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Dog Hives

What Are Dog Hives?

Dog hives, also known as urticaria, are raised and reddened areas on the skin indicating an allergic reaction. Just like in humans, hives can be intensely itchy for your dog, signaling an immune system overreaction.

These hives can develop rapidly and vanish just as quickly. The raised red patches, termed wheals, may emerge within minutes to hours after exposure to an allergen. While they can surface anywhere on your dog’s body, they are typically found on the head, neck, back, stomach, and legs.

In mild instances, hives usually resolve within 12-48 hours after contact with the allergen. However, because of the potential for the reaction to escalate to severe swelling of your dog’s airways or anaphylaxis, a serious allergic reaction, prompt treatment is essential upon observing hives on your dog. This is particularly critical for hives occurring on the face or around the throat, which can trigger dangerous swelling and potential airway obstruction.


Symptoms of dog hives include raised red areas of skin known as wheals, which can manifest anywhere, including mucous membranes, but are typically observed on the head, neck, back, abdomen, and legs. Dogs may experience intense itching along with excessive drooling if there is swelling in the mouth. Swelling, known as angioedema, is especially worrisome when it affects the face and respiratory system, potentially leading to severe and life-threatening complications.


Dog hives can be triggered by various allergens, including environmental, chemical, or dietary substances that your dog is sensitive to. Common culprits include:

  • Insect stings or bites, which often affect the head and neck areas of your pup.
  • Shampoos or topical agents.
  • Medications.
  • Vaccinations.
  • Toxic plants.
  • Food allergens.

Among these, insect bites, chemical exposure, and medications are the most frequent causes of dog hives.


When diagnosing hives in your dog, veterinarians will conduct a thorough examination to identify the characteristic wheals associated with the condition. These wheals typically retain hair and may cluster in certain areas. In addition to the physical assessment, diagnosis involves:

  • Gathering any relevant history you can provide, including detailed information about potential allergens your dog may have encountered and when and where you first noticed the hives.
  • Observing your dog’s response to treatment.


Treatment for dog hives typically yields swift results and may involve the following:

  • Administration of antihistamines (oral or injectable) along with steroids.
  • Injectable medications and intravenous fluids may be necessary in severe cases.

At-home remedies might include:

  • Applying cold compresses over the hives or swollen areas to alleviate itching.
  • Use of antihistamines, but only as directed and under the supervision of your veterinarian.

Living and Management

Collaborate with your veterinarian to identify the root cause of your dog’s hives by considering both your dog’s health records and exposure to potential allergens. Depending on the underlying cause and recurrence of hives, your veterinarian may suggest:

  • Allergy testing to verify environmental allergens.
  • Immunotherapy treatment aimed at desensitizing your dog to particular allergens.
  • Conducting a food trial to pinpoint ingredients triggering reactions and formulate tailored dietary guidelines.

Dog Hives FAQs

Are dog hives considered an emergency?

Yes, dog hives indicate an allergic reaction within the body. While the hives themselves are typically uncomfortable, they could potentially lead to serious complications such as anaphylaxis and even death. It is advisable to address even mild cases of hives promptly.

What can I administer to my dog for hives?

Before administering any medication to your dog, it’s crucial to consult your veterinarian. The vet may recommend specific medications for immediate use or to keep on hand for future occurrences.

How long do hives typically persist?

Hives can vanish within a few hours or last up to 48 hours.

Can anxiety trigger hives in dogs?

Although there is a slight possibility that psychological stress may induce dog hives, generally, anxiety tends to exacerbate existing hives rather than directly cause them.

Should I seek veterinary care for my dog’s hives?

Yes, since hives indicate a broader issue—an allergic reaction—they necessitate treatment to alleviate your dog’s discomfort and prevent the reaction from escalating.

What do dog hives appear like?

Dog hives manifest as red, often swollen patches of skin that can be highly itchy. While they can emerge anywhere on the body, they are commonly observed on the head, neck, back, stomach, or legs.

Which foods might trigger hives in dogs?

There isn’t a single food that universally causes hives in dogs. However, if your dog is allergic to a specific food or ingredient, it can lead to hives in your individual dog.

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