While somewhat uncommon, dogs occasionally develop a condition known as urticaria, characterized by numerous itchy hives. Many different things can bring about the hives, and sometimes cold temperatures can induce urticaria. Urticaria is not limited to dogs, and it can afflict all domestic animals as well as humans. Fortunately, the condition is rarely serious, and several treatments are possible. Often, urticaria disappears without treatment of any kind.
Double-Checking the Diagnosis
Upon discovering that your dog has the wheals or hives associated with urticaria, take him to the vet to confirm the diagnosis. Your vet can verify urticaria simply enough, but tests are often necessary to determine the cause. Fortunately, the test for cold-induced urticaria is simple -- an ice cube is held against the skin for up to 15 minutes. The appearance of hives indicates cold-induced urticaria.
Veterinarians often attempt to treat urticaria by eliminating contact with the symptom-inducing stimuli -- in this case, exposure to cold temperatures. Doggy outerwear may reduce the exposure enough to stop the symptoms; if not, you may have to limit your pup’s time outside in cold temperatures. Alternatively, your veterinarian may prescribe antihistamines or steroids to help alleviate the hives.
In many cases, urticaria resolves without treatment. According to “Veterinary Allergy,” most cases of urticaria are transient, and last less than 48 hours. Sometimes, this happens because your dog’s body stops reacting to the cold in this way. In temperate or subtropical climates, the condition many resolve with the arrival of spring.
If the hives were caused by an insect sting, rather than exposure to the cold, it is possible that your dog will suffer from anaphylaxis, which can be life threatening. Anaphylaxis may cause the lining of your dog’s airways to swell, cutting off his oxygen supply. If your pet displays signs that he is having trouble breathing or swallowing, contact your veterinarian immediately.
Other Causes of Urticaria
In addition to cold temperatures, a variety of stimuli can cause urticaria. Toxic plants and stinging insects can cause animals to develop hives, as can chemical exposures and medications. Additionally, exposure to high temperatures or pressure can cause the condition. The Merck Veterinary Manual for states that stress, exercise and genetic factors may also cause urticaria. Some short-haired dog breeds are at increased risk of suffering from dermographism, a condition in which they exhibit linear hives in response to pressure. Vaccinations can also cause urticaria. In such cases, the vaccination schedule and procedure should be adjusted under the direction of your veterinarian.