Why Do I Get Hives When My Dog Licks My Face?

Dogs are known for their affectionate nature and often express their love by licking their owners’ faces. 

While this gesture is heartwarming for many, some individuals may experience an unexpected and uncomfortable reaction: hives. 

Hives, also known as urticaria, are itchy, raised welts on the skin that can appear suddenly and disappear within hours. 

If you find yourself breaking out in hives after your dog licks your face, you may wonder why this happens. In this article, we will explore the possible reasons behind this reaction and discuss ways to manage it.

Understanding Hives

Before delving into the relationship between dog saliva and hives, it’s important to understand what hives are and how they occur. 

Hives are a type of allergic reaction characterized by red, swollen, and itchy welts on the skin. 

They occur when the body releases histamine, a chemical that causes blood vessels to leak fluid into the surrounding skin. This leakage results in the characteristic swelling and itching associated with hives.

Causes of Hives

Allergies: Allergic reactions are one of the most common causes of hives. Many substances can trigger an allergic reaction, including certain foods, medications, insect bites, and environmental factors like pollen or dust mites.

Physical triggers: Physical factors such as pressure, cold, heat, sunlight, or exercise can induce hives in some individuals. 

This condition, known as physical urticaria, occurs when the body’s response to these stimuli releases histamine.

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Contact with irritants: Direct contact with irritants like certain chemicals, plants, or animal dander can lead to hives in susceptible individuals.

The Connection Between Dog Saliva and Hives

When it comes to hives triggered by a dog licking your face, the most likely cause is an allergic reaction to something in your dog’s saliva. 

While it may be difficult to determine the exact allergen responsible, there are a few potential culprits:

Proteins: Dog saliva contains various proteins that can elicit an allergic reaction in sensitive individuals. Proteins such as albumin, lipocalin, and lysozyme are common allergens found in dog saliva.

Enzymes: Enzymes present in your dog’s saliva, such as amylase and lipase, can also cause an allergic response. 

These enzymes help break down food particles and aid in digestion but may trigger a reaction in some people.

Bacteria and other microorganisms: Dogs are known to carry bacteria in their mouths, and exposure to certain strains can cause an allergic reaction in susceptible individuals.

Managing Hives Caused by Dog Licking

If you experience hives after your dog licks your face, there are several steps you can take to manage the symptoms:

Avoidance: The simplest solution is to prevent your dog from licking your face altogether. While it may be challenging to resist their affection, avoiding direct contact with your dog’s saliva can help prevent hives from occurring.

Regular grooming: Regularly grooming your dog, including brushing their fur and teeth, can help reduce the amount of allergens present in their saliva.

Allergy testing: If you suspect that your hives are caused by an allergy to your dog’s saliva, consult an allergist for testing. They can help identify the specific allergen and develop an appropriate treatment plan.

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Medication: In cases where hives persist or are severe, your doctor may recommend antihistamines or other medications to alleviate the symptoms. 

These medications work by blocking the release of histamine, reducing the allergic response.

Consultation with a veterinarian: If you suspect that your dog’s saliva is causing your hives, consult with a veterinarian. They can provide insights into potential allergens and suggest ways to manage your dog’s oral hygiene to minimize allergic reactions.


While a dog’s affectionate lick can bring joy to many, some individuals may experience hives as an allergic reaction to dog saliva. 

Understanding the underlying causes of hives, such as allergies or physical triggers, can help you manage and prevent this uncomfortable reaction. 

By employing strategies like avoiding direct contact, regular grooming, and seeking medical advice, you can continue to enjoy a loving relationship with your furry friend without the discomfort of hives. 

Remember, if you suspect an allergy or experience severe symptoms, consult with healthcare professionals to receive appropriate guidance and treatment.