Determining the cause of a dog that has a swollen face is a simple process of elimination. Once you work out why the face is swelling, you'll know how to tackle it, stop the swelling and help your dog to recover.

When a dog has swollen face, the potential cause could be:

  • Allergies
  • Abscesses
  • Dental Problems
  • Tumors
  • Other Causes

You should always seek the advise of a professional vet for a complete diagnosis and treatment plan for your pet.

1. Allergies

A severe allergic reaction may lead to swelling of a dog's throat, making it difficult for them to breathe normally. If your dog’s throat is swelling, their windpipe may be cut off, leading to a change in the color of their gums and potentially your dog passing out.

You likely won’t know that your dog is allergic to something until they have a reaction. Signs your dog may be having an allergic reaction include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Face looks swollen
  • Purple or blue gums
  • Loss of consciousness

If you see any of these signs, take your dog to the vet immediately. Your vet will ask questions to help them work out the cause. It can be helpful for the vet if you suggest what might have caused the allergic reaction.

The most common causes for an allergic reaction in dogs:

  • Food
  • Chemicals
  • Bee sting
  • Spider bite
  • Medication
  • Vaccine (rare)

If the vet decides that you dog has had an allergic reaction, treatment options may include an antihistamine, antibiotic, or steroids. They may want to take skin or blood tests, and depending on the diagnosis, may recommend a special diet for your dog.

2. Abscesses

When a dog has an abscess, it is likely to be very painful for them. A dog in pain should always be handled with care, as they are more likely to lash out and bite a person in this state, even if the dog is not typically aggressive.

Abscesses in dogs can be caused by an animal bite, or be due to an infected wound. Some tell-tell signs that your dog may have an abscess include:

  • A dog’s face is swollen
  • A dog’s face or neck appears lop-sided
  • The swelling is accompanied by a fever
  • A dog refuses to eat or drink

An abscess needs immediate veterinary attention. A vet will be able to treat your dog with anti-inflammatories and antibiotics. In more serious cases, the abscess may need surgical draining.

3. Dental Problems

A common cause of abscesses in dogs are dental problems. If your dog has a fractured or infected tooth, or untreated gum disease, painful abscesses are likely to occur.

When you notice that your dog has lost their appetite, it may be because it is too painful for them to eat, especially food that needs to be bitten and chewed. Along with a dog's facial swelling, the pain of an abscess may lead to depression, so watch out for changes in your pet's behavior and mood.

A vet will remove any teeth that are causing a problem in your dog’s mouth, and prescribe antibiotics to clear up the infection. Anti-inflammatory medications may also be offered to help with pain.

Some great preventative methods to help you avoid future dental issues:

  • Brush your dog’s teeth regularly
  • Offer dental chews and toys
  • Feed raw meaty bones
  • Prioritize dry dog food over wet food
  • During an existing dental issue, switch from kibble to a soft food diet
  • Try a fully raw natural diet

4. Tumors

Tumors in dogs can be cancerous or non-cancerous, but it is important to always get your dog checked by a vet to eliminate any risk. If your dog has a tumor in the mouth or the throat, then visible swelling may occur in the face of your pet.

It has also been known for dogs to have tumors that are associated with the eye socket, which can cause the eye to have a bulging effect.

If you notice something strange going on with your dog’s eye or around the face, if they are not eating normally, or you witness any kind of bleeding or unpleasant odor, take your dog to see a vet.

Even if your dog's tumor turns out to be benign it will need early treatment. Tumors occur from the uncontrolled growth of cells and must be removed via surgery or radiotherapy.

5. Other Causes Of Facial Swelling In Dogs

My Dog Has Swollen Face - Heres What to DoAside from the above, when a dog has swollen face, a few other causes could be:

Craniomandibular Osteopathy. This is a rare condition that can develop in certain dog breeds such as some terriers, Dobermans, Labradors, Great Danes and Boxers. The condition is most common in young dogs aged 3 – 10 months and causes a swelling of the dog's jaw.

Associated symptoms include drooling, loss of appetite, and fever. There is no cure for craniomandibular osteopathy in dogs, but your vet will be able to offer pain relief until the disease stabilizes, usually when the dog is around a year old.

Cellulitis. This is a bacterial infection of a dog's skin. It can be cause by puncture wounds or dog bites. Signs include ulcers, redness, tenderness, swelling, and pain. Treatment is usually a mixture of flushing the wound with antiseptic, treating pain with painkillers, and a course of antibiotics to fight off infection.


When your dog has swollen face, it is a sure sign to get them to a vet, even if only for your own peace of mind. The most you should do yourself in such instances is to carefully clean up and cover any obvious wounds the best you can to prevent them from being infected further and call your local vet for more advice.

When presented with such visible symptoms, it can be easy to attempt a diagnosis yourself, but the most sensible option for the safety and comfort of your pet is to allow a professional to do what they are trained to do. Serious health issues can be nipped in the bud early, and you may find that you have avoided a bigger vet bill, or worse, a tragedy for your pet and your family.

READ NEXT: The Vet’s Guide on Shopping for Hypoallergenic Dog Foods

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If Your Dog Has Swollen Face - 5 Reasons Why and What to Do