Bee stings, certain foods or accidental drug ingestion can cause extreme allergic reactions, also called anaphylaxis, in some dogs. Here’s how to stabilize an anaphylactic dog until you can get him to the vet.

Anaphylaxis is an extreme and potentially life-threatening allergic reaction. In dogs, it can rapidly manifest as shock, severe swelling, breathing difficulties or gastrointestinal distress. Several things may trigger anaphylaxis, including insect stings or bites, the ingestion of foods the dog is allergic to, accidental consumption of medications or even exposure to some household cleaners and fragrances.

Left untreated, anaphylaxis may result in death, so it’s vital to get your dog to an emergency veterinary immediately. The earlier the dog receives care and antihistamine is given, the better the chances of survival. Only a veterinarian can treat a severe allergic reaction and home care is not recommended. That said, there are some things you can take to stabilize the dog on your way to the vet.

  • Insect stings are one of the most common causes of severe allergic reactions. The first thing you need to do is inspect the dog carefully and locate the stinger, advises veterinarian Dr. Patrick Mahaney. The stinger needs to be pulled out immediately; otherwise, venom will continue being injected into the dog. The site then needs to be cleaned to ensure that any venom remaining on the dog’s skin or hair is washed away. Dr. Mahaney recommends using a squirt bottle of sterile water.

You can also use a cold compress, such as an ice cube covered with a cloth, to help restrict blood flow from the affected area to the body. Leave it on for five minutes then take it off for five minutes (you don’t want to cause frostbite). Another excellent idea is to use a mixture of baking soda and water on the sting.

  • Homeopathy can be very helpful in the event of a severe allergic reaction. The word itself comes from the Greek words homoios and pathos, meaning “similar” and “suffering” respectively. “A disease that causes certain symptoms can be cured by a substance that causes similar symptoms when given to a healthy individual,” says veterinarian Dr. Doug Kneuven. This means you must pay close attention to the individual signs the dog is exhibiting. Some of the homeopathic remedies Dr. Kneuven suggests include:
  1. Apis mellifica, which is made from the venom of the honeybee. Its purpose is to treat swelling and respiratory difficulty.

  2. Rhus toxicodendron, derived from poison ivy, works for hives and other itching that causes restlessness due to discomfort.

  3. Urtica urens, from the stinging nettle plant, also works for hives that include red, irritated patches of skin and frequent, increased urination

Dr. Kneuven recommends giving a 30C potency of the remedy that matches the symptoms the dog is experiencing. Dose every two to five minutes until the symptoms resolve, limiting the doses to no more than two or three. Dr. Kneuvan adds that as soon as improvement of any sort is visible, stop administering the medicine and continue to observe the dog. If the remedy of choice does not fix the symptoms, then give the dog another remedy that may more closely match his symptoms.

  • If your dog loses consciousness due to a severe reaction, try this form of acupuncture. At the very front of the dog’s snout, where the nose meets the lip, and right in the center, is the GV 26 acupuncture point. This point is for severe issues such as respiratory and cardiac distress. If your dog loses consciousness, you use your fingernail to stimulate this point. Place it in the location described above, push it in, and quickly vibrate your fingernail back and forth. According to Dr. Kneuven, this can potentially save your dog’s life.

Again, if your dog ever shows sign of a severe allergic reaction, your first priority is to get him to a veterinary hospital right away. The tips provided above are not meant as home treatments, but are for stabilizing your dog while you’re on the way to the vet for professional emergency care. By implementing them into your dog’s existing health plan, you’ll help ensure he survives if he ever suffers a severe allergic reaction to anything.

Be prepared

The potential for a serious, life-threatening allergic reaction in your dog deserves serious consideration. You might think it will never happen, but it’s best to be prepared, just in case. It could save his life.

“The time to prepare for an emergency is not while in the midst of one,” says Dr. Knueven. “Every pet caregiver should have an emergency kit nearby at all times. You also need to have the phone number for, and directions to, the nearest 24-hour pet care facility.”

Is he wobbly?

A dog suffering a severe allergic reaction may be unsteady on his feet. Dr. Mahaney recommends not letting him near any stairs or other elevated surfaces he could potentially fall from. You don’t want him injuring himself on top of everything else. On the way to the vet, it is best to confine him to a crate or carrier.


Erin Mullen is a freelance writer and entrepreneur living in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. She recently graduated from Saint Vincent College and enjoys spending her free time in the outdoors with her boxers, Emma and Elsa.