up in that area
  • Itchiness
  • Swelling especially around the eyes and on muzzle
  • Swelling around the eyes which sometimes closes the eye(s)
  • Swelling in the jaw and throat area

Sometimes the swelling, especially in the muzzle, jaw and throat areas, can result in the closing off of the windpipe, causing an emergency situation for your canine family member.

Types

 

The types of swollen face in dogs relate to the ways in which the swelling can occur:

  • Trauma - Including blunt trauma and penetrating injuries

  • Allergies - Includes food allergies and insect bites (spiders, wasps, etc) as well as environmental and household allergens (household cleaners, carpet cleaners, air fresheners, etc) and mold and pollen
  • Dental issues - Includes cavities, tooth damages, bone fractures, etc

  • Cancers and tumors and other systemic involvement
  • Lymph node involvement - Swelling of various lymph nodes in the facial area as a result of multiple factors

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Causes of Swollen Face in Dogs

  • Trauma - This swelling comes in the form of fluid buildup from external traumas like being kicked, bumped, hit by a car and from penetrating wounds like animal bites, punctures from sticks and other sharp objects; frequently, bacterial infections can develop from penetrating wounds
  • Allergies - These include allergic reactions to insect bites, sting, vaccinations and various medications

  • Salivary gland swelling - This is mucus-like salivary fluid buildup
  • Abscesses - Just like we humans, dogs and cats are also prone to dental root abscesses which will result in swelling in the facial area of the afflicted animal

  • Cancer and other benign growths of tissue - Cancer is possible in your beloved canine family member too - and, just like in humans, some tumors will be malignant while others can be benign
  • Lymphatic obstructions - The lymph system needs to be open and flowing to work; obstructions in those pathways can cause fluid to accumulate anywhere in the body, especially in the face of your dog

  • Parasitic infestations - This cause can include, hookworms,  whipworms, roundworms, heartworms and tapeworms
  • Congestive heart failure - This causes excessive fluid which has built up in the tissues around the heart to infiltrate into surrounding tissues, causing the edema or swelling in the upper body and eventually to the neck, head and face of the afflicted animal

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Diagnosis of Swollen Face in Dogs

During the diagnostic process, your veterinary professional will require your complete history on the lifestyle of your canine family member.  This will need to include details on dietary regimen, recent vaccinations (if not done by the treating vet), the locations where the dog may be been (to determine possible insect or parasitic involvement), the symptoms noted, their severity and duration.  He will also need to know if the swelling was noted to have come on suddenly or was it more gradual in its development?  Be sure to include any unusual behaviors noted and the duration of those behavioral changes.  Your vet will do a physical examination which will likely include some blood work, urine and fecal samples and perhaps other tissue or fluid samples to be sent to the lab for evaluation and assessment.  

A specimen of fluid from the swollen area will likely be obtained via needle aspiration and sent to the lab.  The vet may order some imaging studies, like radiography (x-ray), CT (computer tomography) imaging or MRI to identify or ascertain the presence of any masses, either felt on examination or suspected. An echocardiogram may be utilized if cardiac issues are present or suspected.  The treatment plan developed by your veterinary professional will be entirely dependent upon the diagnosis found.

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Treatment of Swollen Face in Dogs

Treatments for swollen face in dogs, as noted above, can be based solely upon the diagnosis found in the examination and testing, or based on the assumptive diagnosis of an insect bite (most frequently the cause) or other allergen.  

  • In the latter situation, your vet will likely begin an allergic-style regimen right away, especially if there is concern that the swelling could interfere with your pet’s ability to breathe  
  • Your vet may initiate a treatment plan which consists of antibiotic treatment of any penetrating or trauma wounds which show infection and inflammation 
  • He may begin an antihistamine regimen if he suspects that your beloved doggy family member is suffering from an allergic reaction of some type  
  • If the reaction is severe, he may also treat your pet with steroids as needed.  Epinephrine may be utilized in extreme situations in which anaphylaxis is suspected as this type of reaction is potentially life-threatening and will need immediate action on his part  
  • If this severe reaction is being treated, you should expect that your pet will be hospitalized for close monitoring, utilization of oxygen, potentially IV administration of corticosteroids and heart and blood pressure monitoring on a 24 hour basis until your pet is stabilized and can safely be returned home
  • If the cause is found to be dental, your pet may be referred to a veterinary professional who specializes in doggy dental procedures unless your vet has the expertise to treat dental issues, too
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Recovery of Swollen Face in Dogs

Depending on the cause of the swollen face in your pet, it is reasonable to expect that your canine family member will recover completely from this episode, provided medical care was provided appropriately and in a timely manner for the condition.  It is also reasonable to expect that cautions, suggestions and recommendations for prevention of future episodes will be given as well as at home emergency care recommendations in the event that your pet suffered a severe allergic reaction.  Of course, as a pet owner, you also should expect the pleasure of being told to administer your own form of “medical care” by the extravagant application of the three A’s (affection, attention and affirmation) to your healing beloved doggy family member.

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Swollen Face Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Mix

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One Year

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Face

We have two dogs and they love to play fight. It may have gone too far as my dog now has a hard swollen knob on the side of her face. I don’t know if I need to be concerned because she doesn’t appear to be in any pain and is eating and acting completely normal. There is no blood or puncture wound, just the hard knob. I’m also not one hundred percent certain this is from a dog bite because I am not certain at what point the swollen part showed up.

