Hives usually appear suddenly and are small, round, raised bumps on the skin. The hair sticks out in little patches and sometimes the whole face (especially the eyelids and muzzle) will swell as well. Facial swelling can cause itching, and with itching comes scratching and face rubbing (on furniture, on the carpet, etc.).
Hives usually appear within 20 to 30 minutes after exposure to a certain allergen. They normally disappear within 24 hours. Sometimes, however, they may last longer.
Symptoms of Dog Hives
As described above, hives appear as small, round, raised bumps on the skin of the face and other parts of a dog’s body, such as the legs and the abdomen. The hair over the bumps stands up and sticks out in small patches.
There may be swelling and itching, so your dog may scratch and lick the affected area.
If the face (especially around the muzzle) is swollen, the dog may start drooling.
In severe cases, hives may cause swelling in the throat, making it difficult for the dog to breathe and swallow.
Although hives are generally not life-threatening, there are exceptions.
For example, if your dog has a swollen face and has difficulty breathing, this could be dangerous. Be sure to take him to the vet immediately! It’s an emergency!
You should also take your doggie to the vet if the hives do not disappear in 48 hours.
Causes of Dog Hives
One of the most common causes of hives in dogs is insect bites and stings. Bee stings on the face can cause the face to swell. In serious cases, the dog may have difficulty breathing.
Other possible causes include:
- Certain Medications: Some medications, such as penicillin, tetracycline, and other antibiotics, may cause allergic reactions to some dogs. The result may be an outbreak of hives on the body.
- Vaccines: Some dogs may also have allergic reactions to some vaccines, such as rabies shots. If your dog has a history of allergies to some vaccines, be sure to let your vet know.
- Food Allergies: Sometimes, a dog may be allergic to certain food items and as a result develop hives.
- Topical Treatments: Some topical treatments, such as topical insecticides (e.g. flea and tick control meds) and medicated soaps, contain rather harsh chemicals that may cause skin irritations and hives in some dogs, especially those with sensitive skin.
- Some Shampoo: Sometimes, dogs with sensitive skin may break out in hives if a strong shampoo is used. Usually such shampoo contains strong artificial scent and/or color, as well as other chemicals such as additives. If your dog has sensitive skin, use an all natural organic shampoo to avoid skin issues such as hives.
- Poisonous Plants: Plants like poison ivy can also cause hive outbreaks in dogs.
Treatment for Hives
If it’s the first time for your dog to develop hives, it’s advisable to take him to the vet just to be sure, especially if there is facial swelling.
Usually, the vet will use an antihistamine such as Benadryl to help relieve itching, swelling and other symptoms associated with hives. In severe cases, corticosteroids may be prescribed.
If an acute case of canine hives is caused by eating certain food, a dose of Milk of Magnesia can be used to remove the food quickly from the digestive system.
If an acute case of hives is caused by certain topical insecticide or medicated shampoo, use a mild dog shampoo to bathe the dog and rinse thoroughly to remove the chemical from the dog’s skin and hair.
Home Remedies for Dog Hives
Minor outbreaks of hives without any swelling can be treated using home remedies. The purpose is to relieve the itchiness and make the dog feel more comfortable. The hives usually disappear in a day or so.
If your dog’s hives are caused by food allergies, you need to identify the food items that are causing the problem and eliminate such items from your dog’s diet.
For hives that are causing a lot itching and irritation to your dog, use something that is skin-soothing to relieve the itching and irritation.
Oat is soothing and can be used as a topical treatment for hives. If you have oatmeal at home, just boil some in water until it forms a wet paste. Let it cool and apply it directly onto the hives.
Alternatively, if you have green tea bags, steep a couple in 2 cups of hot water. Discard the teabags and let the tea cool down. Pour the cooled tea on affected areas.
You can also make an apple cider vinegar rinse. Add about two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to 4-5 cups of water and use it as a rinse.
Home remedies for dog hives include the use of oat, apple cider vinegar, and green tea bags.
Prevention of Hives in Dogs
Avoidance is the best way to prevent hives in dogs.
If you know that your dog is allergic to certain substances, such as certain food items, medicines, or vaccines, such items should be avoided at all costs.
Your vet should also be notified especially if your dog is allergic to some drugs or vaccines.
Dogs who develop hives easily usually are hypersensitive to allergens, due among other things to a compromised immune system. Supplements such as fish oil, vitamins C and E can be beneficial for your dog’s skin and allergies. Ask your vet for recommendations.