What are Mulch Allergies?
Mulch is considered any variety of material spread on top of the soil as an even coat of covering. Mulch is effective at minimizing weeds, keeping the soil at a cool temperature, and maintaining moisture within the soil. Many gardeners and homeowners also depend on mulch to make their landscape appear more finished, neat, and attractive. Mulches of the organic variety decompose, thus aiding in the soil’s fertility.
Unfortunately, even though mulch is advantageous to the garden and soil, dogs may be allergic to this substance. Allergic dogs will show signs of a mulch allergy when they spend time outdoors and come into contact with the substance. Symptoms of a mulch allergy in dogs can vary, but many dogs have similar types of signs, usually in the form of a skin or paw irritation.
One particular type of mulch, known as Cocoa bean mulch, is actually a byproduct of chocolate since it contains shells from cocoa beans. This mulch can be very poisonous to dogs, as when the mulch becomes warm from the sun, it elicits a chocolate-type scent that attracts dogs. When dogs ingest this type of mulch, serious side effects of toxicity may occur. This type of mulch should be avoided by dog owners at all costs.
Popular types of mulch that people use contain various materials. Mulch may contain shredded bark, bark nuggets, wood chips, sawdust, or hay and straw. Some dog owners prefer a more organic type of mulch made of compost materials, grasses, manure, newspaper, cardboard, or other types of organic coverings.
Mulch allergies in dogs are caused by an inhalant or contact allergic reaction to specific types of mulches. Since there are varying products within mulch, some dogs may be very sensitive to certain types.
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Symptoms of Mulch Allergies in Dogs
Symptoms of mulch allergies in dogs most likely occur when dogs come into contact with a variety of mulches. Symptoms may also come from the specific dyes used in mulch, such as red and black dye. Symptoms of mulch allergies in dogs include:
- Irritated, itchy skin
- Licking of the paws and skin areas
- Red and watery eyes
There are specific types of mulch that can cause dogs to be more susceptible to allergies. Types of allergy-inducing mulch include:
- Bark chips
- Cedar chips
- Dried leaves or grass
- Dyed mulches
Causes of Mulch Allergies in Dogs
Causes of mulch allergies in dogs are the direct contact or inhalation of the mulch used for gardening or decorative purposes. Specific causes include:
- The dog’s reaction to specific inhalants within the mulch, such as dust
- The dog’s reaction to mold or fungus that may grow within the mulch
- An over-reactive immune system towards a specific allergen within the mulch
Diagnosis of Mulch Allergies in Dogs
If your dog is showing signs of an allergy, especially after being outdoors, make an appointment with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will assess your dog with preliminary testing such as blood work, urinalysis, and a biochemistry profile to be sure his symptoms are coming from an allergen rather than a more serious condition.
Your veterinarian will ask you a variety of questions about your dog’s environment and where your companion most likely will go when he is outdoors. It is important to tell your veterinarian everything that your dog comes into contact with when he is outside. If you have noticed your dog walking or resting within the mulch, please tell your veterinarian, as this information can help the medical professional come to a diagnosis.
By looking at your dog’s symptoms in learning more about his environment, the veterinarian may suspect an allergy. If you suspect a mulch allergy you may take some of the mulch into the veterinarian’s office with you so the veterinary team can take a closer look. He may also ask that you keep your dog away from the area that is mulched for about a week and see if that clears up any of his symptoms.
Before the veterinarian performs any allergy testing, he will ask you to eliminate agents from his environment. If he is still unsure that it is a mulch allergy, he will want you to monitor your dog for about a week so you can watch closely how often he comes into contact with the mulch.
Treatment of Mulch Allergies in Dogs
Treatment for mulch allergies in dogs will be to completely eliminate the agent from your dog’s contact. Other treatment methods may include:
Your veterinarian may suggest that you bathe your dog in a hypoallergenic shampoo or a shampoo specifically tailored towards skin allergies. Your veterinarian may choose to do so in his office, and he may also apply a topical medication to help ease his discomfort.
Your medical professional may also prescribe an allergy medication for the time being so your dog may begin to feel better. There are various types of prescriptions or topical creams that may be applied to your dog temporarily to alleviate his symptoms.
Removal of the Offending Agent
The only thing that will treat your dog’s mulch allergies is the removal of the mulch from your property. You can ask your veterinarian for suggestions on other mulches that are more hypoallergenic or organic that may agree with your dog.
Recovery of Mulch Allergies in Dogs
Once the mulch is removed from your property, you will see a remarkable difference in your dog’s allergies. The use of compost, cardboard, newspaper, or other hypoallergenic mulch may be effective in taking care of your gardens or landscaping without affecting your dog.
If you are unable to remove the mulch from your property, when you take your dog outdoors be sure he completely avoids the area that is covered. Keeping the mulch on your property while letting your dog come into contact with the mulch will only keep his allergies flaring up. It is important to understand that allergy medications alone will not completely solve the issue; this will only result in the fact that your dog is taking a medication while still being exposed to the allergen.
If your dog does not come into contact with mulch for a period of time and still exhibit signs of allergies, it will be important to take your dog back into the veterinarian’s office for further suggestions on what to eliminate. The veterinarian may also choose to do allergy testing if you are certain you have removed possible allergens from his environment.