How to Treat Hives on Your Dog Without Ruining Your Summer

Its a beautiful day- the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and your dog is bounding happily through the yard in a game of fetch….ahhh, what a great start to summer! And then that’s when you see it. Bumps. All over your dog’s body.What on earth happened?! What do you do?!

There are several causes of welts appearing on dogs regardly of breed, size, gender or age. Affectionately referred to as “Bully Bumps” by the pit bull owners’ community, these bumps are red, raised, and itchy. Many times they resemble large mosquito bite, and in some scenarios, they are results of an insect bite hypersensitivity. Grass, weeds, plant sap, and pollen as well as certain household or garden chemicals can contribute to the welts by causing contact dermatitis, which is where the irritant comes into direct contact with the skin.

The causes of welts include:

  • Allergic reaction to plants
  • Allergic reaction to insect bites
  • Allergic reaction to other animals
  • Allergic reaction to household chemicals
  • Allergic reaction to garden chemicals
  • Allergic reaction to medications
  • Allergic reaction to foods
  • Allergic reaction to materials in bedding or toys
  • Stress
  • Certain medical conditions or diseases

Some medical conditions that can cause welts include:

  • ringworm
  • cancer
  • bacterial
  • yeast infections
  • mass cell tumors (these types of tumors release toxins into the bloodstream which can cause welts as a reaction)
Things like food allergies can be confirmed with allergy diagnostic tests performed by your vet to confirm which allergy-inducing ingredients are causing the reaction.Other medical conditions could require blood work or skin scrapings to determine the cause of the welts. Welts that occur for more than 5 days or are accompanied by other side effects such as vomiting and diarrhea should be examined by a veterinarian as soon as possible.Otherwise, you can treat the welts at home.
Benadryl should be a necessity in your home first aid kit. Benadryl, or diphenhydramine, is a antihistamine useful for allergic reactions of many types.

Most vets would advise doing 1 mg per pound of dog every 8 hours (three times a day) until symptoms are gone. The medication is often sold in 25mg and 50mg formulations, but for treating dogs, the 25mg formulation is often more suitable. It is recommended that you don’t exceed 80mg for any dog regardless of size. Just be sure that you are checking the package to ensure that diphenhydramine (commonly abbreviated as “DPH” is the ONLY active ingredient listed. If your dog is on additional medications; or if you dog suffers from cardiovascular disease, prostatic disease, glaucoma, or hyperthyroidism, please contact your vet before using. Avoid the liquid form of Benadryl as the alcohol content is too high for dogs.

Benadryl tablets can be hidden in a piece of hot dog or other irresistible goody or with the use of specially designed pill pocket treats. If you are certain the welt is an insect bite, you can even crush the Benadryl tablet, add a few drops of water to form a paste, and apply it directly to the sting site. An oatmeal-based shampoo and bath can help provide relief as well as help remove irritants from the coat. Fatty-acid supplements can also relieve itchy skin and help repair the skin and coat from the dog’s persistent itching and licking.

Hopefully this bit of information will be useful in the event that ugly little bumps show up on your dog this summer and make a difference between getting back out for a game of fetch or sitting in a vet clinic!