The reason dogs breaks out in hives can be: flea allergy, food allergy, allergy against medication or other supplements, contact allergy or parasite infections.

Scratching, gnawing and licking is fairly common dog behavior, but it’s quite easy to tell when they’re doing it a bit too aggressively or far too often.

4 Signs Of An Allergic Reaction

  • General redness and swelling
  • Excessive scratching, gnawing and biting
  • Swollen lips and drooling
  • Swelling around the eyes

If you suspect that your dogs is suffering from an allergic reaction, a trip to the vet is the next step to take. Once the cause has been identified, treatment can be prescribed.

Immunotherapy has become a widely known treatment for dog allergies. This is a process where small amounts of the allergen is given to your dog over time, so that their immune system can learn how to fight off the reaction.

Before testing begins, your veterinarian will likely warn you that the full beneficial results of immunotherapy might only become visible after about a year of treatment. Immunotherapy will only treat the root of the problem, not the symptoms. [1]

Benadryl is quite well known for being affective in relieving the symptoms of hives.

It is safe to use, provided you administer the right dosage. This is dependent on the size of your dog.

Consulting your vet about the right dosage for your dog is definitely the best choice. It is very possible for your dog to overdose if he or she is given too much, and the end result could be fatal.

Two of the most common allergic reaction types are known as Type 1 and Type  4.

Did you Know?

According to Dr. Jeff Werber. Almost any allergen that your pet is extremely sensitive to can cause an outbreak in hives

Type 1 Allergies

  • Flea allergies
  • Food allergies
  • Allergies to medication and supplements

This type is known as an early allergic reaction. The negative effects start occurring instantly or very shortly after exposure. [2]

Flea Allergies

Flea allergies are extremely common for dogs. This can be a tough one to manage, even if your pup is being bathed and groomed regularly. There are a few different options available to combat fleas.

Food allergies

Food allergies are unpredictable, and they can start up at any time.

There is a medical theory that this is the type of allergy that puppies suffer from the most. [3]

When food becomes the suspected cause of the allergic reaction, an elimination diet can be put in place. This is an eating plan where specific foods are given to your dog one at a time. It’s basically a checklist that you mark off from top to bottom.

If there is no visible negative affect from one, you move on to the next. This diet is thought to be the most accurate way to diagnose food allergies. The elimination diet should be implemented slowly over a period of five to seven days.

Known Proteins and Carbs that can Cause Allergic Reactions

  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Beef
  • Soy
  • Dairy
  • Rice
  • Wheat


Your vet may also prescribe a hydrolyzed diet. With hydrolysis, water is used to chemically break down the proteins in the foods. These pieces of protein become so small that your dog’s immune system doesn’t even realize they are there.

Regular trips to the vet are recommended during these diets so that your dog’s progress can be monitored. If everything goes according to plan, licking, scratching and gnawing can be reduced by as much as 50%.

Pro tip : It is entirely possible for your dog to be allergic to more than one type of food.

Unfortunately there is no known cure for food allergies. In addition to the ones that your dog may already have, new allergies can also emerge over time. The best option is to identify what’s causing the problem, and to remove it from your dog’s diet. [4]

Allergies to Medication And Supplements

Meal supplements and multi vitamins can be very beneficial to your dog’s overall health. While these are often recommended, we need to remember that they could be allergic to any number of ingredients found in these tablets and drops.

Type 4 Allergies

  • Contact allergies
  • Reactions to parasitic infections

This is referred to as delayed-type hypersensitivity, because the reaction time can be anywhere between 24 to 48 hours.

Contact Allergies

These specific allergies are responsible for about 10% of skin disorders in dogs. Direct skin contact with the allergen is needed for a reaction to take place.

Some Breeds Are More Affected by Allergies than others:

  • German Shepherds
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Poodles
  • Fox Terriers
  • Scottish Terriers
  • West Highland White Terriers

You will notice that half of the dogs on that list are from the Terrier family, and those are just the small guys. Some of the larger terrier breeds have been known to break out in hives much more frequently than most other dogs. There’s even a term for it – bully bumps.

Symptoms of contact allergies would be easiest to spot in areas where your dog’s coat is a bit thinner, like their tummy. There is a clear difference between healthy skin and parts of the skin that are reacting negatively, so it won’t be all that hard to notice.

