If your dog has developed several episodes of serious allergic reactions in the past, perhaps bordering anaphylactic shock, you may be wondering if they make an EpiPen for dogs or if you can give your dog a human EpiPen. The question is a very valid one. Those emergency vet visits can get quite expensive each time, and time is of the essence when it comes severe allergic reactions, so it makes sense for dog owners to want to keep an EpiPen at home to have handy just in case. Here's what vets have to say about using human EpiPens for dogs.
The Dangers of Anaphylaxis
While anaphylaxis is considered overall a rare event, going through it once is scary enough for any dog owners out there. Nobody wants to go through something like that again. It's an emergency where every second counts, and putting the collar and leash on, then getting Rover in the car and driving to the closest emergency vet (while praying not to get too many red traffic lights) can be quite a scary ordeal.
For some dog owners, the option of seeing an emergency vet within minutes is not even feasible. They may live in a rural area where there are no emergency vets open 24/7 and the closest place is over an hour away. They may enjoy hiking and camping with their dogs in secluded area. These are risky situations when you are dealing with a potentially life-threatening condition.
The problem with anaphylaxis is that the dog may go into shock immediately (like just within minutes) after being exposed to an allergen. The trigger may be a bug bite or the dog may develop a reaction to a medication or a shot. Symptoms suggesting anaphylactic shock are quite worrisome enough to make the most composed dog owner quite frantic. The dog may develop vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, pale gums, cold legs, weak pulse, and even collapse. Or the dog may get hives and severe facial and throat swelling which can make it difficult for the animal to breath.
Treatment must be swift and consists of a shot of epinephrine, also known as Adrenalin Chloride, to quickly bring everything back in check. So it therefore makes sense for dog owners to want to have an Epi-Pen on hand in situations when every second counts. And for those wondering, no, antihistamines like Benadryl may work well for mild allergies but do not treat the life-threatening symptoms of anaphylactic shock.
Did you know? Once an allergic reaction occurs there's a tendency for it to happen again and the reaction may be even worse than before. This is because the body has special memory cells that remember a particular allergen, therefore next time the body encounters such allergen again, it speeds up the reaction.
EpiPens for Humans
If you have a family member who carries an EpiPen, you may be wondering if you can use a human EpiPen on your dog in the case of an emergency. The short answer is that EpiPens designed for humans may not be suitable for your dog and you should not use it unless the vet gives the OK for this.
Part of the problem in using a family member's EpiPen is the amount of epinephrinine contained in an EpiPen designed for humans, explains veterinarian Dr. BJ Hughes. Epinephrine is given based on weight and therefore what may be the perfect dose for humans may be easily an overdose for dogs, especially the smaller ones.
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Secondly, a human EpiPen may not be as good considering the difference of the thickness in skin between humans and dogs. These differences are due to varying amounts of collagen in the skin, explains veterinarian Dr. M Vitucci.
Thirdly, there are chances that your dog is not really suffering from anaphylactic shock but rather something else that requires a totally different treatment. Things can get quite risky in this case.
Last but not least, consider that using a human EpiPen on dogs won't save you a trip to the vet. Epinephrine should be strictly used only for severe, life-threatening emergencies until you can see your vet for further care. Even if the dog is given the appropriate dosage of epinephrine, dogs still need supportive care as the drug's effects start to wean off. Anytime a dog is given epinephrine, a vet should therefore be contacted immediately.
EpiPens for Dogs
If you are wondering whether you can get an EpiPen from your vet, the short answer is yes and your vet can provide you with the appropriate dosage based on your dog's weight.
Here's where having a good Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship comes into place.If your vet has seen your dog recently and has treated him in the past for anaphylactic shock, he or she will likely feel comfortable enough to allow you to keep an EpiPen for your dog at home.
The EpiPen is simply the same stuff designed for humans, only that it's provided in doses suitable to the dog's size. There's therefore an EpiPen designed for dogs weighing over 45 pounds and an EpiPen Jr. for dogs weighing anywhere between 20 and 45 pounds.
For dogs weighing less than 20 pounds, the vet may provide a syringe with the required dose of epinephrine. Getting these pre-filled syringes from your vet may be the best option for your dog and is likely also the least expensive option. Your veterinarian will instruct you on how to store these syringes and give the injection.
And for those wondering, how much does an EpiPen for dogs cost? Well, things can get quite pricey. Veterinary care seems to sharing the same soaring prices of medical care as in humans. If your dog doesn't have pet insurance you're out of luck. According to Los Angeles Times, the cost averages $600 for a two-pack of EpiPens!
- Vetco: EpiPens for Pets
- Center for Advanced Veterinary Care: Allergic Reactions-When to be concerned
- Los Angeles Times: EpiPens and other soaring drug prices aren't just hard on people. They hurt pets, too