What are Cedar Bedding Allergies?
Cedar filled bedding has become a popular option for many pet owners who are drawn to the benefit of the wonderful cedar smell that permeates from a new dog bed. This pleasant odor is in fact, one of the causes for lung irritation in canines. Though the bedding provides a soft, inexpensive filling for dog beds, cedar shavings contain phenols that can irritate the lungs allowing bacteria easier entry. For dogs who sleep directly on cedar chips in a crate or bedding area, contact dermatitis is another allergic reaction that can occur.
Symptoms of skin irritation will include redness and scabbing of the skin. Lung irritation can bring asthma-like signs and discharge from the nose. Pet owners who see discomfort in dogs who have cedar in their bedding should consider evaluation by a veterinarian in order to verify if the wood is indeed the culprit.
Cedar bedding is most commonly used in the habitats of small animals such as rodents and rabbits. This type of bedding is sometimes used in dog crates as well, and can be found in commercial cloth covered dog beds. Contact dermatitis and respiratory issues have been reported in dogs who develop a sensitivity to cedar bedding.
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Symptoms of Cedar Bedding Allergies in Dogs
Cedar has an attractive smell that is linked by many to a sense of freshness and cleanliness. The oil from cedar is used in cleaning products, pet shampoos, and sprays to name just a few items. Cedar chips as bedding or used as a filler in a fabric pet bed can bring on allergy symptoms. Either direct contact with cedar or inhalation of the aromas from cedar can make your dog ill if he is sensitive to it.
- Scratching and licking around the groin, anus, legs, armpits, face, and ears
- Irritated skin which can look red and scaly
- Oily and odorous skin
- Alopecia (hair loss)
- Ear infection or irritation
- Wheezing and coughing
- Sneezing and discharge from the nose
- Anorexia (loss of appetite)
Cedar chips and shavings are used by many owners as bedding in crates and in dog houses. Dogs can also be exposed to the aroma from the shavings through the use of a dog bed filled with cedar chips. The cedar contains phenols, oils, and plicatic acid. All of these compounds can lead to allergic reactions in small animals, canines, and humans who work in environments where cedar is plentiful (lumber mill, wood shops). The smaller the size of the shaving the more irritating it has proven to be.
Causes of Cedar Bedding Allergies in Dogs
- Western red cedar has a high concentration of insecticidal compounds (this is why cedar closets are built to repel moths from clothing
- Fleas and mites are repelled by cedar
- The chemicals in cedar help to control pet odors
- Respiratory disease and asthma have been linked to cedar shavings and small animals like rats and guinea pigs
- Plicatic acid is the most noted irritant
- Studies show that plicatic acid can increase inflammation leading to respiratory issue
- Phenols can irritate the lungs allowing bacteria easier entry
- The lung issues can become chronic
- Cedar can harbor klebsiella, a bacteria that can lead to wound, urinary tract, intestinal, and lung infection
- Studies also link klebsiella to mastitis in nursing canines and blood infection in newborn pups
Diagnosis of Cedar Bedding Allergies in Dogs
The visit to the veterinarian will begin with a thorough physical examination, including your pet’s temperature and respiratory sounds. It is possible the veterinarian will hear lung sounds such as wheezing and crackles. This may lead to further diagnostic investigation with chest radiographs or bronchoscopy if the veterinarian feels more in depth verification is needed.
Because the skin is such an important indicator of illness, your veterinarian will examine your dog’s fur coat and skin very closely. Ruling out underlying systemic diseases, bacteria, fungus, yeast, fleas, and mites will be part of the protocol. As you discuss the potential for allergies with your veterinarian, she will order skin tests, a bacterial culture, blood work, and a urinalysis. Intradermal skin testing is one of the standard tests for indicating exposure to allergens, especially of the inhalant type.
Important information that you can relay to the veterinary team will include:
- Length of time that the symptoms have been apparent to you
- A description of the most prevalent symptoms
- Previous history of treatment for a skin disorder
- Type of food you feed your dog
- What type of bedding he sleeps on
- His vaccine history
- Illnesses of late
- Bathing habits and date of last bath
- Travel history for the past year
Treatment of Cedar Bedding Allergies in Dogs
Once the veterinarian has determined through discussion and testing that the cedar bedding is the reason behind the allergy development, treatment for the skin and respiratory issues will commence. It should be noted that both of these conditions may take some time to clear up. In some cases, respiratory damage may become chronic and not clear up altogether.
Medications to relieve airway inflammation and drugs to combat skin eruptions and itching will be prescribed, with detailed instructions on the course of treatment. Continue the course from beginning to end, even when you see that your dog is improving. Medications for allergies to cedar bedding are antihistamines, cyclosporine (an immunosuppressive drug), corticosteroids, and Omega 3 supplements. If your dog is suffering from a secondary infection of the skin, antibiotics and a topical cream will be prescribed.
Recovery of Cedar Bedding Allergies in Dogs
Now that you are aware that your pet has had an allergic reaction to cedar, avoid all products that contain this compound. Choose an alternative for his bedding such as fleece or an old blanket. These items can be easily laundered or replaced if need be. If you have concerns about how your dog’s skin condition or respiratory wellness is improving, call the veterinary clinic for a follow-up consultation at any time.
Cedar Bedding Allergies Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
Is there anything we can put on it without going to a vet?
He has multiple scabs on his body and he won't stop itching. He also is always breathing hard but we don't know if that is just anxiety since we just got him
Thoroughly bathing Ruger is an initial first step and applying topical ointments may help; but it would be best to visit your Veterinarian to get some prescription medication to help with the respiratory difficulties and may give you some medication to lessen the severity of the reaction (more than over the counter medicines which would have little effect). Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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