Treat Dog Hives Holistically
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Medically known as "Urticaria", hives are small bumps that can appear on your dog's skin, face, ears, and even tongue.
How Do Dogs Get Hives?
Dog hives are a form of short-term allergic reactions to many different things. For example:
- Insect Stings: Very commonly, dogs develop hives after being stung by an insect such as a bee or wasp.
- Contact Allergens: Dogs can also break out in hives after getting into contact with some allergens (which could be plenty!). For example, certain poisonous plants, household cleaning products, fabric softeners, household chemicals and insecticides... The list goes on.
- Foods and Medicines: Certain food items that your dog is allergic to, and certain medicines (such as penicillin, tetracycline, and other antibiotics) and vaccines may also cause hives.
You can usually see the hives developing within 15 to 20 minutes of the dog being exposed to the allergen. Hives can break out anywhere on a dog's body, and usually on the belly, the legs, and sometimes on the face.
Usually, hives are not life-threatening and the bumps will go away soon. However, the condition can cause a lot of discomfort and stress to our dogs.
Symptoms of Dog Hives
Common symptoms include:
- Bumps on the skin, face, ears, and/or tongue
- Hair over the bumps may stand up
- Excessive scratching due to intense itching
- May have difficulty in breathing
- Sometimes swollen eyes and face
Take your dog to the veterinarian immediately if:
- she has difficulty in breathing
- her face is so swollen that she may have breathing problems
- the hives do not go away in a day
Conventionally, antihistamines (e.g. Benadryl) are used to get rid of dog hives. Serious cases may need the use of corticosteroids.
If it can be determined that the hives are caused by an acute reaction to the ingestion of a food item, then the vet may use Milk of Magnesia to remove the food quickly from the dog's digestive system.
If the hives are caused by direct contact with some allergens (e.g. topical insecticide, a flea product), bathing the dog and rinsing thoroughly can remove the chemical from the dog's haircoat and skin.
Herbal Remedies for Dog Hives
For hives that are not too serious and with no swelling, herbs can also be used to alleviate the itching.
- Oat: Oat is soothing to the skin and also has healing effects. You can use oat in various ways for dog hives.
For example, you can apply an oatmeal paste to the affected area(s). To make the oatmeal paste, cook the oatmeal in water until it is like a wet paste. Let it cool and apply it liberally to your dog.
Alternatively, give your dog oatmeal baths to help alleviate the itch. Boil about one pound of organic oat straw in 2 quarts of water and add this to your dog's bathwater.
- Yellow Dock: Use a rinse from organic yellow dock powder. Add one tablespoon of the herb to 2 cups of boiling water. Let it sit and cool down. Strain off the herb and use the liquid as a rinse.
- Green Tea: Steep a couple of green tea bags in 2 cups of hot water. Discard the teabags. Let the tea cool down and pour it on your dog. Let it drip dry.
- Chamomile: If your dog is itchy and her skin is reddened, use a rinse of chamomile tea. You can make and use the chamomile tea the same way as the green tea rinse above.
Homeopathic Remedies for Dog Hives
Homeopathic remedies are very effective in treating sudden onset of hives caused by allergic reactions to substances such as chemicals, bug stings, etc.
Common homeopathic remedies for canine hives include:
- Apis mellifica: An effective remedy for hives, swelling and breathing difficulty. Give this remedy to your dog immediately if her face starts swelling up.
- Urtica urens: This is an effective remedy for allergic hives that itch and sting intensely. The dogs needing this remedy will often develop red patches on their skin and they also tend to urinate more frequently.
- Arsenicum album: Dogs needing this remedy are weak and restless. They also suffer from intense itching and have breathing difficulty.
- Rhus toxicodendron: Rhus tox can relieve hives that cause intense itching. (The itching usually improves by hot bathing.)
An Effective Homeopathic Remedy
This natural remedy is effective for the relief of itching and pain associated with not only hives, but also eczema, pimples, and other skin eruptions, as well as mange.
Prevention of Hives in Dogs
Unfortunately, hives are common allergic reactions and are difficult to prevent. But there are a few things dog parents can do to minimize the risk of their dogs developing hives, such as:
Eldredge, et al. Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook 4th edition (Wiley Publishing, 2007).
- Though not easy, try to prevent your dog from developing hives by making sure that they are not exposed to possible allergens (e.g. household cleaning chemicals, toxins, etc.).
- If your dog has developed hives as a result of a certain vaccine, be sure to let your veterinarian know so that preventative measures can be taken (e.g. excluding certain vaccines during subsequent vaccinations, or using a different type of vaccine).
- Vitamins and supplements may be helpful in preventing allergic reactions in dogs who are particularly sensitive, or who have a weakened immune system:
* Vitamin C - 5 to 10 mg/lb, 2-3 times daily
* Vitamin E - 5 to 10 mg/lb, once a day
* Coenzyme Q10 (such as
Dr. Harvey's Coenzyme Q10 Supplement)
C.J. Puotinen, Natural Remedies for Dogs and Cats (Keats Publishing, 1999).
M.L. Wulff-Tilford and G.L. Tilford, Herbs for Pets (Bowtie Press, 1999).
R.H. Pitcairn, The Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats (Rodale, 2005).
D. Hamilton, Homeopathic Care for Cats and Dogs (North Atlantic Books, 1999).