Skip to Main Content
Ask About Financing

Hives in Dogs: What They Mean & What Causes Them

Hives may appear as red, swollen, itchy bumps on your dog's skin. Today, our veterinarians in Little Elm share symptoms and explain what causes hives in dogs. We'll also discuss how this skin condition is diagnosed, treated, and managed. 

What are hives in dogs?

Also referred to as urticaria or wheals, hives are small, red, raised bumps that show up on a specific area of a dog's skin. Relatively uncommon in dogs, hives are typically caused by an allergic reaction to medications, insect bites, or other irritants that trigger the immune system to overreact. Just like hives in people, they can be very itchy for your dog. 

What do hives look like on a dog?

While this skin condition can appear quickly, it can also disappear quickly. It can take anywhere from a few minutes to hours after exposure to an allergen for hives to show up as a red, raised area of the skin. 

Hives can appear anywhere on your dog's body. However, they are typically found on the head, neck, stomach, back, and legs. They may appear in clusters. Occasionally, hives may cause swelling near the eyes, and you might find your pup's fur also sticks out. 

Signs Your Dog Has Hives 

Here are some common symptoms of hives in dogs:

  • Red, raised areas of the sin that can occur anywhere (including on mucous membranes inside their mouths, including on the gums and inner cheeks), but are most often seen on the head, back, neck, legs, and abdomen 
  • Excessive drooling if the mouth is swollen 
  • Swelling, which can cause problems if it occurs on the face and/or in the respiratory system, as it can lead to severe and life-threatening symptoms
  • Intense itching

What causes hives in dogs?

Food (dietary), chemical, environmental, or other allergens your dog may be sensitive to can trigger hives. Common causes include:

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

What to Do If You Spot Hives on Your Dog 

In mild cases, hives will generally disappear within 12 to 48 hours after your dog has come into contact with an allergen. However, there's some risk of worsening reactions, which can 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 vets at Healthy Paws Veterinary Center  have 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 Dogs at Healthy Paws Veterinary Center 

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 vets provide 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 an exam of your dog (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 pooch's conditions. 

The vet 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 

If your dog is diagnosed with a severe or chronic condition that is not responding to standard treatments, we may refer you to a board-certified veterinary dermatologist and work with them to ensure your pet receives the best care possible.

We are always available to answer any questions and concerns you may have about your dog's 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.

Have you noticed symptoms of hives or other skin conditions on your dog? Contact your Little Elm vet today to schedule an examination.

New Patients Welcome

Healthy Paws Veterinary Center is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Little Elm companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

Contact Us

Book Online (972) 292-3030