Developing Hives in Dogs

Why is my dog developing hives?

What are Developing Hives?

Dog’s who develop hives have either inhaled an irritant or have come into contact with it. Hives will appear as itchy, red raised spots that form on the skin, and will usually develop within 30 minutes of coming into contact with the substance that your pet has a hypersensitivity to. Some common reactants causing hives include:

  • Bug bites
  • Soaps or shampoos
  • Food
  • Drug and medication allergie
  • Pesticides or natural pollens

The raised red spots will usually disappear within 24 hours and can form anywhere on the skin. They are usually circular in shape, and you may notice raised fur in the places that the hives form on your dog’s skin. Medications will need to be used to reduce the pain. Although any dog can develop allergies to something throughout their life, Retrievers, Setters and Terriers along with flat faced breeds including Bulldogs, Boston Terriers and Pugs seem to develop them more easily.

Why Developing Hives Occurs in Dogs

When your dog has a hypersensitivity to something, they can develop hives when it comes into contact with the substance, as it will trigger the formation of antibodies. There are many possible reactions that can cause hives, along with other symptoms. Some examples of other symptoms include dry skin and oily hair, hair loss, intense itching, warts and bumpy spots, trouble breathing, smelly fur, puffing up around the eyes and face, rashes, skin lesions and yellow skin appearing in patches. 

Bug Bites 

The most common insect bites that occur on dogs are wasp, bee, hornet or ant stings. Your pet will most likely begin to show signs of the bite after 20 minutes, but the symptoms can continue to develop 12 to 24 hours after the bite occurs. The most common area for dogs to get bitten is on the head and face or around the mouth. If the sting takes place on the stomach, it is most likely done by an ant or wasp. Bug bites can cause inflammation and irritation, but should subside within an hour. Stings done by honey bees or wasps will result in stings that will be red and feel hot to the touch. If the stinger of the insect is left in the skin of the dog, it can continue to release venom. Ticks, spiders and fleas can also bite and leave similar symptoms behind. Insect bites can cause swelling on the eyelids, lips, and entire face, which can make it difficult to breathe. Your pet may have overall weakness, wheezing, a weak pulse, unconsciousness, a fast heart rate and fever that can lead to shock, hives, vomiting, diarrhea, collapse or trembling.

Soaps Or Shampoos

Dogs can have reactions to soaps and shampoos when the pet’s body considers an ingredient in the shampoo as an intruder. There are a number of ingredients in dog soaps and shampoos that can create a negative reaction from your pet. The reactions can occur quickly after the dog has come into contact with the irritant, and will often worsen with repeated exposure. Symptoms often noticed with soap and shampoo allergies are hives, obsessive licking, biting their paws, shaking their head, rubbing their feet, skin rashes and infections, chronic ear infections and inflamed feet, bald patches, lesions that look like blisters, skin ulcerations and swelling around the face.


Food intolerance will occur when your dog’s immune system reacts with a specific ingredient in a food. Food allergies can take months or even years to develop, but once your pet becomes allergic, he will most likely always be. Sources of protein, like meat, are the most common ingredients that cause reactions. Besides meats such as beef, there is wheat and milk products can be sources of irritation. Infections and inflammation, past surgeries and sometimes medications can sometimes make allergies occur as they can cause damage and alter the digestive system. Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea, wheezing, sneezing and coughing, flatulence, red and inflamed skin, excessive scratching leading to hair loss or chronic ear problems. 

Dogs at any age can begin to develop food intolerances, although some breeds seem to develop them more easily. These include Irish Settlers, Cocker Spaniels and White Terriers. Food allergies will mainly take form in skin irritation or upset digestive systems. Skin lesions will appear mainly around the face, ears and feet. Pets who continuously experience external ear infections should be checked for food allergies. Food intolerances can have similar signs as other illnesses that can be serious and therefore your pet should be brought to the vet as a precaution. These allergies will most likely be present for the rest of your pet’s life, so the main goal will be to manage it by finding replacement foods for the ingredient that is causing the intolerance. Dietary elimination trials can be used to determine which ingredient is causing the symptoms. When you perform the trial, be sure to eliminate any other types of food, snacks and treats as well in order to determine what food is causing the reaction.  

Drug And Medication Allergies

Some drugs and medications that you are giving to your dog may possess an ingredient that will cause their immune system to react. Moreover, over vaccinating or over medicating your dog can actually increase their immune system’s hypersensitivity and therefore make them more susceptible to allergies.

