Two summers ago, a routine Tuesday evening trail walk turned into an emergency. Juno got stung (possibly bitten) and her face swelled up to twice its normal size. We watched as little bumps around her muzzle and eyes turned into goose eggs and beyond, literally in front of our eyes.
Her body was overheating, she was panting excessively and breathing heavily, her tongue was swelling and hanging out of her mouth, and she was frantically shaking her head and rubbing her body against anything and everything she could see.
We were 20 minutes from the nearest vet and it was evening, so we weren’t sure if there was a clinic even still open.
We were trying to figure out what had gone wrong; what had happened to Juno’s body to make it reach that way, and scared that we were trapped in the beginning of a nightmare that could only end badly, in a miserable race against the clock.
Do you bring antihistamines (Benadryl) on your dog walks? Yeah, neither did we.
Do you have your vet’s phone number and hours programmed into your cell phone? Yeah, neither did we.
Do you walk your dogs in areas that are off the grid and don’t have reliable cell phone reception? Yeah, so did we.
We decided to take Juno home – we thought that approach would give us a few more minutes to see if she would get better on her own, plus, we would have a chance to look up the vet’s hours and phone number rather than chance driving around to see if we could find a place that was open. We thought we could settle her down and think about what had happened and what we could do to make it better. Turned out to be a bit of a “fail.” Unleashed, Juno tore around the house scratching her face, rubbing her head and body into the ground, against the furniture, against us. Her head wasn’t swelling any more, but her eyes were barely visible and her tongue was heavy-looking and lolling out of her mouth.
We grabbed the fridge magnet with our vet’s hours on it, called them to see if they could handle our situation so close to closing hours, and they said they’d have a team ready to treat Juno and to bring her over right away. We arrived about 10 minutes later to a waiting team of vets, vet techs, and reception staff that rivalled something out of an episode of ER.
And they started laughing.
Yes, our little Labrador had turned into a Shar Pei, but I didn’t find it particularly funny. In hindsight, though, their sense of humour about it – and evident lack of panic about the situation – made me a little bit calmer and more convinced that everything and everyone was going to be okay.
A quick assessment gave way to a dose of epinephrine so that the swelling could start to subside and her little body could start to recover. Once that started happening, the vet did a closer examination and came up with nothing. Juno hadn’t swallowed anything and the vet couldn’t see any entry or puncture marks from a stinger or pincer. Something obviously had stung her or bitten her, but they literally had no idea what exactly got her.
We went home that night with a still very swollen, very exhausted, very cuddly LabraSharPei, and our arms full of Benadryl tablets that were to be dispensed to Juno over the course of the next 3 days.
Juno slept hard that night and so did we.
The next morning, Juno’s face and head were still swollen, but her eyes were visible and her tongue was back down to its normal size. The Benadryl was really knocking her out, so she slept a lot (and so did we).
Luckily, there hasn’t been a repeat event and we now carry Benadryl tablets on our walks and when travelling, both bring our cell phones with our vet’s (and two other clinics’) phone numbers and hours programmed into them, and try to stay off the beaten path enough to enjoy our walks while staying within cell tower range.
If we can impart anything by telling this story, it’s this: You never know what can happen when you take your dog out for a walk. An ordinary outing can turn dangerous quickly. But if you’re prepared, know the Dryl, and can manage to stay calm, you’ll be miles ahead of where we were!
So, do yourselves and your dog a favour and go add Benadryl to your shopping list, right now. Tonight or tomorrow, add your vet’s phone number and hours to your cell phone and make a note to ask your vet the next time you’re in how much Benadryl you can give you dog according to his or her weight. Your dog, your peace of mind, and your heart will thank you for it.
Has anything like this every happened to your dog? How did you handle it? Hit the comments below to share your stories! We’d love to hear what you’ve experienced and how you’ve coped.