Hives on Dogs

Posted by Stephanie Gibeault on

Hives on Dogs

You notice small reddish bumps on the skin of your dog's face, chest, and abdominal area. What made you look was that she seemed to be experiencing a bout of itching. And, from the frequency, it is clear that it is only getting worse. At first, your thoughts immediately go to a tick or flea infestation. But, on closer inspection, that isn't the case at all.

Then it hits you; what you’re seeing resembles human hives. So, the question running through your mind is, can dogs get hives? Well, it's interesting how our furry companions share so many similarities with us. Unfortunately, one of them is in the range of ailments. Like human beings, dog hives are not an uncommon phenomenon.

Let's explore hives on dogs, their causes, and symptoms. We will also look at hive remedies, including natural ones like cold compresses. We'll also share management and preventive tips to help deal with future occurrences.

Definition and Appearance of Dog Hives

The scientific name for hives on dogs is urticaria. This is an allergic reaction to various allergens. 

To understand how allergic reactions occur, it's vital to get familiar with the workings of the immune system. Like humans, dogs have immune responses that protect the body from harmful invaders. But, sometimes, the defense mechanisms can misfire, thus becoming sensitive. It may, for instance, trigger an immune response to anything it views as harmful.

The response is the release of histamines and other chemicals to fight the invaders. The blood cells will dilate due to the histamines. All this results in an allergic reaction that manifests as red bumps or wheals on the skin. Your furry companion also has to deal with itching and the resulting discomfort.

In the best-case scenario, the hives resolve within hours without needing any intervention. Other times, the hives can last for several days. In this case, you may need to ease the discomfort and offer some treatment.

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Natural remedies like cold compresses on the affected areas are great. Hemp topical balms can also provide soothing relief for inflamed or cracked skin.

Identifying the dog hives can be challenging due to your dog's furry coat. But if you're vigilant, you'll see red bumps, swelling, and excessive scratching. There will also be noticeable facial swelling. The bumps may also appear on the legs, chest, back, abdomen, tongue, and mucous membranes. 

Fluid build-up in the deeper skin layers can lead to angioedema, which is common during hive outbreaks. This type of swelling can be life-threatening if it happens on the respiratory system or face.

Hives on a dog that suffers from extreme anxiety are not unusual. The release of high chemical levels like histamines in response to stress can cause an outbreak.

Symptoms of Dog Hives

The most common symptoms of dogs breaking out in hives are raised red bumps. In some cases, some will fill up with fluids. The red color shows inflammation and increased blood flow to the affected area. If you touch the red bumps, they tend to be quite firm. The bump location can be in clusters and look like a large welt. Other times, they appear individually across different parts of the body.

Hives in the throat, mouth, and mucous membranes cause excessive drooling and facial swelling. Due to the discomfort, your dog will itch, lick, or bite the affected parts.

Be watchful for outbreaks near the nose and mouth. Such can result in veterinary emergencies. The swelling could impact the dog's breathing. Also, the skin around the nose and mouth is very sensitive and delicate. Thus, constant itching can tear the skin. That will make it hard for your dog to eat, drink, or breathe. Also, the tears provide an entryway for harmful bacteria, leading to secondary infections.

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Causes of Dog Hives

Why is my dog breaking out in hives? Well, the number one cause of hives is an allergic reaction to many things. These include insect bites, anaphylactic reactions, contact allergies, and food allergies.

Other less common dog hive causes are stress, genetics, heat, friction, and anxiety. Extreme temperatures, mold, sunlight, and specific shampoos can also lead to an outbreak.

Diagnosis of Dog Hives

It's clear to see that the dog has hives all over it. So, is it necessary to seek the services of a vet? You should, with good reason. The vet will undertake a thorough physical examination of your dog. They will also look at the history of acute onset of the dog hives.

Extra diagnostics may also be necessary. This comprises blood work, skin cytology, skin scraping, and fecal analysis. The tests are critical for identifying the root cause of recurring dog hive outbreaks. The information will also help in the prevention of future dog hive occurrences. Serious complications from an anaphylactic reaction will also need medical intervention. And finally, the vet will recommend the best dog hives remedy.

Treatment and Prevention of Dog Hives

Treatment and prevention of a dog breaking out in hives is critical. The vet may recommend hive remedies like fast-acting injectable antihistamines and corticosteroids. Corticosteroids ease the discomfort and inflammation caused by the hives. Common antihistamines include Benadryl, cetirizine and Claritin.

But do not self-prescribe by purchasing over-the-counter antihistamines or corticosteroids. Only use them on recommendation from your vet. Also, please ensure you always stick to the vet's dosage recommendations and schedules. Stronger medications such as epinephrine or IV access are necessary in severe cases. Only use such under the watchful eye of trained professionals.

Some effective at-home remedies include the use of Benadryl. But like the case above, only do so with the vet's guidance. Applying cold compresses and bathing your dog in oatmeal-based dog shampoo can help. Such treatments will provide soothing relief from the itching.

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Allergen testing and allergen-specific immunotherapy may be necessary for further diagnostics and treatment. The latter is a disease-modifying therapy that treats allergic reactions. The vet gradually exposes your dog to small amounts of allergens to build resistance. However, the possibility of anaphylactic reactions is high. So, only trained vets can recommend and apply the treatment.