Pesticides Or Natural Pollens

Pesticides or other toxins that you may be using in or around your home can have the same negative effect on your dog. Pollens and plants that your pet could be exposed to may also trigger a response from the immune system. They may contain something that your dog reacts to and can cause discomfort in the form of hives, along with other symptoms. Ragweed, fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides are all potential causes. Try to think of times that your pet has had an allergic reaction and match it with what was present in their surroundings at or before that time. This will allow you to narrow down the possible sources of irritation.

What to do if your Dog is Developing Hives

Hives will usually disappear once the pet is no longer in contact with the reactant. To determine what caused the hives, consider what has happened in the hours before they began to form. This can include any new foods eaten by your dog or any areas that your pet has visited. To help resolve dog allergies, you can check with your vet if Milk of Magnesia can be used to remove the food from your pet’s stomach. Hives due to soaps or insecticides can be aided by bathing your pet using products that are known to not cause irritation. Keep the water cool, as warm or hotness can further irritate the skin. Baths with oatmeal can be even more beneficial. Benadryl may be beneficial in curing the reaction, and in extreme cases your vet may suggest treatments involving cortisone. Topical medication or an antihistamine given orally may be prescribed if the itching and scratching continue. 

Keep in mind that many dogs will react differently to medications, and experimentation may be necessary in order to find what treatment will work best for your pet. Oral corticosteroids can be used for short term treatment. If the hives continue for over four months or do not seem to be ameliorated by medications, your veterinarian may want to perform blood or intradermal skin tests in order to determine the exact substance that is causing the reaction. Aloe Vera gel can help reduce irritation in the event of a bee or wasp sting. If the stinger is still in your pet’s skin, remove it by scraping it off using a credit card. Do not pull using tweezers, as they can squeeze it and push out more venom. After the removal, bathe the area in the paste of water and baking soda. A paste made from baking soda and water, applied several times a day, can help reduce bumps and sores. Applying a cold pack several times a day for a few minutes can further help with the pain and swelling. If swelling from a bite is causing difficulty breathing or is obstructing the dog’s vision, they should be brought to the vet. Spider bites should also be checked professionally, as some of these insects can expel venom that is dangerous. Bug bites, if constantly itched and scratched at, can become infected. 

Allergies to soaps and shampoos will most likely result in a skin scraping after a physical exam. Cutaneous cytology will be used to examine the skin scraping and the skin cells will be evaluated microscopically to look for yeast infections or mites. The signs of a reaction will most likely occur near the groin, between the toes, under the front legs and on the face. A preliminary diagnosis can often be made by taking into account the timing of the response and the symptoms. Your vet may ask for an intradermal skin test, where small amounts of the reactants are injected under the skin in a localized area in order to create a reaction. Treatments can also be done at home, if you are able to identify the substance that is causing the reaction on your own. Any areas of skin that have had contact with the soap or shampoo should be rinsed in cool water in order to minimize the exposure. Medications and antihistamines may be prescribed by your vet to relieve the symptoms. Corticosteroid injections are known to be successful in reducing the symptoms but should only be used if other forms of medications have first been tried and have failed, as they can have some negative side effects. 

If your dog is allergic to a meat which is their only source of protein, be sure to find a new source, such as eggs, types of fish, duck, or lamb. It is possible that your pet is allergic to all of these sources, in which case you may need to ask your vet about what foods can be given to your dog to maintain a healthy balanced diet.

Prevention of Developing Hives

The most obvious and only way to prevent hives are to avoid the substance that is causing them. In the case of reactions to foods, you should avoid feeding the ingredient that is reacting with your dog’s digestive system. Avoid foods who contain many additives. Do not over vaccinate or over medicate your dog. If you observe that your pet is itchy after receiving a chemical treatment, consider other options for treating the problem. For example, investing in less reactive and more natural tick and flea medications can possibly be beneficial.

Giving your pet cold baths and medications that are prescribed by your veterinarian are the best way to relieve the pain and itchiness of the hives. Ensure that your pet lives in a home with quality air. This means no smoking or airborne toxins should be present. To do this, you can switch to non-toxic cleaners and invest in an air purifier. Your pet should also have constant access to clean and fresh water; iif your pet is experiencing allergies of any type, filtering their water may help.

Cost of Developing Hives

Although hives are not life-threatening, treatments will still be needed in order to keep your dog comfortable. Depending on what is causing the reaction, medications will have different costs. Bug bite allergies that require treatment will vary in expense according to the reaction and the severity. Treating soap and shampoo allergies will cost about $250, and relieving and treating symptoms of food allergies will cost about $1500.

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