An outbreak of hives on your dog can be a pretty scary experience. Not only will it leave you worried that Fido will be rejected by some of the shallower canines in the park when his beautiful, unblemished skin and fur are coated with these unwelcome blemishes, but your cherished pet will also be in some discomfort.
Thankfully, the cause of hives can usually be identified – and, by extension, treated – without too much fuss. This guide will fill you in on everything that you ever wanted to know about the subject. And, we’ll warn you in advance that there are plenty more that you didn’t.
Table of Contents:
What Are Hives on Dogs?
Hives, which go by the scientific name Urticaria, take the shape of a series of bumps all over the body. This condition is extremely common and rarely dangerous or life-threatening. Hives can sometimes cause swelling in the throat that makes breathing and swallowing difficult, so they’re best not ignored.
However, hives can be very uncomfortable for Fido, and they usually point to an underlying cause that needs to be addressed. This usually takes the form of an allergic reaction, but there may be a medical or psychological reason for the skin condition. Some breeds (like the Pit Bull) have especially sensitive skin making them more susceptible to hives.
What Do Hives Look Like?
To diagnose hives, check your dog for round bumps under his or her fur. These bumps will be much bigger and more pronounced than simple acne or moles, and they will typically rise above the skin on your canine. You may find that your dog is itching regularly when they’re living with hives, making these easier to identify.
In addition to these lumps and bumps under the skin, you may also notice other symptoms where hives are forming on your dog. The fur on your dog’s coat may start to stand up, or bald patches will form around the hives, and other body parts (most commonly the eyelids) may begin to swell up.
Are the Hives on Dogs Different to Hives on Humans?
Yes, the impact and cause of hives will be the same for dogs as with humans; they almost always begin with a severe allergic reaction. Also just like with humans, the hives will usually disappear almost as quickly as they arrive with the appropriate treatment – though again, they will be extremely uncomfortable while they last.
Where Do Hives Appear on Dogs?
There are many locations that hives may appear, but the most prominent locations are as follows:
If your dog is acting out of character in any way and you’re worried that they may be having a serious allergic reaction, check these areas first. Be vigilant about checking for any bald patches around the fur (particularly on the back) and keep an eye for swelling around your dog’s eyes.
It Looks Like My Dog Has Hives – Are They Sick?
Not necessarily. Hives are unwelcome, but they rarely point to an impending medical crisis. However, you may still want to treat these unpleasant skin lesions – speak to a vet for advice if you prefer, or follow the advice on how to treat hives naturally found later in this guide.
What Gives a Dog Hives?
The shortest and most direct answer to this question is allergies. If you are going to keep ahead of the game when it comes to treating – and preventing – hives, you should take the time to read our guide on how to recognize and treat allergic reactions.
Whatever it is that your dog is allergic to, if hives are the result then they are very allergic! These lumps and bumps don’t appear lightly, and if your dog has an outbreak, it’s in everybody’s best interests to pinpoint the cause and take all the necessary action to prevent any further exposure.
Some of the most common causes of hives include:
- Medications and Vaccines. Your dog may be showing a reaction to a medical treatment administered for a different reason.
- Changes to Diet. Your dog may have undergone a considerable change in diet (moving from kibble to wet food, for example, or vice versa) and their body is struggling to cope with the variation.)
- Food Allergy. It’s possible that your dog is allergic to a particular food – either something they are eating as part of their daily allowance or something they are finding elsewhere such as the garbage bin.
- Soap or Shampoo Allergy. Look carefully at the ingredients of the shampoo that you use to wash your dog – is there anything in there that could be causing an allergic reaction? Perfumes and fragrances are usually to blame, so human cosmetics are best avoided for this reason.
- Animal Allergy. Sad but true – in some rare cases, your dog may be allergic to another critter that it’s been playing with. If your dog always has a breakout of hives after a play date with a fellow pooch or your cat, they have been reacting to their fur or saliva.
- Plastic Allergy. A surprising number of dogs are allergic to plastic – not ideal, considering how many canine toys and food or water bowls are made from this substance.
If your dog has experienced a sudden outbreak of hives having never experienced the condition before, have a chat with your vet. They’ll be able to run many tests to find out why your pooch is suffering from these itchy lumps and bumps, and help you prevent the outbreak from occurring again.
Another thing that you’ll need to keep an eye on, however, is your dog’s environment. They could also have an allergic reaction due to an external stimulus, not just what goes into their little body.
What Plants Give Dogs Hives?
There are many different plants, shrubs, and trees that most canines are allergic to, and it certainly makes sense to learn what greenery is best avoided. You may have asked yourself why your dog is eating grass a lot in the past, and as much as we love them, we can’t necessarily trust our furry friends to make the most sensible decisions when it comes to whether they should tuck into a wild plant.