The vet may also recommend dietary and environmental changes. If you, for instance, notice hives after your normal daily walks, you need to change your route. The grass, wood, or plant life could be the culprits.

Management and Future Considerations for Dogs

Hives are not a typical medical concern since they tend to resolve themselves. Within 24 to 48 hours of allergen exposure, they should be gone.

The best answer to how to get rid of dog hives lies in identifying the root cause. The vet will undertake a series of examinations to identify the hive causes. This step can take a long time since it is a process of elimination.

The vet may have to test a list of potential allergens to know what is causing the problem. An example would be food trials to identify the trouble-causing ingredients. Once they isolate the underlying issue, it's easier to prevent future occurrences.

A proper diagnosis is important, especially for recurring episodes. You may have to change the dog's diet or deal with environmental factors.

Dog hives management means becoming an expert at identifying the hives. Aside from the obvious presentations like the red bumps, there's more to track.

Check out for signs of distress, breathing difficulties or worsening symptoms. Ensure that your dog doesn't excessively scratch the affected areas. It's important to avoid secondary infections or skin issues.

Hives tend to go away after a few hours without any intervention. But if they last hours, please take your dog to the vet. It's critical to get a proper diagnosis and treatment early to avoid further damage.

In the worst-case scenario, long-term management may be necessary. This includes the daily use of antihistamines or prescription-strength allergy medications. Other routine practices include skin health supplements and the use of medicated dog shampoo. You may get a referral to a veterinary dermatologist for recurring allergic reactions.

Preventing or reducing allergy triggers can also help in hives management. Protective dog clothing will take care of sun sensitivities or plant/grass allergies. Insect repellants can be effective in preventing insect bites that trigger allergies. Also, using hypoallergenic shampoo will remove allergens from your dog's coat or skin.

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Also, proper dog maintenance can be a big help. For instance, regular brushing of the coat prevents matting, which traps the allergens. It's also important to bolster your dog's immune system with the proper diet. Focus on providing high-quality and well-balanced meals.

Sometimes vaccinations may be causing the hives on the dog. In this case, the vet may recommend modifying future vaccination protocols.

So what if stress and anxiety lead to the dog developing hives? You must manage the stress triggers by addressing them. Possible solutions include training and behavior modification. It's also vital that you create a comforting and safe environment for your dog.

Finally, develop an emergency action plan. This step is critical if your dog has a history of anaphylaxis or severe allergic reactions. Get your vet's input when creating one. The plan should detail the specific dog hives medications, dosages, and schedules. Also, keep up with vet checkups to track your dog's health. Like you, your pooch must be healthy to enjoy a long life.

Emergency Considerations and Dangers of Dog Hives

Can dog hives be a danger to the life of your beloved canine? In themselves, hives are not life-threatening. However, the situation can take a fatal turn due to the underlying causes. That is why it's essential to know the signs of hives in dogs.

Also, tracking the hive outbreak's duration is critical. If they last several hours, please make an urgent trip to the vet. Hives on the legs and back may not be life-threatening. But, those on the neck, face or throat can result in severe swelling. This can impact your dog's ability to breathe, leading to respiratory distress. Emergency medical care is necessary if there's difficulty breathing. The same applies to vomiting or loss of consciousness.

Another danger of hives on a dog is anaphylaxis. This presents as a severe allergic reaction and requires immediate medical attention. The symptoms can be quite alarming and will cause your beloved canine much distress. They include facial swelling, breathing difficulty, and swelling of the lips and throat. As it progresses, the dog will vomit, have diarrhea, and eventually collapse. Without medical intervention, your dog may lose its life.

Constant scratching or licking of the affected areas can lead to secondary infections. Unfortunately, that is a dog's instinctual reaction to any part of the body that is bothering it. The scratching provides temporary or short-lived relief. That is why your canine will keep repeating the action as long as the irritation persists. Now, if the skin breaks, bacteria and other harmful pathogens will find an easy way to enter the body. There will also be inflammation and hair/fur loss, further exposing the skin.

You may notice that even after resolving, the wheals or red bumps reappear. That is a clear sign that the underlying cause is still unresolved. Please take your dog to the vet and explain the re-occurrence of the red bumps. It is only after proper diagnosis that you will manage the condition.


Dog hives are an allergic reaction that causes great discomfort to your beloved dog. Yet, in most cases, the hives outbreak is nothing to worry about. They tend to resolve within one or two days without needing intervention of any kind. During this time, keep up with monitoring your dog. If you notice an increase in symptoms or the emergence of worrying ones, please seek help from a vet.

Facial swelling, respiratory distress, vomiting and anaphylactic reaction can be dangerous. Finally, avoid the temptation of buying over-the-counter medications to treat dog hives. Please follow the vet's recommendation on care, medication, dosage schedules and more.



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Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Stephanie Gibeault developed a lifelong fascination with animals. Armed with a Bachelor's in ecology & evolution and a Master's in animal behavior, she started as a biologist, facing marmosets and gorillas. Today, a certified dog trainer and freelance writer, she combines her passion for canines with a talent for words. Stephanie specializes in crafting children's picture books and middle-grade fiction/nonfiction, all while sharing her love for dog behavior. Her stories educate and enchant, drawing both kids and adults into the captivating world of the human-canine connection. You'll find her concocting tales while cuddling up with her two rescue pups and her cat, who often double as her enthusiastic writing companions in her spare time.
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