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Anaphylaxis in dogs and cats


  • The authors declare no conflict of interests.

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Daniella L. Shmuel, Oradell Animal Hospital, Emergency and Critical Care, 580 Winters Avenue, Paramus, NJ 07652, USA. Email:



To review and summarize current information regarding the pathophysiology and clinical manifestations associated with anaphylaxis in dogs and cats. The etiology, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis is discussed.


Anaphylaxis is a systemic, type I hypersensitivity reaction that often has fatal consequences. Many of the principal clinical manifestations involve organs where mast cell concentrations are highest: the skin, the lungs, and the gastrointestinal tract. Histamine and other deleterious inflammatory mediators promote vascular permeability and smooth muscle contraction; they are readily released from sensitized mast cells and basophils challenged with antigen. Anaphylaxis may be triggered by a variety of antigens including insect and reptile venom, a variety of drugs, vaccines, and food.


Anaphylaxis is a clinical diagnosis made from a collection of signs and symptoms. It is most commonly based on pattern recognition. Differential diagnoses include severe asthma, pheocromocytoma, and mastocytosis.


Epinephrine is considered the drug of choice for the treatment of anaphylaxis. It acts primarily as a vasopressor in improving hemodynamic recovery. Adjunctive treatments include fluid therapy, H1 and H2 antihistamines, corticosteroids, and bronchodilators; however, these do not substitute for epinephrine.


Prognosis depends on the severity of the clinical signs. The clinical signs will vary among species and route of exposure. The most severe clinical reactions are associated when the antigen is administered parenterally.