Dog Hives: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options


As a pet owner, it’s important to remain vigilant and cautious regarding your pets’ health. There is a possibility that your dogs might experience hives due to insect bites or allergies triggered by substances they encounter while going about their morning activities or playing in the park.

If you’ve noticed a red, swollen spot on your dog’s skin with incessant itching, it’s likely to be hives. While the symptoms of hives in dogs only last for a couple of days, it’s an uncomfortable experience that requires immediate treatment. 

So, this article will cover the most important things to know about your dog hives, including symptoms, underlying causes, treatment options, and how to prevent hives.

What Are Dog Hives?

Hives, or urticaria, are a sign that your dog’s immune system is overreacting to a food allergy or an insect bite. This allergic reaction often causes skin rashes on your dog’s body, which can be irritating and itchy.

It can take several minutes to hours for wheals, which are swollen red spots on the pet’s skin, to appear after your dog comes into contact with the allergen. They usually appear on the stomach, neck, head, back, and legs.

In most cases, a pet’s hives don’t last more than two days after exposure to the allergen. However, if ignored, these allergic reactions can lead to a significant health threat. For instance, your pet might suffer from anaphylaxis or his airways can become swollen, making breathing difficult. This is particularly true for facial swelling. Nonetheless, seeking your veterinarian immediately for treatment options to ease your dog’s discomfort is essential. 

Symptoms of Dog Hives 

One can easily confuse any kind of skin inflammation on a dog’s skin with hives. However, hives usually manifest as wheals on the skin surface rather than bumps forming underneath the fatty layer of skin. The size of these round and red bumps can range from 1-5 cm in diameter, and they may merge to form a bigger mass depending on the extent of the condition.

Other symptoms include excessive scratching and drooling if the hives affect the dog’s muzzle. This condition can have life-threatening consequences if the swelling occurs in the respiratory system.

Sadly, spotting these lesions can be quite challenging, considering the thick fur on your dog. Therefore, it’s advisable to look out for small raised tufts of hair instead of trying to locate the red wheals concealed beneath their dense fur.

Causes of Dog Hives

Chemical, dietary or environmental allergens are the common cause of hives in dogs. It’s essential to know that an allergic reaction can also lead to skin hives, and there are other causes of urticaria:

  • Insect stings usually on your dog’s neck or head
  • Topical products like shampoos
  • New medication
  • Food allergies
  • Vaccinations
  • Toxic plants

Sometimes getting to the root cause of these itchy small bumps can be difficult. For dogs with regular episodes of hives, it’s paramount that you watch what your dogs eat and control their exposure to several environmental factors until you can identify the trigger.

More importantly, heat, sunlight, stress, exercise, genetic abnormalities, and friction can be the reason for the dog’s hives or intensify the symptoms. 

How Your Veterinarian Diagnose Hives in Dogs

Your veterinarian performs a thorough physical examination to locate the raised welts due to hives. Also, your vet will be interested in your dog’s food allergies and what your pup has been exposed to in the past few hours. It’s essential to give as many details as possible including describing the dog’s environment for proper treatment.

How to Treat Hives in Dogs

Itchy skin, excessive drooling, and other common symptoms can indicate immediate veterinary attention.

There are many treatment options for dog hives. However, your dog’s condition should improve quickly with an antihistamine and a steroid or a combination of intravenous fluids and injectable medication for severe allergic reactions in your dogs. 

For pet parents who prefer home remedies, you may want to try the following:

  • Cold compress over the dramatic swelling or hives to ease the dog’s scratching.
  • Antihistamines is another effective medication for hives, but it needs to be administered under your veterinarian’s supervision.

How to Manage Hives in Dogs

Once your vet has examined your dog, you would have to work together to understand the cause of the hives in dogs using the manner of exposure to allergens and your pet’s health history. If hives commonly occur in your dog, it’s paramount you learn how to manage this condition:

  • Allergy testing might be recommended to help determine the environmental allergens to prevent acute allergic reactions that can sometimes be life-threatening.
  • Immunotherapy treatment is another excellent way to manage dogs’ hives by desensitizing them to ensure specific allergens do not trigger them.
  • A thorough examination of your dog’s diet narrows down the ingredients leading to an allergic reaction and, eventually, a medical emergency. 

Dog’s Hives: FAQs

How long do dog hives last?

Usually, hives resolve after a couple of hours from manifesting. It takes less than 48 hours for dog hives to disappear suddenly. 

What are the symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction?

This is a severe reaction to an allergen, usually accompanied by shortness of breath, throat, lips, or tongue swelling, weak pulse, rash, fainting, or severe itching. Perhaps the most significant indication is wheeled on the neck, head, abdomen, back, and mucous membranes. 

Can vaccination cause hives in dogs?

Vaccines contain many components that can trigger an adverse reaction and result in dog hives. You should contact your vet immediately if you notice any unusual symptoms. To avoid this condition from happening ever again, your vet might modify future vaccination protocols or pre-treat your pet before administering the same vaccine.


Although dog hives are not a cause for alarm as they tend to disappear quickly, they should not be ignored. Taking your pet to the vet is vital to help ease the itching and other discomforting symptoms. 

This condition is usually a result of an allergic reaction. Therefore, it’s essential to fish out the underlying cause to prevent any potential future episode. 

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