Can Dogs Get Hives?

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Nettle rash, urticaria, hives: These are different names for the same thing. Those raised red welts that appear on your skin when you brush past stinging nettles. Hives are the result of histamine release in the skin, which causes the swelling. This is a form of allergic reaction and can be triggered by different things in different people.

We avoid nettles because we know they sting and will trigger an itchy rash. But here's a thought, what about dogs?

Can Dogs Get Hives?

YES!

Of course, the most obvious difference between people and dogs is our fur-friends usually have a dense covering of hair. This protects them against chance contact, the doggy equivalent of wearing pants and hiking boots while walking in woods. But prolonged or direct contact, or even breathing in allergens will trigger hives.

Does My Dog Have Hives?

Be alert for a condition that:

  • Comes on suddenly

  • Creates raised red wheals on the skin

  • Causes the hair to stand on end, which gives a fur coat a lumpy, bumpy appearance

  • Is itchy

  • Causes generalized swelling, such as fat lips or a puffy face

Hives are the result of an allergic reaction. Below are some common allergens.

Diagnosis is made by a veterinarian on the physical appearance of the bumps and their sudden appearance. For more information, follow the links above.

How Do I Treat My Dog's Hives?

A good starting point is to give the dog a dose of antihistamine. However, if the bumps are already present, the antihistamine may only stop the swellings getting worse, rather than clear them up.

Another tip is to bathe the dog and wash away any lingering traces of allergen. If neither of these things make any difference, then be sure to see the vet. Sometimes a shot of steroid is necessary, to get severe hives to settle or deal with intolerable itchiness.

Sometimes the hive reaction is so severe that it causes marked swelling. This can be dangerous, especially if it involves the throat. If you see a fat face, lips, are most definitely the throat, seek immediate veterinary attention.

If you have a general question about hives and your dog, visit Hives Due to Allergies in Dogs , where you can access our in-house vet. (Please note: if your dog has symptoms,  please speak to your own vet for urgent advice)

How Are Hives Similar in Dogs and Humans?

Dog and human hives have a lot in common.

  • Both produce raised, red wheals on the skin

  • Both can be uncomfortably itchy

  • The reaction comes on suddenly

  • Usually responds to anti-inflammatory medications, adrenaline, or antihistamines.

How Are Hives Different in Dogs and Humans?

That fur coat can make quite a difference:

  • Dogs tend to be affected on their noses (sticking them into something they shouldn't) or flanks, where they brush against a plant

  • In short-coated dogs, the most obvious sign of urticaria is the coat has a bumpy appearance.

  • Dogs tend not to respond as well to antihistamines as people.

Case Study

Sid the Staffie runs off in the woods. His owner's relief, when the dog returns, quickly turns to disbelief when she sees the dog's coat has suddenly become very bumpy. He wasn't like that ten minutes ago!

Almost in front of her eyes, Sid's muzzle starts to swell. The owner phones her vet, who tells her not to worry, but to bring Sid into the surgery for an injection to settle a suspected allergic reaction.

Half an hour later when Sid arrives at the vet's, he's covered in bumps and his face is very swollen. The vet gives Sid a steroid injection and tells the owner to watch over him at home for a couple of hours.

Once home, Sid has a hose down and already the bumps are starting to subside. Four to six hours later, happily, he is back to his normal handsome self.