Can Dogs Be Allergic to Adhesive Bandages?

Published: 4/26/2021
Adhesive bandages are in most pet parent’s first aid arsenals. These little bandages have a million uses, especially for accident-prone pups. They can keep wounds clear of debris, help with ointment application, and prevent self-injury. But what if your dog is allergic to adhesive bandages? Is that even possible? Actually, it is. 

We’ll explore what’s in adhesive bandages, why allergies happen, and how to prevent allergic reactions to bandages in the future. First, let’s discuss what's in adhesive bandages that can cause a reaction. 

What's in adhesive bandages?

Depending on the brand you buy, the outside of adhesive bandages may be fabric (cotton or synthetic), latex, or a form of plastic like polyethylene. Acrylate or vinyl resins typically make up the sticky adhesive on the backs of bandages, allowing them to stay in place and make removal easy. 

The inner dressing that covers the wound may be cotton, plastic, or a combination of both. Sometimes this pad also contains antibiotic ointment or gels meant to speed the healing process. Manufacturers typically market these as "medicated bandages". While the ingredients in adhesive bandages are generally considered safe for the skin, not all dogs (or humans for that matter) react well to them.

Adhesive bandage allergies and contact dermatitis

Adhesive allergies in dogs can make a bad situation worse. You apply a bandage to keep Fido's wound clean and help it heal properly, then when you remove it, you find the affected area is much worse than before. You may see skin redness, flaking, and secretions oozing from the area. Some pet parents may mistake this for an infection, but if itching accompanies these symptoms, chances are it's an allergy. 

Pets may also bite, scratch, or attempt to remove the bandage, further irritating the problem area. Most often, this type of allergic reaction is a form of contact dermatitis.

Contact dermatitis is a condition where the body produces a histamine response to an ordinarily innocuous substance — like bandage adhesive. This type of histamine response happens when the body mistakenly identifies a safe substance as dangerous. 

Cells release a chemical called histamine, which can cause itching, redness, and irritation. Contact dermatitis can also happen when a substance agitates or creates microscopic abrasions on the top layers of the skin. Contact dermatitis is generally mild, though it can be a nuisance and may cause dogs to self-injure in attempts to relieve the itching. 

Symptoms of contact dermatitis in dogs
  • Skin inflammation

  • Itching and redness

  • Dry, scaly skin

  • Secretions from the problem area

  • Biting or scratching

  • Excessive licking

  • Hair loss

Latex allergies in dogs

Latex is a common allergen for animals and humans, and it's also a common ingredient in adhesive bandages. Allergic reactions to latex are initially mild but often increase in severity as time progresses. At first, dogs may only respond to latex by scratching, but over time they may develop an anaphylactic reaction to it. 

What’s more, dogs with a natural latex allergy may also become allergic to synthetic latex. Carefully examine the packaging of adhesive bandages before you buy them. Steer clear of bandages with natural or synthetic latex if you suspect your dog has an allergy.

It's important you tell your vet if you think your dog has a latex allergy. This will prevent them from using latex gloves on your pet, which can exacerbate the problem.

Symptoms of a latex allergy in dogs
  • Fur loss

  • Itching 

  • Trouble breathing

  • Red bumps or lesions

  • Hives

  • Gnawing at the paws

  • Scratching at the face or ears

  • Paw redness

  • Unusual head movements

  • Skin ulcers

  • Excessive grooming

  • Self-mutilation

Signs of anaphylaxis in dogs

  • Swelling of the face, throat, or tongue

  • Trouble breathing

  • Loss of consciousness

  • Unusual behavior

  • Change in heart rate

  • Upset stomach

Can dogs develop an allergy to bandages later in life?

Dogs can develop an allergy to adhesive bandages any time during their life, even if you’ve used them countless times before. The immune system is a funny thing, and you never know when your dog’s cells will deem something to be a threat. Watch your dog for signs of a reaction anytime you use a product on their skin to make sure they aren't having a reaction.

Preventing adhesive bandage reactions in dogs

The most obvious way to prevent allergic reactions to adhesive bandages in dogs is to avoid them altogether. Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives to adhesive bandages. 

Paper tape with gauze can prevent reactions in dogs allergic to latex, though this will not prevent a reaction in dogs allergic to the adhesive. If your dog is allergic to adhesive, try medical wrap that sticks to itself. This type of bandage works much like velcro and uses tiny hooks rather than relying on sticky adhesive.

What to do if you suspect your dog is having an allergic reaction to bandages

If you suspect your dog is having an allergic reaction to adhesive bandages, the first thing you should do is gently remove the bandage and wash the affected area with water and mild soap. Next, make an appointment with your vet to see if it is indeed allergies causing the reaction. 

Your vet will be able to prescribe oral and topical medications to reduce itching and inflammation. Take your dog to a vet immediately if they exhibit signs of anaphylaxis — this is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate attention. 

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