Contact Allergy in Canines

Contact Dermatitis in Dogs: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment and Prevention

Contact dermatitis in dogs develops when the dog’s skin encounters irritants or allergens that trigger an allergic reaction. Certain dog breeds are genetically predisposed to contact dermatitis.

The leading causes of contact dermatitis in dogs are irritants found in cleaning detergents, on the ground, rugs and carpets, grooming products, plants, certain fabrics, and environmental allergens.

Symptoms of contact dermatitis manifest as red spots on a dog's belly, with itching, swelling, and the development of rash-like patches on the skin. Dogs with contact dermatitis exhibit excessive scratching, licking, or rubbing of the affected areas.

Treatment for dog contact dermatitis involves identifying and removing the underlying irritant or allergen by avoiding contact with triggering substances, changing grooming or cleaning products, and providing symptomatic relief through topical creams or medications.

Minimize the dog’s exposure to known irritants or allergens, monitor the dog's skin for symptoms, and promptly treat early signs of irritation to prevent contact dermatitis.

What is Contact Dermatitis in Dogs?

Contact dermatitis in dogs is an uncommon allergic reaction resulting from prolonged skin contact with an allergen. Dogs encounter various allergens in daily life, including rugs or carpets, fabrics, concrete, chemicals, detergents, and medication, similar to humans. 

Symptoms of contact dermatitis include hair loss on thinly-haired areas like the muzzle, armpits, elbows, and paws. Red spots on a dog's belly, scrotum, or groin are obvious visual indications of dog contact dermatitis. These skin regions are prone to itchiness, leading to increased inflammation due to persistent scratching and licking.

Consult a veterinarian if the dog is itching excessively to prevent the progression of contact dermatitis. Manage contact dermatitis in dogs by identifying the allergic trigger through skin patch tests or necessary biopsies.

There is no single treatment for dog contact dermatitis, but it is controllable by identifying and avoiding the allergic trigger and managing the allergic response with antibiotics, antihistamines, steroids, and antifungals. 

How Does Contact Dermatitis Affect Dogs?

Contact Dermatitis affects dogs by inducing an allergic reaction upon exposure to specific allergens. Allergens are foreign molecules that trigger an immune response involving Immunoglobulin E (IgE) antibodies upon contact with the dog. The immune system response causes a chain reaction of immune cells, releasing histamine and inducing typical allergy symptoms such as itching, redness, and swelling. 

Identifying the exact Type of Dog Allergy is crucial when managing allergic diseases. The type and duration of exposure to the allergen determines the visual signs of contact dermatitis in dogs. Symptoms, skin lesions, and severity of contact dermatitis in dogs vary, with one common effect being red, itchy skin. 

Prolonged contact dermatitis in dogs results in significant hair loss, which, coupled with persistent itching, leads to hardened, thickened skin resembling scales (hyperkeratinization), flakiness, scab formation, skin darkening (hyperpigmentation), or pustules from secondary bacterial infection. 

Untreated itching and inflammation from contact dermatitis disrupt a dog’s sleep and behavior, causing irritability. 

What Are the Causes of Contact Dermatitis in Dogs?

The causes of contact dermatitis in dogs are listed below.

  • Detergent or Chemicals: Potent chemical cleaning agents used on clothes, toys, and furniture are possible allergens that trigger an allergic response upon contact with a dog’s skin. Use hypoallergenic, pet-friendly detergents to reduce the chance of an allergic response.
  • Cement: Dogs resting on bare cement develop contact dermatitis lesions on their elbows and stomachs. The friction, bacteria, and dust from bodily contact with the cement cause an allergic reaction, leading to rashes and hair loss. 
  • Rugs or Carpets: Certain carpet materials contain fibers and chemicals that trigger an allergic reaction in dogs. Accumulated dust and dander in rugs contribute to dermatitis. 
  • Medicine: Food supplements, medicinal creams, and ointments contain possible dog allergic triggers. Providing high-quality, well-studied supplements tailored to the dog’s needs is best for allergy prevention. Signs of adverse reactions in the dog’s body should be monitored when introducing a new product. 
  • Fabric: Fabrics from clothing contain fibers that act as allergens for dogs, similar to carpets and rugs. 
  • Plants. Dogs develop skin allergies when they sniff and interact with plant-filled areas, experiencing skin contact with abrasive plant structures or irritants such as silica bristles on lemongrass. 

What Are the Symptoms of Dog Contact Dermatitis?

The symptoms of Dog Contact Dermatitis are listed below.

  • Redness: The allergic reaction triggers the release of histamine, a chemotactic substance that recruits inflammatory cells, causing initial redness at the contact site. 
  • Itching and raised skin patches: Histamine release induces itching (pruritus), which leads to raised skin patches (papules) at the contact site. 
  • Hair loss: Continuous friction from the allergen’s surface and the dog’s itching damage hair follicles. Hair loss due to contact dermatitis typically occurs in sparsely-haired areas like the muzzle, armpits, elbows, paws, scrotum, or groin.
  • Pustules: Persistent itching from dermatitis damages the skin, exposing it to bacterial infection. