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What is Swollen Face?

While the definition for swollen face in dogs is quite simple, the potential reasons for this problem 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.

Symptoms of Swollen Face in Dogs

The signs of the various potential causes are similar in a very general way.  Here are some of the signs 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 dog.

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 veterinarian), the locations where the dog may be been (to determine possible insect or parasitic involvement), the signs 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 veterinarian will do a physical examination which may 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 may be obtained via needle aspiration and sent to a diagnostic lab.  The veterinarian 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 presumptive diagnosis of an insect bite (a frequent cause) or other allergen.  

  • In the latter situation, your veterinarian 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 veterinarian 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.  
  • 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 veterinarian has the expertise to treat dental issues.
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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.  

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Swollen Face Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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German Spitz

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Ten Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

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

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Swelling

Face is swollen on left side. Won't eat, paw licking. Runny eyes, sneezing,

Oct. 26, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Linda S. MVB MRCVS

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0 Recommendations

Hi there, you are through to Dr Linda. I'm sorry to hear thisnis going on with your Spitz. There are numerous possible causes including a tooth root abscess, allergic reaction, tumour etc. Your dog needs to be assessed by a vet to determine the best next step.

Oct. 26, 2020

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Pit Bull

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Three Years

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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

Left Side Of Face Is Swollen After A Fight

He was attacked his ear was injured then next morning the side of his face was swollen

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Bite wounds from animals can get infected quite quickly and caused a lot of damage. It would be best to take your pet to see a veterinarian as soon as possible, as they will likely need antibiotics and possible therapy. I hope that everything goes well and your pet feels better soon.

Sept. 30, 2020

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