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Find information on animal health topics, written for the veterinary professional.

Hives and Rashes (Urticaria) in Dogs

By Karen A. Moriello, DVM, DACVD, Professor of Dermatology, Department of Medical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Michael W. Dryden, DVM, PhD, DACVM, University Distinguished Professor of Veterinary Parasitology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Kansas State University
Carol S. Foil, DVM, MS, DACVD, Professor, Department of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine
William W. Hawkins, BS, DVM,
Thomas R. Klei, PhD, Boyd Professor and Associate Dean for Research and Advanced Studies, School of Veterinary Medicine and Louisiana Agriculture Experiment Station, Louisiana State University
John E. Lloyd, BS, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Entomology, University of Wyoming
Bernard Mignon, DVM, PhD, DEVPC, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Infectious and Parasitic Diseases, Parasitology and Parasitic Diseases, University of Liège
Wayne Rosenkrantz, DVM, DACVD,
David Stiller, MS, PhD, Research Entomologist, Animal Disease Research Unit, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, University of Idaho
Patricia A. Talcott, MS, DVM, PhD, DABVT, Associate Professor, Department of Food Science and Toxicology, Holm Research Center, University of Idaho
Alice E. Villalobos, DVM, DPNAP, Director; Director, Animal Oncology Consultation Service; Pawspice
Stephen D. White, DVM, DACVD, Professor and Chief of Service, Dermatology, Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital; Department of Medicine and Epidemiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California, Davis
Patricia D. White, DVM, MS, DACVD,

Hives or skin rashes (urticaria) are localized patches of red, usually itchy, skin. They often develop and disappear suddenly. Hives are relatively uncommon in dogs. The most frequent causes are insect bites or stings, shampoos, and medications. Other causes include contact with toxic plants or chemicals. Friction, sunlight, heat, exercise, stress, and genetic abnormalities may cause or intensify the rash. Hives may develop after inhaling or consuming allergens.

The wheals (eruptions) appear within a few minutes or hours of exposure to the causative agent. In severe cases, the skin eruptions are preceded by fever, poor appetite, or dullness. They can develop on any part of the body but occur mainly on the back, flanks, neck, eyelids, and legs. In advanced cases, they may be found on the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose, lining of the eyes, rectum, and vagina.

Often, hives disappear as rapidly as they arise, usually within a few hours. Treatment may not be required. They may return rapidly if exposure to the cause is not eliminated, however. Treatment may include rapid-acting corticosteroids. If hives are chronic, environmental or food allergens should be considered as potential causes.