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When Your Dog's Face Swells: A Poofy Dilemma


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Updated: 9/17/2021

We’ve all had those mornings when we just don’t quite wake up looking our best. Dark bags and poofiness under the eyes, swelling in our faces, or general water retention aren’t exactly a good look when we catch that first glimpse of ourselves in the mirror. Or maybe we’ve eaten something that our body hasn’t quite taken a liking to, causing blotchiness, swelling, itching and other issues. Pimples, bug bites, injuries, and more are all common causes of facial swelling in humans.

As it turns out, our canine companions aren’t so different from their pet parents in this area. Dogs can experience sudden facial swelling and poofiness just as we can. The difference is that a canine's fur can mask underlying causes and prevent any but the most sharp-eyed pet parent from noticing the onset of swelling. In addition, dogs aren’t capable of talking to their pet parent about what may have happened to cause the swelling, or whether they are experiencing any other symptoms. It’s up to diligent dog parents to notice, diagnose, and decide on a course of treatment when sudden facial swelling occurs. If your dog is suffering from this condition, here’s some advice that can help point you in the right direction.

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No Bugs About It

One of the most common causes of sudden facial swelling in your precious pooch is allergies or an allergic reaction. When your dog has an allergy, the area around the site where their internal system has come in contact with the contagion will have an inappropriate immune reaction. This causes excess liquid to flood the area in an attempt to eliminate the contaminant from the body, which leads to the appearance of poofiness and swelling.

Food allergies may sometimes cause swelling around the lips and muzzle in your dog, but aren’t as typical as other allergic reactions. The most common cause of facial swelling due to allergy is from bug bites such as spiders, bees, hornets, wasps or other common outdoor creepy crawlers. Your inquisitive pooch will often be walking with their nose to ground or smelling the roses and become inadvertently bitten or stung. Some dogs also try to eat bugs such as bees and become stung. Allergic reactions from pollen, dust, mold or other environmental allergens can also cause swelling localized to around the eyes or muzzle. Not to be forgotten is exposure to toxins. In this case, veterinary care can be critical.

Getting to the Root of the Problem

Another common cause of sudden facial swelling is dental issues. When a tooth or root area becomes infected, your dog’s mouth and surrounding tissues may swell up. This inflammation could be infection, pus, or general swelling due to irritation. Dogs also are known chewers and will often find inappropriate items such as sticks, toys or inedible household objects to chow down on. Pieces of these items can often become stuck in your dog’s mouth, causing irritation, infection, and sudden facial swelling.

Tumor or Trauma?

It is not uncommon for a dog's face to swell in the event of a tumorous growth. Benign cysts and malignant growths can both cause swelling and pressure in the facial area. Veterinary care is essential to diagnose the cause and determine what action needs to be taken. Trauma to the face, in the case of a fall or accident, can cause the face to puff up. A vet examination or x-ray can reveal the need for antibiotics or anti-inflammatories. 

Consult the Vet

Your dog’s face may swell up suddenly, giving them a nearly comical, bubbly appearance. Poofiness may be cool or warm to the touch and their eyes or nose may water excessively. Facial swelling in and of itself is not always a life-threatening condition for Fido, but it still isn’t a laughing matter. In the case of allergic reactions, severe bouts of allergies can cause swelling in other areas such as throat or nose, making it difficult for your dog to eat or breathe. If your dog has a foreign object in their mouth or dental issues, these will need antibiotics or surgical intervention to heal.

If your dog is experiencing sudden facial swelling, consult with your local vet office. Often, veterinarians will walk through the basic symptoms with concerned pet parents via phone and will advise whether the symptoms sound serious enough for an in-office visit. In minor cases of bee stings or allergic reactions, your pet’s doctor may advise an in-home remedy but it’s always best to exercise caution when it comes to your canine family member’s health and well-being.

The Bottom Line on Sudden Facial Swelling

Just like in humans, dogs can and do experience facial swelling with a sudden onset. This sometimes-comical display can be caused by a variety of both benign and serious conditions. If your dog is suffering a minor allergic reaction, you may be able to treat them at home with over the counter remedies. A dangerous exposure to a toxic substance must be treated right away. Dental issues or facial tumors can cause pain and require treatment. When in doubt, you should always consult a veterinarian regarding your furry companion's swollen face.

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