If your canine companion is persistently itchy and has red, irritated skin, he may be having an allergic reaction to something that has come into contact with his skin. The offending culprit may be lurking inside the bed. Many dog beds are filled with cedar chips to keep beds aromatic and to repel fleas. Cedar chips happen to be among the many potential irritants that can cause contact allergies in some dogs. The cedar chips illicit allergic contact dermatitis while these dog innocently snooze in their beds. If your furry friend slumbers on a cedar-filled bed, ending his allergic contact dermatitis could be a simple matter of consulting with your veterinarian and removing the bed.
Defining Contact Dermatitis
Dermatitis is an inflammation of the skin. As the name implies, contact dermatitis results on the area of skin that has come into direct contact with plant material or chemicals. There are two types of contact dermatitis. One form incites skin irritation within 24 to 48 hours after the skin comes in contact with a universally irritating substance, such as salt used on an icy walkway. Such a reaction will affect all of the pets in the household that come into contact with the substance. Or an allergic reaction may develop over a sensitization period of six months to two years. This means that your dog may present with contact dermatitis as the result of a developing allergy to the cedar filling of his bed even after a year of snoozing away in comfort. This type of reaction is not likely to occur in more than one pet in the household.
Certain breeds have a higher incidence of allergic contact dermatitis, including poodles, West Highland terriers, German shepherds, wire-haired fox terriers and golden retrievers. In addition to cedar, other plant materials, grasses, herbicides used on lawns, pyrethrins used on flea collars, pesticides used in topical flea preventatives, wool and fibers used in carpets and bedding, small chemical compounds used in some topical medications and household cleaning products can all illicit allergic skin reactions.
Symptoms of Allergic Contact Dermatitis
Contact dermatitis presents as red, irritated and sometimes swollen skin in the form of a rash, small bumps or weeping pustules and severe itchy. The affected skin is typically on areas of the body that are sparsely covered with hair, including the abdomen and groin, the skin in between the toes and the inner side of the outer ear. If your dog is allergic to his bed, any skin that is exposed to the bed while he sleeps can be irritated. Your dog may scratch incessantly, lick excessively at his paws or rub his face on the carpet. If you notice these symptoms in your dog, have him evaluated by a veterinarian so that his itchiness can be relieved before his scratching leads to hair loss, open lesions and secondary bacterial infections.
Diagnosis of Allergic Contact Dermatitis
Your veterinarian will evaluate your dog’s skin and pose some questions regarding his home environment and household substances. He may pursue cultures and skin scrapings to rule out other potential causes of your dog’s discomfort, such as ringworm and mange mites. If the cedar filling of the bed is suspected as the cause of your dog’s misery, you will be able to confirm this by tossing out the bed and watching to see if his symptoms disappear in a few weeks. If the symptoms persist, other possibilities will have to be considered. If you routinely freshened up the bed with the same cleaning product that you use on the carpet, then the cleaner could be another possible culprit. Identifying allergens by process of elimination can pose a frustrating challenge; many allergens cannot be easily removed from the environment. Your veterinarian may recommend allergy testing with a board-certified veterinary dermatologist to determine which substances your furry friend is allergic to.
Treatment of Allergic Contact Dermatitis
Once the offending allergen has been identified, the first step of treatment will be to eliminate the substance from your home environment or block your dog’s access to it. Treatment may include bathing your dog with a hypoallergenic shampoo to remove the substance from the skin and administering symptomatic medications to reduce itching and inflammation and treat open lesions on the skin. Identifying the allergen is essential to provide successful long-term treatment of allergic contact dermatitis. If your dog is allergic to the cedar filling of his bed, ask your veterinarian about other alternatives to provide your furry friend with a peaceful and cozy slumber.