Some of the most common plants that cause allergic reactions in dogs include:
- Bottlebrush. These flowers are a striking red (though that will mean nothing to a dog that does not see color like humans), and that could mean danger – they produce tiny pollinated needles that irritate dogs.
- Mulberry Trees. These growths, while pretty, unleash a torrent of different allergens in your dog’s direction every summer.
- Lilies. Any flower from the lily family – including daffodils and tulips – are natural enemies of doggy immune systems. Keep your canine away from any of these flowers, or they’ll be at serious risk of an allergic reaction.
- Male Juniper Bushes. The pollen of these bushes is hugely antagonistic to a dog. Thankfully, however, female bushes do not produce this pollen and are thus safe for Fido to sniff.
- Bermudagrass. This popular form of turf is loaded with pollen and other things that could cause an allergic reaction in your pet.
- Euphorbias. This is another family of plants, which includes commonplace fauna as milk bush and pencil trees. Anything from the Euphorbia family will produce a form of sap that causes all kinds of allergic reactions in a dog.
There’s plenty more greenery out there that may do your dog some degree of harm, so it’s hugely important that you keep at least one eye on any and all reactions to an outdoor playtime in the summer.
Are Hives Only Caused by Allergies?
No. Just because an allergic reaction is the most common reason for a dog to break out in hives, it doesn’t mean that allergies are the only reason.
Can Hives Be Caused by Stress?
Yes, stress can be a major contributing factor to a dog breaking out in hives. Just some of the tensions experienced by a dog that could result in an outbreak of hives include:
- Separation Anxiety
- Bringing a New Pet into the Home (you’ll find advice on what to do if one dog attacks another dog)
- Demonstrating inconsistent training and behaviors
- Scolding and punishing a dog. Most of the time, your pooch will have no idea why they’re in trouble.
If your dog is displaying common signs of stress (such as constantly licking their paws, whining and crying or having bathroom-related accidents in the house), then this could be at the cause of their outbreak.
Can Fleas Cause Hives
It’s rare, but it can happen. When a flea takes a bite out of your dog’s skin, the area becomes itchy and irritable for Fido – which, of course, means that they’ll scratch and claw. This can lead to an open wound, which increases the chances of hives or other reactions.
To avoid a fleabite causing hives, keep up-to-date with your dog’s preventative treatments. If the damage is done, try to ease and soothe the impacted area using tea tree oil. Also be aware that it’s not just fleas that can cause hives in dogs – if Fido has been bitten by an insect, an allergic reaction may follow, with bee and wasp stings just as likely to bring about the same result.
Can Extreme Temperatures Cause Hives?
Yes, the temperature indoors and out can play havoc with a dog’s skin. If you’re out for a stroll with your dog in the midst of a heat wave and you’re confident that nothing else could have caused an allergic reaction, it may have been the heat.
This is caused by the sweat glands on your dog reacting to the acetylcholine found within his or her body. Hives may be a result, although this is one of the more rare causes of the skin condition.
Can Viral Infections Cause Hives?
No, not directly – it’s a myth that certain illnesses and sicknesses lead directly to hives in dogs. However, it’s worth noting that certain viral infections can attack the skin of a pooch and leave them feeling raw and irritated. Thus, in turn, can leave Fido open to a bout of hives.
Do Female Dogs Get Hives While They’re in Heat?
Again, this isn’t the most common reaction, but it has been known to happen. If your bitch is in heat, this may explain an outbreak of hives when she has not encountered anything that would cause an allergic reaction. However, if she is in physical discomfort, you should still consult a vet.
My Puppy Has Hives
Any kind of reaction is more concerning when a vulnerable young puppy is concerned, and hives are no different. In addition to all the usual allergies, hives may also be caused by an infestation of worms or other parasites in a pup. See a vet if you have any concerns.
Are Hives on Dogs Contagious?
No, hives themselves are not contagious, and will not be passed on by physical contact. That means that if your dog has hives they can still be stroked and touched without the need to apply multiple pairs of rubber gloves, and they won’t need to be quarantined from other animals in the house either.
Despite this, the underlying cause of your dog’s hives may be contagious if it’s an airborne virus. Remember, the infection itself will not be what causes your pooches skin to flare up in such a way, but if the cause is passed on the net result may be the same.
My Dog’s Hives are Getting Worse
Hives in a dog shouldn’t last long. In some cases, it’s quite likely that they’ll appear and disappear within 24 hours. If you spot an outbreak and no attempts at putting an end to them seem to be working, see a vet. There may be something more sinister afoot, and you’ll have to get some specialist help.