Potentail Causes

  • Certain plants
  • Medicines
  • Metals (nickel and chromium ; both found in dog collars)
  • Detergents
  • Rubber
  • Shampoos

Pro tip : Giving your dog a bath in cool water may offer some relief from allergy induced hives. This could potentially also cleanse the fur and skin of what might be causing the reaction – Dr. Jangi Bajwa [5][6]

Reactions to parasitic infections

Parasitic infections usually peak in humid weather. A symptomatic reaction from a parasite can start off as a small irritation, but can potentially be life threatening if left unattended.

It is also very important to remember that these parasites can easily be transferred from dog to owner. Speak to your vet about recommended de-worming treatments.

4 Common Parasites Found In Dogs

  • Roundworms
  • Hookworms
  • Whipworms
  • Tapeworms

Preventative Measures And Treatments

  • Liquid drops
  • Shampoos
  • Sprays
  • Special dog collars

Ticks can also cause huge problems, but luckily they are much easier to detect.

Experiments have indicated that bites from ticks cause an immediate-type of reaction. Mosquito bites have been known to cause skin flare-ups, but this usually only becomes an issue during the warm summer months.

Home Remedies

  • Chamomile & Herbal Tea Soaks
  • Apple Cider Vinegar and Water Spray
  • Oatmeal Bath
  • Coconut Oil

Chamomile & Herbal Tea Soaks

These herbal teas are known to have properties that calm irritated skin. If your dog is itchy from head to toe, you can fill up the bath or sink with warm water and throw a few of these different tea bags in there for around three minutes. Take the tea bags out and let your dog soak for a bit. Five minutes should be enough.

If your dog is only experiencing a small outbreak in certain areas, you can opt for a teabag or two and a few cups of hot water.  Allow the tea to cool down before you pour it over the affected areas. Allow it to drip dry and don’t rinse.

Apple Cider Vinegar and Water Spray

This mixture should be diluted into a spray bottle at a 50/50 split. Apple cider vinegar is natural and generally safe to use on dry and irritated skin. This vinegar is also known to have antiseptic properties and can potentially offer relief from outbreaks caused by poison ivy.

Be very sure not to use this formula on open wounds or raw skin, as it will sting and cause a huge amount of discomfort. The spray bottle will also help with targeted application so that you can avoid the areas that look like they may have been scratched or gnawed a bit too much already.

If your dog has managed to get poison ivy or oak on the bottom of their paws, soak them in this solution for about five minutes.

Oatmeal Bath

This is one of the older and more well known home remedies, and is also quite safe. It can be found as one of the active ingredients in a large variety of anti allergy shampoos.

The oatmeal can be ground into a powder and sprinkled into a warm bath. It should take around ten to fifteen minutes to calm and soothe the affected areas. It is also non toxix so there is no danger in your pet licking it off whilst soaking in the tub.

Oatmeal paste is another option. Mix your ground oatmeal with a bit of water and you’re good to go. Spread the paste evenly over all of your pup’s red and itchy areas.

Pro tip: Giving your dog plain, sugar-free yoghurt can offer various health benefits.
Recommended Serving:

Small dogs – one teaspoon a week
Big dogs – two teaspoons a week

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is well known for it’s antibacterial compounds. It also doubles up as a great moisturizer because of the oil’s ability to go all the way through the fur and reach the skin.

Dogs with various skin afflictions stand to benefit from being treated with this oil. Leave the container of coconut oil in the fridge until it is completely solid. Massage the oil into the coat and skin, paying special attention to the problem areas. [7]

Practice caution and consult your vet before trying any of these remedies out at home.

Final Thoughts

There are a number of things we can do to help our dogs if they’re suffering from discomfort, but it all starts with having the correct information and successfully identifying the cause of the problem.

When speaking to your vet, try to be as informative as you can about your dog’s medical history and general behavior. Even if you think that what you’re saying might not be important. It will make your life (and theirs) much easier. Also, don’t hesitate to ask for advice and recommendations on helpful websites.  

Stay on top of your pup’s health and always get an expert opinion if you’re dealing with something new. Your dog’s well-being is more than worth it.