Facial Swelling in Dogs: Causes and Treatment

Facial swelling in dogs can have many causes, from dog bites to dental problems. The swelling can be a fairly benign reaction or it can require emergency care. To help keep your pet healthy, it helps you to know the signs of facial swelling, and what you can do when it happens.



3 min read

If your dog’s face has swollen to the size of a melon, there can be a number of reasons for behind it. The swelling is not the problem as much as what is causing it. Whatever it may be, your pet pooch will require medical attention immediately. A dog with allergies is more susceptible to the condition than others. However, if the swelling developed slowly, it may be the result of an undiagnosed tumor.

Common Symptoms of Facial Swelling in Dogs

The symptoms can vary depending on the underlying cause of the facial swelling. Some of them include the following:

✔︎ Swelling around the muzzle and eyes.
✔︎ Hives with hair standing up on end.
✔︎ Swelling in the jaw and throat.
✔︎ Itchiness.
✔︎ Swelling around the eyes or close to them.

A dog with allergies can suffer from respiratory distress if his jaw, throat and muzzle swell up. The domino effect can close off the windup and will require immediate medical attention to rectify.

Common Causes of Facial Swelling in Dogs

Some of the common reasons that can trigger facial swelling in your dog include the following:

An Allergic Reaction

If your dog’s face swells up suddenly and quickly, chances are he just suffered from an allergic reaction. Allergies can be triggered by anything from a bee stings, a bug bite and vaccinations to medication, pollen and toxins in the environment.

The reaction can trigger an inflammatory response in the body which leads to swelling and hives. In these cases, the muzzle and eyelids can blow up like a balloon and a dog with allergies can also suffer from a swollen neck in severe cases.

Some reactions can worsen with time and lead to seizures and respiratory distress. Mild ones require little to no intervention and can dissipate with time. A dog with allergies may not be able to communicate his distress so you should keep an eye on him at all times.

Dental Problems

Facial swelling is often caused by dental issues such as a tooth abscess or other dental infections that can cause pockets of puss to form. With time, this type of swelling can go right up to the eyes. Additionally, a broken tooth or even periodontal disease can cause the side of his jaw to swell.

Physical Trauma

A head or face injury can swell up as the site of the wound becomes enflamed. If your dog gets into a fight with another animal or another dog, he can sustain scratches and bites that can swell with time as well. Some such as snake bites can cause the neck and face to swell, even if the bite was not anywhere near them.


An abnormal growth on the face and head can make your dog’s head look larger than it really is. With time, the tumor can grow and place pressure on the skull and brain. Whether it is serious or not, if it is a cancerous growth, it can spread to the rest of the body. Cysts for example are filled with fluid and can become quite large on the face.

Treating Dogs with Swollen Faces

The treatment will depend on the condition that is causing the swelling. It can be based on the assumption that it is caused by an insect bite or because of an allergy.

If the latter is the case, the vet will start your dog on an antihistamine that can prevent your pet’s airways from getting blocked while easing the swelling. If the allergic reaction is severe, the vet may also administer a steroid to such as Epinephrine. The medication is efficient against anaphylaxis which may otherwise prove life threatening.

If the swelling is caused by physical trauma or an infected wound, the vet may start an antibiotic course that can bring down the inflammation and cure the infection.

In case the swelling is due to a severe condition or allergic reaction, you may have to leave your pet at the clinic overnight or for a few days. The vet will have to monitor his condition closely, administer medication if needed and basically ensure his condition doesn’t take a turn for the worse. Once your pet is stabilized, he will be discharged into your care.

If the swelling is because of a dental problem, your dog may be referred to an animal clinic that specializes in animal dentistry.

What You Should Do If Your Dog’s Face Swells Up

Don’t panic. That’s rule number one. Then either get in touch with the vet immediately or take your dog to the clinic right away. The swelling can progress to his trachea and close off his airways so you need to take action fast. Left untreated, it can even lead to multi-organ failure and death.

If the swelling comes on fast and your dog starts to choke, give him some oral Benadryl immediately and then take him to the vet. Only give a small amount if you are unsure as to the correct dosage. A large dose can prove fatal. The small amount should ease his airway enough to allow breathing.

When you get to the vet, he will conduct a complete exam and administer the appropriate medication via a syringe. Besides an antihistamine, this can also include airway dilators and drugs that stabilize blood pressure.

In Conclusion…

A dog with allergies will suffer from facial swelling regularly but a sudden onset is still cause for concern. It can be caused by serious and even simple conditions. While you can treat your dog with over the counter medication for a mild reaction, you should take him to a vet immediately if his condition is grave.