My Dog’s Hives are Bleeding
If your dog’s outbreak of hives starts to bleed, that’s more than likely because they have managed to open up the skin lesion with their claws or teeth. Remember that your dog’s hives will be itchy as an itchy thing, and they’ll be desperate for relief in any way they can get it.
This is a very dangerous road to do down alas, as it means that your dog is wide open and at risk of a skin infection. If your dog looks like they’re going to bite or scratch at their hives, you should try to cover them up with a jumper or place socks or booties over their paws until the temptation passes.
Will Hives Go Away?
“Just ignore it and hope it goes away,” is a favored medical tactic of many humans that don’t like to visit the doctor, and in the case of hives, it works. If you leave hives well alone, they’ll usually disappear pretty sharpish. Hives can leave as quickly as they arrive.
Doing so is a little cruel to your dog though – and it would undoubtedly be considered neglectful. Before you take offense to this statement, consider the following statements. All of them are true if you opt to ignore your dog’s hives and do not seek treatment.
- Dog hives are hugely itchy. You’ll be leaving your dog in physical discomfort by ignoring them, and there’s a chance that they’ll tear them open and make them bleed.
- Dog hives aren’t usually dangerous, but they can be – especially around the throat area when they can cause a problem breathing, drinking, eating or swallowing. Do you want to take that risk?
- Dog hives are a message from their body. They’re saying, “I don’t like this thing that I’ve eaten/touched/inhaled.” By ignoring a hive outbreak, you’re ignoring the fact that something has made your dog feel unwell or uncomfortable, and will do so again unless you can work out what caused the outbreak and prevent further exposure.
So, yes, hives on dogs are rarely a matter of life and death. All the same, it is well worth getting them investigated by a vet if you are not 100% of the reason behind them, just in case.
How to Treat Hives in Dogs Using Medication
Many dog owners use Benadryl for allergic reactions in their dogs, and it’s largely safe to do.
Speak to a vet before administering this drug to your dog though, as different breeds of canine have varying levels of resilience to the product. If you give your dog too much Benadryl, they may experience an allergic reaction, and while irony is always fun, Fido may disagree.
You may also be able to find a topical cream or ointment that can be applied to your dog’s skin to cool it down and calm any infection. The critical ingredient here will be hydrocortisone, which is safe for both dogs and humans. Many people will recommend Cortisone, but be aware that the FDA has only approved this drug for use in humans – not canines.
How to Treat Hives on Dogs Naturally
It may be easier and more effective to treat your dog’s hives at home – there isn’t necessarily any need to rush your pet to the local vet at the first sign, provided you understand the best way to treat the outbreak.
Follow these steps to treat an outbreak:
- Run a Cool Bath. You may be tempted to rush your dog into the shower after discovering an outbreak of hives, but hot water will only aggravate them. Cool water, however, will soothe your dog’s skin calm the hives down, making them less irritable.
- Wrap Your Dog in a Cold Towel. A soft towel doused in cold water and wrapped around your pooch will have a similar impact to a bath, without the additional stress of attempting to convince your dog to take a bath!
- Rub Oatmeal on Your Dog’s Skin. Natural oatmeal is a fantastic way of easing any lesions or infections on your dog’s skin, and it eases any symptoms of itchiness. Just remember, when it comes time to wash the oatmeal away after an hour or so, use cool or lukewarm water.
- Rub Ice Packs Over the Affected Area. This is another way of providing temporary relief by calming the inflammation down, and keeping your dog from biting, scratching and clawing at the offensive, intrusive invaders to their body.
- Use Aloe Vera Gel. This is a one-stop shop for curing a great many skin ailments, and it will have an immediate impact – not least because it will cool your dog down.
- Apply Coconut Oil. This method comes with two effective purposes. Firstly, rub a little oil on your dog’s coat and skin that they will enjoy many healing properties, including anti-inflammatories and the treatment of allergic reactions. Then add some to your finger and allow Fido to lick it off. Dogs adore the taste of coconut oil, and your pooch will forget all about their discomfort for a blessed moment!
- Give Your Dog Licorice. We’re talking about the black root herb here, not a sugarcoated candy, but licorice could settle and protect your dog’s stomach lining. This means that you’re less likely to suffer an outbreak of hives following an allergic reaction to their food.
Of course, all the treatment in the world can’t compare to preventing your dog from suffering in the first place. Sometimes an outbreak of hives is completely unavoidable, but if you do find that your canine is prone to these reactions, try to pinpoint why. Everybody will feel much better when these lumps and bumps are no longer a regular feature of doggy life.