Can Dogs Get Hives From Stress? What Should You Do?

dog resting on couch feeling ill

Although dogs can get hives from stress, it’s uncommon. The most common reason a dog gets hives is because of allergies. Food, pollen, dust, and medication can all cause an allergic reaction resulting in hives. The good news is hives are typically short term and easily treatable. 

Hives are more than just a place where bees live: hives are raised, itchy welts that appear on the skin. Not only are humans susceptible to getting hives, but dogs can, as well. While most cases of hives are not life threatening, they are still uncomfortable for your dog.

There are several reasons why hives might develop on your dog. As a dog owner, it’s important to be aware of these reasons.

…but Is stress included in that list of reasons? Let’s find out!

General Facts About Hives

To understand what causes hives in dogs (and if stress is the root cause), we first need to briefly go over some basic facts about what hives are. 

Hives, also known as urticaria, appear as red, pink, or skin-colored welts (bumps) on the skin. These welts are itchy, but in some cases, can cause physical pain. 

A reaction of the immune system is what causes the bumps to appear. The body enters a hyperactive state that leads to many bumps forming on the skin. 

Individual welts are typically between a quarter inch to an inch in size. The duration of hives usually ranges from a few hours to a few days, though in rare cases, it can last well beyond this.

Fortunately, hives will rarely lead to death. The only realistic cause of death where hives are involved is anaphylaxis, a life-threatening allergic reaction that encompasses more than just hives. 

If this is the case, call your vet’s emergency line as soon as possible.

Causes For Hives in Dogs

Allergies

Hives are typically caused by allergies, not stress, as you might have thought. While stress is definitely a cause for hives, it is only one of many possible causes for hives to form. Some common allergens that can cause hives include:

  • Various foods. Some of the most common are nuts, milk, and eggs
  • Pollen
  • Dust
  • Medicines and other drugs

Hives can also occur for several other reasons beyond just allergy and stress, though. These can include:

  • Infections
  • A byproduct of being sick
  • Bites and stings
  • A byproduct of exposure to certain plants. This could include plants like poison ivy or poison oak

Health Problems/Diseases

Hives, unfortunately, can sometimes be chronic and can stem from a variety of health problems and diseases. 

Here is a list of a few health problems you will want to be aware of:

  • Celiac disease 
  • Lupus
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Thyroid disease
  • Type 1 diabetes

Extreme Heat

Extreme heat and excessive sunlight is something that can affect your dog and lead to hives. It is a commonly known fact that leaving your dog out in the heat is bad for multiple reasons. 

The formation of hives is yet another reason you will want to limit the time your dog spends outside.

Dermatographia

Hives can also come from a condition known as dermatographia. In dermatographia, scratches on the skin that initially seem minor can turn into temporary, yet still significant, reactions. 

Most of the time, these hives which arise from dermatographia last for a brief time, usually for around 30 minutes. However, in rare cases, hives from dermatographia can last over a day.

Beyond all the prior mentioned facts, keep in mind that hives can sometimes occur side-by-side along with other symptoms of an allergic reaction, like a feeling of nausea, difficulty breathing, and vomiting. If you see several signs together, you will want to immediately contact your vet for further assistance.

Signs Your Dog Has Hives

Bumps

Since dogs have a thick coat of fur, it’s not always immediately apparent if your dog has hives. If you suspect your dog has hives, you will want to physically inspect their body for any instances of hives. 

A physical inspection will always be the most direct way to determine if your dog has hives or not.

Body Language

Beyond just physically being able to see the hives under their skin, your dogs will probably also display several signs to let you know that something is wrong. Here are just a few instances of body language your dog might show.

The first thing to note is if you see your dog scratching more than usual. This could be a sign that they have hives (or something else is irritating their skin, which could also cause concern). 

They may also try to drag themselves along the ground to scratch their itch. While constant scratching may not be an immediate sign that they have hives, it still displays a sign of discomfort and lets you know you should investigate what is going on.

A second thing is that your dog may pace back and forth. This shows that they are trying to distract themself from the irritation and are using the movement to do so.

A third thing to keep in mind is that they may pant heavier and more frequently than usual. This is a way for them to display physical signs of discomfort and indicate that they are experiencing stress and pain.

Finally, keep in mind other instances of various body language that you don’t regularly see. Things like more whining than usual, head tilts, jumping, and more could all be potential indicators that something (in this case, hives) is going on with your dog.

What To Do If Your Dog Has Hives

Hives are not only rare in dogs, but they also tend to be short term. If your dog has hives, there are proven steps you should immediately take. 

Your vet will always be the first resource you consult to determine what your next immediate action should be. 

If you don’t already know, they may also help you determine what your dog is allergic to or what is causing them stress. 

Your vet will likely prescribe allergy medicine for your dog. In some extreme cases, steroids may need to be prescribed.

It’s also important to remember that hives will most likely disappear. Most times, if the irritant which initially caused the hives in the first place is removed or avoided, your dog’s hives will gradually shrink and disappear.

While your dog has hives, wrapping them in a cold towel will help to reduce the swelling. This will also help reduce the pain the hives can cause. 

Using ice packs is another good way to help relieve the pain from hives. Avoid any hot water or temperatures, as this will only increase the discomfort from the hives.

Treat Hives As Soon as Possible

Hives are an annoyance for anyone, but it’s especially sad when you see your dog struggling with the discomfort of hives. 

While hives are often just a skin irritation caused by allergies, they can lead to discomfort that affects the immediate well-being of your dog. 

Hives are not usually a life-threatening issue, but they are still absolutely worth treating as soon as possible to provide the best possible life for your dog. 

Just like any other health-related problem, contacting your vet is always going to be the best step in determining what you should do next to get your dog back in the best shape it can be in!

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