What are Laundry Detergent Allergies?
Allergies to laundry detergent are caused by the inappropriately aggressive response of the immune system to a protein within that specific detergent. Allergies to laundry detergent can be just as unsightly, uncomfortable, and difficult to diagnose for our canine companions as they are for us. There are many types of laundry detergent, and if one variety of detergent is causing distress to your pet, switching to another variety may alleviate the problem. Many allergies in dogs have similar symptoms, and your veterinarian’s guidance should be sought for a definitive diagnosis and treatment plan.
Allergies to the components of your laundry detergent can cause your dog to have itchy and irritated skin as well as encouraging chronic skin and ear infections.
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Symptoms of Laundry Detergent Allergies in Dogs
Skin reactions are often concentrated around the face, groin, under the front legs, or between the toes. Allergic reactions to laundry detergent can be caused by contact with laundered bedding, dog backpacks or clothing, or by contact with clothing worn by you.
- Bald patches
- Blister-like lesions
- Chronic ear infections
- Chronically inflamed feet
- Face rubbing
- Head shaking
- Obsessive licking
- Paw biting
- Skin infections
- Skin rashes
- Ulcerations on skin
There are many varieties of laundry detergent with many properties. Some may work better for individual allergies than others. Laundry detergents often have an array of both powdered and liquid forms. The chemicals used to make these two products are quite different, and you may be able to avoid allergens by switching from powder detergent to liquid, or occasionally from liquid to powder.
Some laundry detergents use a naturally occurring enzyme to remove the stains and odor from our fabrics, and others accomplish this with synthetic cleansers. Some individuals may actually be allergic to the natural proteins themselves and a switch to a detergent that does not use enzymes may be helpful. In many cases, the cleaning products themselves are not the allergen, but rather the dyes and fragrances that are included in them. If this is the situation with your pet, switching to a detergent that is dye and fragrance-free may alleviate the reaction.
Causes of Laundry Detergent Allergies in Dogs
Skin allergies caused by exposure to laundry detergent are a result of an inappropriately aggressive response of specialized immune cells known as mast cells to a protein in the detergent. This can be a synthetic or naturally occurring protein that stimulates the mast cells to release histamine. Histamine’s inflammatory effect is what causes the majority of the itching and swelling characteristic of an allergic response.
Diagnosis of Laundry Detergent Allergies in Dogs
The symptoms that your dog will be showing will prompt your veterinarian to collect skin scrapings when doing the general physical. This is so that a microscopic evaluation of the skin cells, called cutaneous cytology, can be completed in order to search for problems like mites or yeast infections. Allergies to laundry detergent can manifest anywhere on the body, although reactions from skin allergies are often centered around the the face and groin, as well as under the front legs and between the toes. A thorough history of your canine’s health and a timeline of symptoms can be extremely beneficial to an accurate diagnosis. If an environmental allergen is suspected, your veterinarian may recommend a patch test, also known as an intradermal skin test. Miniscule amounts of the suspected antigens are injected under the skin in a particular pattern so that a localized reaction can be induced. Due to the large variety of chemicals that are used in different laundry detergents, the results can be mixed. Many doctors choose to try to diagnose which allergen is causing the reaction by eliminating suspected allergens from the environment first. If an allergy to laundry detergent is suspected, a change in the type of detergent may be recommended to see if the symptoms are alleviated.
Treatment of Laundry Detergent Allergies in Dogs
Although antihistamines are generally effective in humans, they are only effective for twenty to thirty percent of canines and are prone to losing effectiveness over time. Salves and shampoos made with hydrocortisone may relieve the skin discomfort, although efforts should be made to keep your pet from licking off the preparation. If neither antihistamines or topical hydrocortisone are successful in reducing the allergy-related symptoms, then corticosteroid injections or oral tablets may be warranted. Although these medications are usually very effective in reducing the signs of allergy, the side effects can be worrying. The long-term side-effects can contribute serious disorders such as diabetes and liver dysfunction, so concurrent monitoring of the blood chemistry levels may be required. These developments are often dose dependent, so the lowest effective dose of corticosteroid should always be employed.
Another option for animals that are plagued by unavoidable or severe allergic reactions to several detergents, is injected immunotherapy, especially in reactions that are present for at least four to six months of the year and are resistant to antihistamines. Advancements in sublingual immunotherapy have been made, and recent trials are promising, but this option is not commonly available at this time.
Recovery of Laundry Detergent Allergies in Dogs
If your dog has developed an allergy to your laundry detergent, your veterinarian will give you specific instructions on how to treat symptoms until you are able to find a detergent that does not cause a reaction. Following the instructions that are given regarding oral and topical medication, including bathing requirements or dietary restrictions, should be followed faithfully and may need to be continued even after the symptoms are no longer apparent. Quite often a simple switch in the type of laundry detergent is enough to ease the allergic response. Methods such as adding baking soda to the final rinse or running a second rinse may be used to assist in the removal of excess detergent residues. Reducing these residues not only helps to prevent a current allergy outbreak, but may help prevent new allergies from developing.
Laundry Detergent Allergies Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My dog is itching like crazy and just today has developed what looks like hives? Raised bumps on her back. We just started using arm and hammer laundry soap and a few days ago used sentry anti itch spray on her bottom. Which if not both would cause the hives or bumps on her back?
Either one may cause the hives to appear; bathe Wendy with mild soap and give her 1mg/lb of Benadryl to see if there is any improvement. Stop using both products immediately and give it a few weeks; afterwards try one product to see if the same reaction occurs. It is a diagnosis of exclusion. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
What is the best alternative to laundry detergent for cleaning dogs bed in the washing machine? Is it safe to use water and white vinegar only, and if so, how much vinegar?
Is it safe to put a drop or two of young living essential oil – lavender only in the wash cycle? I read that lavender essential oil is an oil that is not toxic to dogs and could be soothing tropically so I was hoping that maybe just washing his bedding and blankets in water and essential oil is safe. What are your thoughts on that?
Dog has allergies and odor on his body and bedding, He is on Hill's prescription diet ZD both dry and wet and on half a tab of 16 of Apoquel and gets a shot every 4 to 6 weeks. In October he was almost completely bald and has shown positive growth and has for but he still itchy and has dry skin.
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Should I switch my laundry detergent? I have a 2 year old boxer and a 9 week old boxer, which we just got last week! Our 2 year old has always had allergy issues and seem to never go away. We just got our 9 week old and now she is digging in the exact same spots as our 2 year old; left ear, under her chin, and paws.
My 2 year old has been put on a grain free diet for about a month now, to see if that was the problem but it hasnt changed at all. She has also been on Appoqual for about a year now and it was working now seems to not be working at all.
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