Hives can present as itchy, red, swollen bumps on your dog's skin. In this post, our veterinary dermatologist in Orange Park lists symptoms and explains what causes hives in dogs. You'll also learn how we can diagnose, treat, and manage this skin condition.
What are hives in dogs?
Hives (clinically known as urticaria) are small, red, localized raised bumps on a dog's skin. Relatively uncommon in dogs, they are typically caused by an allergic reaction from insect bites, medications, or other irritants that trigger an overreaction from the immune system and can be very itchy for your dog - just like hives in people.
What do hives look like on a dog?
This skin condition can appear very quickly - and disappear just as quickly. The red, raised area of the skin can appear anywhere from a few minutes to hours after exposure to an allergen.
While hives (also referred to as wheals) can appear anywhere on your dog's body, they are typically found on the head, neck, back, stomach, and legs and may appear in clusters. Occasionally, hives may cause swelling near the eyes, and you might find they also cause your pup's fur to stick out.
Symptoms of Dog Hives
Here are some common signs of hives in dogs:
- Red, raised areas of the skin that can occur anywhere (including mucous membranes), but are most often seen on the head, neck, back, legs, and abdomen
- Intense itching
- Excessive drooling if the mouth is swollen
- Swelling, which is especially concerning if it involves the face and/or respiratory system, which can lead to severe and life-threatening consequences
Causes of Dog Hives
Environmental, chemical, food (dietary), or other allergens your dog may be sensitive to can trigger hives. Common causes include:
- Insect bites or stings (often on a dog's head or neck)
- Food ingredients
- Shampoos or topical agents
- Toxic plants
What to Do If You Spot Hives on Your Dog
In mild cases, hives will generally disappear within 12-48 hours after your dog has had contact with an allergen. However, there's a risk that reactions can worsen and lead to serious allergic reactions (anaphylaxis) or dangerous swelling of your dog's airways.
Therefore, we recommend bringing your dog to a veterinarian or animal hospital for emergency care any time you notice hives on your dog, even for mild cases. 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 airways.
How Hives are Diagnosed in Dogs
Your vet or veterinary dermatologist will closely examine your dog to identify where hives have appeared on your pup's body. They'll also likely ask about any allergens your dog may have been exposed to or come in contact with, and when and where you first spotted the hives.
The vet will then develop an individualized treatment plan based on these factors and monitor your dog's response.
How to Treat Your Dog's Hives
Our veterinary dermatologist at Animal Friends Dermatology has received calls from many concerned pet parents wondering how to get rid of their dog's hives. Treatment options 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 for very serious cases.
Depending on your dog's specific needs and circumstances, your vet or veterinary dermatologist may also recommend at-home treatment options, such as putting a cold compress over the hives or swollen areas to relieve itching.
Antihistamines may also be recommended, but these 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.
Allergy Testing & Treatment for Pets at Animal Friends Dermatology
At Animal Friends Dermatology, we understand that spotting hives or other acute skin conditions on your dog can be an alarming experience, and you may wonder what happens after an initial emergency care visit or appointment with your primary vet. That's why we're here to help.
Our veterinary dermatologist provides specialized care for pets suffering from uncomfortable skin issues like hives, which require proper diagnosis, treatment, and management to prevent allergic reactions or recurrences.
We can conduct a preliminary exam of your pet (which may include asking you questions about your pup's current health status and history, including their exposure to allergens), then develop an individualized treatment plan to treat your pet's conditions.
The veterinary dermatologist may recommend these or other methods of managing your pooch's condition depending on the cause and frequency of the hives:
- 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.