"Eyelid swelling that comes on very suddenly can be frightening, but it usually isn't serious," says E. Ann Lystrup, D.V.M., a veterinarian in private practice in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. And it generally clears up fast. Ask yourself if you are doing anything different that could be causing it. If you just started giving your pet a medication, for example, she could be having side effects, and your vet may recommend a different drug.
It is also a good idea to look inside your pet's eye to see if something is stuck inside an eyelid. Even if you can't see anything, take a moment to flush the eye with water or saline solution. This will wash away small particles that may be causing the problem, says Lori A. Wise, D.V.M., a veterinarian in private practice in Wheat Ridge, Colorado.
For dogs, vets sometimes recommend giving antihistamines containing diphenhydramine, such as Benadryl, to relieve swelling caused by insect bites and stings. The usual dose is one milligram for every pound of dog, three times a day, says Karen L. Campbell, D.V.M., associate professor of dermatology and small animal internal medicine at the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine at Urbana-Champaign.
Cats can also take antihistamines. Vets recommend using Chlor-Trimeton, which contains an active ingredient called chlorpheniramine that is safer for cats than Benadryl. You can give half of a four-milligram tablet for every 10 pounds of cat, twice a day, says Dr. Campbell.
For dogs and cats, antihistamines "often relieve the swelling and also keep your pet from pawing at the eye, which makes her even more uncomfortable," says Dr. Wise. To be safe, check with your vet before giving antihistamines or other human medications to pets.
If the eyelid looks sore and infected, apply a warm, moist compress for about 10 minutes, three or four times a day, suggests Dr. Lystrup. This will relieve the discomfort, and often the infection will clear up on its own.
Since it is not always easy to tell what is causing the swelling, don't wait too long before calling your vet. "If you don't see some improvement after 24 to 36 hours, your pet's eyes need expert care," Dr. Lystrup says. You should take faster action if the swelling is accompanied by other symptoms, such as swelling of the tongue or difficulty breathing. These are signs of a serious allergic reaction and should be considered an emergency.
Copyright 1999 Rodale Press, Inc. All rights reserved.