The goal of treating of anaphylactic shock in dogs is to provide emergency life support. This is accomplished by providing respiratory and cardiovascular support, removing the causative allergen if possible and taking steps to prevent further release of inflammatory mediators into circulation.
In most cases, the first step in treating anaphylactic shock is to place an intravenous catheter and aggressively administer fluids to the dog at shock dosages to restore blood volume and counteract the dangerously low blood pressure caused by peripheral circulatory failure. Intravenous administration of epinephrine usually is the next step in treating anaphylaxis. Epinephrine causes an increase in heart rate and constriction of blood vessels; it also helps to block further release of those compounds in the body which are responsible for perpetuating the anaphylactic reaction (called inflammatory mediators). Other medications may be used by your veterinarian to treat shock, such as corticosteroids, atropine sulfate, dopamine or aminophylline, among others.
The veterinary team will establish an open airway in dogs who are having difficulty breathing or showing other signs of respiratory distress. Several methods are available, including placing a breathing tube through the mouth and down the animal’s throat (endotracheal intubation) or making a surgical incision through the neck, directly into the trachea (tracheostomy). Oxygen therapy can be administered if needed. Broad spectrum antibiotics are often given in an attempt to prevent secondary bacterial infections which can develop after an anaphylactic episode.
Frequent in-hospital monitoring of the patient should continue for at least 24 to 48 hours after the allergic reaction has resolved. This includes monitoring of heart and respiratory rate, respiratory effort, pulse rate and quality, blood pressure, mucous membrane color, mentation and body temperature. Blood samples may be taken to assess liver function and the condition of other organs. The large volume of fluids given to combat shock can cause water retention. In many cases, a recovering dog will not be released from the clinic until he or she can urinate without assistance, to be sure that the effects of fluid retention have resolved.
Rapid recognition of anaphylaxis and aggressive veterinary intervention are key to a successful recovery. When this condition is caught early and treated quickly, most dogs recover fully within 24 to 72 hours of onset. It can take less than one hour for this hypersensitivity reaction to be fatal. Owners should keep a keen eye on their canine companions, particularly when they are spending lots of time outdoors where they can become exposed to things not normally found in their home environment.