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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Hives View In Dogs

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition




Condition Overview

Hives can cover just part of the body or the entire pet. Hives are more of an uncomfortable nuisance than an actual danger to your dog or cat. Hives generally appear within 30 minutes of exposure and disappear within 24 hours.


Short-haired pets such as Dalmatians or Boxers look like checkerboard dogs when the welts make their fur stand up in splotches. Hives can also make your pet's face swell and the eyes swell shut.

The reaction makes them itch, and pets will rip and tear at their skin to relieve the irritation.


Hives are an allergic reaction. Insect bites are a common cause of hives. Hives can also occur after a vaccination, or from pollen or another form of contact allergy.

Penicillin, tetracycline, and other antibiotics can produce hives. Topical insecticides and soaps are other causes. Hives that come and go are usually caused by an allergen in the dogs environment.


Hives are an allergic reaction characterized by the sudden appearance of raised, circular, itchy wheals (welts) beneath the fur.

Since hives are often caused by allergies, you may have to do a little detective work to find the source of the reaction. Write down when the hives began, when they worsened (or improved), and what your pet was eating or exposed to. You should also note if other animals in the house were affected.

Most reactions to insect stings or vaccinations are mild and cause only aggravating discomfort. Occasionally however, pets can have a life-threatening reaction called anaphylaxis, which causes sudden swelling, trouble breathing, and collapse. The signs generally happen within 15 - 30 minutes, and the pets can go from acting normal to near death within minutes.

If you see these symptoms, give your pet an antihistamine like Benadryl as soon as possible. Pets suffering from anaphylaxis may have trouble swallowing because their throats often swell. In this case, the liquid version of Benadryl may be more effective. Pets need 1mg per pound of body weight every 6 - 8 hours.

Draw up the liquid in an eyedropper or needle-less syringe. Squirt it into your pets cheek pocket, close his mouth, and stroke his throat until you see him swallow. This can help bring down swelling and ease his breathing, but anaphylaxis is a life threatening emergency, Take your pet to the vet right away.


When possible, identify the allergen and prevent further exposure by removing it from the dogs environment. When a food allergy is suspected, modify the dogs diet. Companies such as California Natural and Wellpet (formerly Eagle Pack & Wellness) have premium quality foods specifically formulated for allergetic dogs. In the case of an acute reaction, you can give a dose of Milk of Magnesia to speed removal of the food from the intestinal tract. Please contact your vet for specific dosage recommendations.

When hives appear shortly after a shampoo or application of a topical insecticide, bathe the dog thoroughly in a cold water bath to remove the chemical from the dog's coat and skin. Natural oatmeal shampoos are great for soothing the skin.

Hives respond well to an antihistamine such as Benadryl. Cortisone may be needed to control a severe case.


Avoid feeding store brand and "Prescription Diet" foods to pets that are already suffering food allergy as these foods usually contain lower quality ingredients that can create more problems for the dog, such as hot spots and ear infections.


If you have further questions, contact your veterinarian. If you think your pet is having an anaphylaxis reaction, follow the liquid Benadryl instructions above and go to your vet immediately.

Show Sources & Contributors +


Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook

Publisher: Wiley Publishing, 2007

Website: http://www.wiley.com/WileyCDA/

Authors: Debra M. Eldredge, Liisa D. Carlson, Delbert G. Carlson, James M. Giffen MD

The Doctors Book of Home Remedies for Dogs and Cats

Publisher: Bantam Dell Publishing, 1996

Website: http://www.randomhouse.com/bantamdell/

Authors: Matthew Hoffman, Laura Catalano, Maryanne Dell

The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

Website: http://www.rodalebooks.com/

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

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