If your dog has hives, you will likely notice itchy, red, swollen bumps on their skin. In this post, our Monroe vets discuss the causes, signs, and treatment of hives in dogs.

What are hives in dogs? 

Hives (also called urticaria) is a skin condition characterized by raised red welts on a dog's skin, and is most commonly caused by a dog suffering from an allergic reaction. These swollen welts can develop anywhere on a dog's body, including the face, lips, tongue, throat, and ears.

Occasionally, hives may cause swelling near the eyes, and you might find they also cause your pup's fur to stick out.

What do hives look like on a dog?

Individual welts can vary in size from around 5 millimeters (1/4 inch) to several centimeters in diameter. If there are a large number of welts in a concentrated area, they can blend together and appear as one large patch. Hives are often very itchy and can leave your dog in extreme discomfort.

This skin condition can appear very quickly and disappear just as fast. The red, raised area of the skin can appear anywhere from a few minutes to hours after exposure to an allergen.

What causes hives in dogs? 

Environmental, chemical, food (dietary), or other allergens can cause hives if your dog has a reaction. Common causes of hives in dogs include:

  • Insect bites or stings (often on a dog's head or neck)
  • Food ingredients
  • Medications
  • Shampoos or topical agents
  • Vaccinations
  • Toxic plants 
  • Chemicals 

Symptoms of Hives on Dogs

If your dog has hives, you may notice: 

  • Red, raised areas of the skin
  • Intense itching
  • Excessive drooling if the mouth is swollen 
  • Swelling (which is especially concerning if it involves the face and/or respiratory system)

What to Do If You Spot Hives on Your Dog 

In mild cases, hives will disappear within 12-48 hours after your dog has had contact with an allergen, even without medication or treatment. However, there's a risk that reactions can worsen and lead to serious allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) or dangerous swelling of your dog's airways.

This is why it's recommended to bring your dog to a veterinarian or animal hospital for emergency care once your dog begins showing signs of hives. This is especially true for hives that appear on the face or around the throat, which can lead to dangerous swelling or potential obstruction of the airway. 

How Hives are Diagnosed in Dogs 

Your vet will closely examine your dog to identify where the hives are present on your pup's body. It will help if you're able to share any allergens your dog may have been exposed to or come in contact with, and when and where you first spotted the hives. 

Based on these factors, your vet will then develop an personalized treatment plan and monitor your dog's response to treatment.  

How to Treat Dog Hives

As a pet owner, you may be wondering how to get rid of dog hives. Dog hives treatment may include dietary changes or food trials to identify ingredients that trigger a reaction in your dog. Specific dietary recommendations can then be developed. Oral or injectable antihistamines and/or steroids, or injectable medications and intravenous fluids may also be prescribed in more severe instances.

Antihistamines and other medications should only be used under your vet's supervision. Never give your dog any human medication to treat hives or other skin conditions, and always consult your vet before administering any medication. Many medications that are safe for humans can be toxic to dogs and will only cause more health issues.

Depending on your dog's specific circumstances, at-home treatment options may be suggested, such as putting a cold compress over the hives and swollen areas to relieve itching.

Allergy Testing at Monroe Veterinary Clinic 

At Monroe Veterinary Clinic, we understand that spotting hives on your dog can be a worrisome experience, and you may wonder what will happen following your dog's trip to the vet. 

Our veterinary team can test your dog for allergic reactions to a variety of allergens to determine what it is your pup is having reactions to. We can conduct an exam of your pet and develop an appropriate treatment plan to treat their conditions. 

Depending on the cause and frequency of your dog's hives, your vet may also recommend: 

  • Allergy testing to confirm environmental or other allergens 
  • Hypoallergenic shampoo and/or hydrating leave-in conditioner specially designed for dogs
  • Immunotherapy treatment to desensitize your dog to specific allergens 

We accept both requests for appointments and referrals from primary care veterinarians. You'll also receive a written copy of your pet's individualized treatment plan, and we are always available to answer any questions and concerns you may have about treatment or at-home care. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Does your dog appear to be having an allergic reaction? Contact our Monroe vets to have your pup diagnosed and cared for.