Picture it: you and your pooch are relaxing together when you notice them. He’s been uncharacteristically itchy lately, so you’ve been a bit suspicious, but finally, you see them – the raised, red welts all over his body.
Your doggo has hives, and you’re left with a ton of confusion. How did he get them? Where did they come from? What do I do about these hives now that they’re here? Could I have prevented them?
The truth is, dogs can get hives for a number of reasons and treating them is vital to your dog’s well-being!
It’s important to understand what hives are and where they come from because not every irritation or bump on your dog means he has hives. Overall, hives can be boiled down to non-life-threatening, though, if left alone, could develop into bigger issues.
For that reason, keeping an eye on your dog, knowing the signs to look out for, and figuring out how to treat your dog’s hives are all important pieces of knowledge to have on hand! Your dog can get hives from food allergies, chemical reactions, plants (like poison ivy), vaccines, bites or stings, and pretty much any allergen your pet is hypersensitive to.
Signs Your Dog May Have Hives
While you might think it’s fairly obvious to tell if your dog has hives, it can be a difficult call sometimes. How do you know your dog’s itchiness means he’s having a reaction? Maybe he’s just scratching, like all dogs do from time to time. It is important you’re able to make the distinction though, so you must watch out for signs that your dog may be giving you.
First, keep an eye out for excess scratching or itching. That’s the first sign that your dog’s skin is irritated, and it’s likely that he’ll want to scratch if something is bugging him.
Next, you might notice large areas of swelling and redness around his face, belly, or legs. You might even notice excess swelling around his muzzle, too. His eyes might puff up, become irritated, and water a lot, so check for tear stains on lighter-colored dogs as an indicator. Your pup might even drool more than usual if he’s developing hives or a rash.
Odds are, your dog is probably giving you all the body language cues you need to know that something is going on – you just have to know what to look for. Take a good, hard look at your pup to see if some of these signs have been in his wheelhouse as of late:
Head, tilting, Panting, Scratching, Pacing
But that’s not all your dog may do to let you know he’s experiencing hives, a rash, or something similar. Keep those body language cues in mind, but don’t forget to check for these signs, too:
Mosquito-Bite Like Bumps
Large, Red, Raised Bumps
Eye Watering and Closure
Scratching & Itching
The Treatments that Historically Work For Hives
While we always recommend checking with your dog-tor before you treat your dog yourself, here are a few tried and true methods that have historically worked to help reduce or treat your doggo’s hives.
First, head to your vet to see what can be done! Traditionally, hives will be treated by professionals with antihistamines like Benadryl or steroids, depending on how severe the hives actually are. Discuss with your vet before feeding your pet any medications, of course.
Additionally, it’s quite possible that hives can resolve on their own once the allergen is removed, however, it can be tough to determine what the cause is. To combat this, you can take your pup to the vet for allergy testing to help determine what he should stay away from.
Dog-tors advice using a cold towel or ice to help soothe your doggo’s skin if he’s extra itchy, too. If it’s a first-time reaction, certainly make sure your dog sees his vet immediately – if left untreated, sometimes hives can develop into more severe issues.
How Hives Work Scientifically
Understanding how hives work and what they are can help you understand how to avoid them and how to treat your dog if he does get them.
Hives, also called urticaria, are a hypersensitive skin reaction that’s defined by very itchy, raised, smooth bumps that are discolored compared to the surrounding skin. If exposed to certain allergens, your dog can develop these types of skin bumps on his body – either just a few or an entire rash of them. Sometimes, hives can even be caused by stress.
Typically, they will be around .2 inches around, though they can be bigger. Antihistamines can help reduce hives and get rid of itching because they block histamines, a chemical in the skin that can cause an outbreak of hives. Sometimes, steroids can help reduce hives as well.
How to Prevent Hives and Train your Dog to Deal With Them
The best way to avoid your dog from getting hives is to understand what causes them in the first place. Whether it’s a plant, a chemical in his bath soap, a food, or a vaccination, understanding what irritates your dog is the first step to preventing it.
To do that, talk to your vet about getting an allergy test for your four-legged friend. This test will involve quite a bit of pricking, so ensure that you’ve trained your pup to remain calm and collected at the vet’s office. Don’t hesitate to give him lots of treats for his good behavior!
Additionally, training your dog to stay away from things he’s allergic to is key. In this case, ensuring he’s got a firm grasp on commands like “no,” “leave it,” and “drop it,” will come in handy.
You might also want to train your dog to take medicine. Though hives can be prevented, sometimes things just happen, and to combat the reaction, Benadryl, or a prescribed medicine from your vet, can make all the difference. Train your dog to take medicine from your hand, play a throw-and-catch game with his pills, or show him how to eat it with his food.
How To React If Your Dog Has Hives
- Rub ice or a cold cloth on your dog’s irritated skin.
- Get an allergy test to figure out what your dog is sensitive to.
- Contact your vet.
- Help your dog avoid allergens.
- With vet permission and prescription, give steroids to your pup.
- With vet permission, give an antihistamine to your pup.