Dog Hives 101 – Symptoms, Causes, And Treatment Of Hives In Dogs

By Michael Tarran

January 24, 2022

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Nobody wants their dog to be in any kind of distress - so we do everything we can to make their lives as pleasurable and happy as possible. Unfortunately, we can't always control what happens to our four-legged companions. 

One of those instances that we don’t have complete control over is an allergic reaction such as urticaria or hives. Hives in dogs are rarely fatal, and they can go away on their own after a few hours. That's the good news.

However, if they don't go away without medicine, or if additional skin welts emerge or the size of the hives grows, you should seek veterinary help as soon as possible so that it doesn't turn into a severe allergic reaction.

Scroll down to discover more about the origins, symptoms, and treatment options for dog hives - and see how you can help your furry friend in this tricky situation!

What Are Dog Hives?

Hives are itchy, red, swollen, and irritating skin rashes or welts. Dog welts commonly occur anywhere on the body, including the face, neck, lips, and ears. The majority of these responses are not generally life-threatening; they are limited - and they frequently self-resolve.

Because of the dog's thick fur coat, though, hives in dogs are more difficult to detect than acute allergic reactions on human skin.

The rashes might be visible on sections of the dog's body where there is less hair - but other than that, you might only detect a few little elevated tufts of hair that suggest the existence of raised welts. These welts on your pet's skin might be uncomfortable - or not affect them at all.

In moderate situations, the hives will usually go away within 12 to 48 hours of coming into touch with the allergen.

However, because the response might progress into hazardous swelling of your dog's airways or a life-threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis, you should get medical help if you notice hives on your dog.

That is particularly true for hives on the face or around the mouth, which can cause hazardous swelling and possibly airway obstruction. In this case, a few minutes could be crucial for saving your dog's life.

Symptoms Of Dog Hives

an itchy dog

Hives in dogs have symptoms that are similar to those seen in people. Your dog's hives will generally show up as:

  • Intense itching
  • Swelling
  • Redness

These aren't the only symptoms associated with hives. Besides itchy skin and runny nose, you might notice other signs - such as a coat that seems to have raised bumps or patchwork.

Canine hives, like human hives, are tiny, elevated weals measuring 1 to 20 cm in diameter. They might be concentrated at one spot or dispersed throughout the body. Several hives in a congested area might potentially seem like a single bigger swelling.

Itchy hives are a common occurrence.

If you notice your dog scratching, check for any indications of dog allergic reaction bumps, especially dog hives on back, or other irritants, such as fleas - and call your vet if the symptoms get worse.

Swelling (angioedema), which is especially dangerous when it affects the face and respiratory system, can have serious and life-threatening implications.

If you notice any changes in your dog's skin, don't turn to Google for pictures of hives on dogs - make a vet appointment right away at the nearest location and ask for expert advice!  

Causes Of Dog Hives: Food Allergies, Insect Bites & More

Why is your dog breaking out in hives?

Hives on dogs' skin are a normal part of the immune system - or, rather, its response. They are usually caused by:

  • Allergens in the environment
  • Unfavorable medication response
  • Insect stings or bites
  • Chemical poisoning
  • Toxic plants
  • Sunlight
  • Heat
  • Exercise
  • Stress
  • Genetic abnormalities

The world around your dog is full of possible allergies and irritants. Dogs' hives can be caused by food, pollen, dust, fleas, mosquito bites, and a variety of other environmental allergens.

This type of skin infection could also be caused by more severe allergic responses, such as those caused by an insect bite - especially if your pet has very sensitive skin.

Other causes can be chemicals and plants like stinging nettles, even more so in short-haired dogs.

Insects or plants might be the source of hives on your dog during a stroll through grassy regions. Keep in mind that some causes of swelling - such as snake and spider bites - could be life-threatening if not treated at once.

Medications can also trigger allergic responses, though. If your dog develops hives after starting a new drug, contact your veterinarian, and keep an eye on your pup for any other symptoms or side effects.

That said, immune reactions aren't always the source of hives in dogs.

Hives in dogs may be triggered - or intensified - by a variety of factors, including heat, activity, stress, and genetic disorders.

How Vets Diagnose Hives

The diagnosis of hives in dogs is pretty simple. Diagnosing the underlying cause, on the other hand, is the tricky part.

Once your veterinarian has determined that your dog has hives, they'll perform a physical examination to look for any additional symptoms or signs of allergic reactions.

If there isn't a risk of anaphylaxis, your vet will likely question you about your dog's food, medication changes, and any pertinent recent activity. Depending on these results, your veterinarian might advise you to pursue a variety of options.

