Get Rid Of Dog Hives

I have a lab retriever/Irish Setter mixed-breed who has had a lot of skin problems in the past. We've given him the cortisone injections for really bad flare-ups and he's tolerated them very well. (It's really only with long-term exposure that glucocorticoids tend to become more problematic.) He also has a cortisone spray that we use at home. I'm a fan of both of those treatments as a sort of short-term band-aid on the problem. If you don't do something to cut down the inflammation, your poor dog is going to keep scratching, licking, and biting at himself and she'll keep getting those nasty hot spots (really they are secondary bacterial infections).A lot of the more-recent human research shows that vitamin supplementation doesn't really do anything to help the immune system. And really, your dog's immune system isn't weak -- it's just mis-directed at something in her environment.In the short term, glucocorticoid therapy is probably your best bet for getting your dog over this allergy flare-up. (And it is a godsend -- I have some horrible allergies myself, and it's really the only thing that works when your entire skin boils up into disgusting hives and itches worse than anything imaginable. I can't keep myself from scratching until I bleed, and I know what's going on. It must be so much worse for a dog who doesn't know get rid of dog hives what has happened to it.) In the long-term, you need to find out what specific things your dog is allergic to. A doggie dermatologist referral is probably the easiest and most accurate way to do this, plus they can do desensitization therapy to "cure" the dog's allergy. We didn't have the money to allergy-test our dog, so we have had to treat him using trial-and-error methodology (and, of course, regularly checking in with our vet) -- taking something out of his environment, waiting a few weeks to see if his symptoms abate, and permanently withdrawing the probable allergen if so. He showed some classic signs of flea allergy dermatitis -- the itchy places were worst at the base of the tail and along the spine. We made sure to give him monthly doses of Frontline, and to keep him away from the dog park during the height of flea season (Frontline protects from infestation, but it can't stop an allergic dog from being bitten. Fleas can still jump onto the dog from the ground, or from infested dogs, and bite the Frontline-treated dog.) We also shampooed him once a week with a medicated shampoo during the summer months, to further calm down his skin. This fixed the horrible lesions at the base of his tail, but he still had a more generalized itchiness and dandruff all over his body. After a couple months of trial and error, we came to believe he has food allergies as well; specifically, he doesn't do well with grains in his diet (many dogs don't). We switched him to a salmon-and-brown-rice formula food, which stopped the itchiness for about two years. Earlier this summer, the itching came back! Now he is on a limited-ingredient diet, which contains no grain whatsoever. This has eradicated the itchiness and the dandruff for now -- hopefully things will stay that way. I'm mentioning this story because flea allergy and food allergy are two of the most common types of allergic reaction in dogs, and they're relatively easy to figure out and treat.posted by kataclysm at 8:59 AM on August 31, 2010