Sept. 12, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Gina U. DVM

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Hello It would be best to take your pup in to see a veterinarian for an exam. Any type of swelling should be thoroughly evaluated for injury, foreign material, infection, etc. Good luck.

Sept. 14, 2020

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Vizsla

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10 weeks

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Unknown severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Bump/Swollen Nose, Left Eye Foggy And Pupil Not Dilated

Hello, My 10 week old Vizsla just started displaying a bump on his snout right above the nose. His left eye is blurry and foggy and the pupil is small and different sized than his normal looking right eye.

Aug. 5, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. There's a lot going on with your puppy, and without seeing him, it is really difficult for me to say what might be going on. It would probably be best for him to be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. They will be able to examine him, see what might be going on, and get any treatment that he needs. I hope that all goes well for him.

Aug. 5, 2020

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Siberian Husky

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Fourteen Weeks

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Face

We woke up this morning and noticed her face was swollen on one side. She has no other symptoms and is eating, drinking, playing and going to the bathroom as normal. Have her half a Benadryl about three hours ago and it has not really gone down. Is it okay to wait it out until the morning to see if it goes down or should she go to the emergency vet today?

Aug. 2, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Since the Benadryl doesn't seem to be helping, it probably would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian, but if it doesn't seem to be getting worse quickly, and she is still playful and acting normal otherwise, then you may be able to wait until tomorrow morning. If she becomes lethargic, or the swelling is dramatically increasing, then it would be best to go to the ER. I hope that everything goes well for her!

Aug. 2, 2020

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Shih Tzu mixed

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Three Months

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Cheek

Today I saw that my puppy has his right cheek swollen and I’m not sure why? He doesn’t show any signs of discomfort, he eats properly and is still as happy as ever. Any reason as to why it’s swollen and for how long is he going to have it like that?

July 31, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. He may have found an insect, and may be having a reaction or infection. If it is not improving over the next day or two, it would be a good idea to have him seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine him and see what might be going on. If it is improving and getting smaller, and he doesn't seem affected by it, you may be fine to continue to monitor it. I hope that all goes well!

July 31, 2020

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Hound

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Seven Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling

My dog was out playing about an hour ago and now the lower lip towards the neck on his right side is swollen. He's on panacur but hasnt had any side effects in the past (second round of 2 week regiment). He is fine otherwise, doesn't seem to notice and is eating/drinking fine/does not appear to be in any pain. Could it have just been a spider bite? I didn't see any bees, and am usually aware of them as I'm allergic, but who knows? He never yelped when playing outside so I'm not sure what could've caused it.

July 30, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If it is a small area of swelling, it is likely that it was an insect bite or sting. This should get better over a couple of hours. If you notice that it is not getting better, he is vomiting, or has a loss of energy, then it would be best to have him seen by a veterinarian. I hope that all goes well for him.

July 30, 2020

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NATTIE

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Rottweiler

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14 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling

Our 14 year old pound puppy started swelling under her eye. Took her to the emergency room, they gave her antibiotics. She now has a huge lump under her left ear, same as the swelling under her eye. She can no longer see out of left eye and swelling is moving to the right side.

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Luna

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Pit bull

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2 Years

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Serious severity

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Swelling In Left Side Of Face,
Swelling:Face & Eye Left Side, Nose

Hi😩 my rainbow fur baby luna is going through things I dont know how to help her with. About 4 days ago,im having a normal day with my kids and fur babies. That evening I notice my Luna isn't really opening her mouth. I go to check her out and her mouth will only open about two inches. The next day the left side of her face started to swell along with her nose. She can eat and drink but last night her left eye also started swelling!! I have no idea what is wrong or what to do. I'm doing the best I can to get her to the vet,but my income is not where is should be AT ALL. If I cant get her to the vet I'm terrified she will suffer untill her suffering is over😩. PLEASE HELP ME HELP HER!!!

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Puka

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French Bulldog

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2 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Gums
Mouth Breathing
Dry Tounge

About 2-3 months ago my boyfriends Stepfather put his little Frenchy in the bike basket and she fell off - landed on her face, her nose and mouth got a bit scraped. Since then she was sad and acting weird for a few days but got better. About a month in she has developed an entirely swollen upper jaw and her tongue is always out because she can’t breath. He has taken her to the vet and they said her jaw was too big and that’s why it’s happening but they didn’t do a culture on her mouth or anything. They didn’t get the tissue from her gums to test or anything which worries me. I looked at her really well today. They were trying to give her a pill and I stepped in because I’ve had dogs my entire life. The opening of her mouth is so small my finger barely fits to push the pill down a bit to hell her swallow it. Her younger is dry and swollen from it consistently being outside of her mouth. I’m worried her windpipe will get so swollen she dies from asphyxiation I asked my boyfriend to please take her to another vet for a second opinion. I believe this is all a cause from the blunt trama she had when she fell from the bike

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Tiger

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Miniature Fox Terrier

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4 Months

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Itching

Woke up this morning with my dog being normal, just went outside and hour later to meet my dog face, jaw and neck swollen, I gave it Shea butter oil to drink and mixed a little with it'spap and now the swollen around the face has gone down and he can open his eyes compared to earlier but it's jaw and neck are still swollen, can I adminster anstitamine to it?

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Zeus

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Pit bull

dog-age-icon

6 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Face

My dog was attacked by the neighbors dog. He got bit on his top lip right side. Now his whole right side of his face is swollen and his neck is super droopy under it. The swelling seems to be going down but the droop seems to be getting worse in his neck area. Hes been on amoxicillin for one day.

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