Why Does My Dog Have Hives?

And what to do about them 😭

Itchy dog

Seeing red spots on your dog’s skin and watching him itch them furiously can be a bit alarming.

And finding out that your dog has hives from allergies or another cause can be even scarier.

While you can treat hives with a strong allergy medication most of the time, hives can also be the symptom of a life-threatening condition.

Here’s what Dr. Ursula Oberkirchner, a veterinary dermatologist and owner of Advanced Veterinary Dermatology in Florida, had to say about hives on dogs, and what to do if you see these allergy bumps on your pup!

What are dog hives?

Hives on dogs, or urticaria, are most often caused by an allergic reaction, which means they develop after your dog is exposed to something he’s allergic to.

“Hives are a very characteristic symptom of an allergic-type reaction,” Dr. Oberkirchner told The Dodo. “Typically, hives develop within minutes or hours after exposure to the allergen.”

Hives can be totally harmless and simply require an allergy medication to get rid of — but sometimes they can mean something else is wrong.

“Depending on the number, size and location of those hives, and if they are accompanied by other symptoms, such as trouble breathing or vomiting or diarrhea, hives can be a minor symptom or be part of a serious, even life-threatening, condition,” Dr. Oberkirchner said.

An example of a life-threatening condition that causes hives includes anaphylaxis, which is when a dog has an extremely severe reaction to an allergen.

Certain cancers can also cause hives on your dog.

Your veterinarian will be able to help you determine what’s causing allergy bumps on your dog. “A thorough work-up by a veterinary dermatologist is often beneficial to help identify the cause of the hives and to manage them accordingly,” Dr. Oberkirchner said.

What do hives look like on a dog?

“Hives look like soft bumps that can range in size from small pebbles to egg-size and can be localized to one area of the body or develop all over the body,” Dr. Oberkirchner said.

Dog hives
Zakharova_Elena/Shutterstock.com

How to get rid of dog hives

How a vet will treat your dog’s hives will depend on how severe they are.

“The appropriate treatment is commensurate with the severity of the symptoms, and can range from giving your pet an antihistamine by mouth to requiring hospitalization with intravenous fluids and steroids,” Dr. Oberkirchner said.

If you choose to give your dog antihistamines, make sure they don’t include any added ingredients like decongestants or alcohol.

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You can also give your dog ordinary Benadryl, but contact your veterinarian first so they can tell you the appropriate dosage for your dog.

It’s also recommended that antihistamines are taken alongside omega-3 fatty acid supplements to help your dog’s itchy skin.

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You can also give your dog a bath with an anti-itch dog shampoo. To get the best results, look for shampoos that have both chlorhexidine and ceramides.

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Your vet might also prescribe other dog allergy treatments, including prescription medications like Apoquel, an injection (like Cytopoint) or steroids.

But truly the best form of treatment for dog hives is to figure out what your dog is allergic to and then keep him away from it, Dr. Oberkirchner said.

“The key to long-term, successful management of hives lies within identifying what the pet is allergic to and, if possible, avoiding it in the future,” Dr. Oberkirchner said.

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