Allergic Reaction & Testing

In certain circumstances, allergy testing may be required - particularly in cases with chronic urticaria. And if food allergies are suspected, your veterinarian could recommend an elimination diet to figure out what's causing the problem.

You can always pay for the allergy tests done by the vet, but there is an alternative - and a slightly less expensive and invasive one at that. And that would be a home allergy testing kit.

The 5Strands Pet Environmental & Food Intolerance Test is an excellent example of an efficient and pain-free way you can test your dog for allergies.

How To Treat Hives In Dogs

Hives in dogs usually go away on their own within a few hours. 

However, in severe or chronic situations when the irritant cannot be removed promptly, or the swelling is causing extreme discomfort to the dog, dog hives treatment may require medications. 

If that's the case, the treatment your vet prescribes will more than likely include medications such as a corticosteroid or antihistamine.

Management Of Dog Hives

While hives could go away on their own after several hours, it might take a bit longer to figure out what is causing them.

Some dogs' skin is simply too sensitive - and they get more hives than others. Others may have allergic reactions that need to be managed on a long-term basis.

Learning how to handle your dog's sensitivity and allergic reaction will help prevent a recurrence.

Dogs with grass allergies or sun sensitivity, for example, might need to wear special attire when they go outside. When talking about food allergies, you will have to change your dog's diet to eliminate the type of foods that cause hives.

You may be able to infer some of the triggers for your dog's disease by observing him, but keep in mind that, even if the source of an allergy can be discovered, it could take a long time.

Preventing Hives In Dogs

It's not always possible to avoid hives. Avoiding particular situations, chemicals, or drugs if you know your dog has a hypersensitivity or allergy to them will assist. Insect bites, on the other hand, are more difficult to prevent.

Consult your veterinarian about the best approach to keep your dog from developing recurring hives.

They'll help determine the best protocols to follow in order to minimize additional responses, as well as the dangers of severe reactions, such as anaphylactic shock.

Minimize exposure to the allergen that is causing the problem.

That's the most effective method for preventing hives in dogs. It's easier said than done, though.

Allergens can be found in your dog's immediate environment or in the food it eats. You'll have to take steps to identify the allergen that's causing the problem so that you may reduce or eliminate your pet's exposure.

If your dog has had a reaction to a vaccine in the past, your veterinarian may give them an injection 10-14 minutes before the vaccine is given. To reduce the risk of bad responses, your veterinarian may also decide to change your pet's immunization routine in the future.

Dog Hives FAQs

Q: Are dog hives dangerous?

A: If the hives are caused by insect stings - particularly bee stings - dogs' faces and lips might swell dramatically. If the swelling spreads to the neck, breathing might become difficult, culminating in anaphylaxis. In this case, hives are dangerous.

Q: Are hives on dogs contagious for humans or other pets?

A: Humans and other pets are not afflicted with hives. Keep other pets and household members away from potential issue areas if your veterinarian believes the source of the hives is a chemical or environmental irritant - such as poison ivy and similar.

Q: Is there a vaccine for hives in dogs?

A: There is no vaccine for hives. That said, vaccines can sometimes produce an immunological reaction that results in hives. These are typically minor, but if your dog has a response to treatment, medicine, or immunization, always consult your vet.

Q: How long do dog hives last?

A: Hives usually go away on their own once the allergen has been eliminated - or minimized - from the dog's environment. However, it might take anywhere from 24 to 72 hours to clear up.

Q: What can I give my dog for allergic reactions and hives?

A: It's important to realize that, in many cases of hives, they won't disappear suddenly - which is why many people rush to treat them with natural remedies and whatnot. ALWAYS seek veterinary advice first if your dog has developed hives. Pet owners should never treat a condition caused by an allergic reaction by themselves. Instead, make an emergency vet visit ASAP.

Dog Hives - Final word

Figuring out what's wrong with your dog can be a lengthy process, especially with an allergic reaction. Dog hives causes are plenty - so, arm yourself with patience.

Keep in mind that you shouldn't give any medications without your vet's supervision. Once you figure out the reason - or reasons - that cause hives in your dog, it's easier to provide your pup with the best possible care.

Looking in your dog's eyes and knowing you're doing absolutely everything you can to help them is priceless, wouldn't you agree?

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Michael Tarran

About Me

I'm a devoted pet parent to two lovely creatures – Charlie the Cat and Jimmy the Dog – a full-time assistant pet store manager, and an animal shelter volunteer. I've gathered knowledge about pets for almost a decade, and it all started in a small store called Jack's Pets.

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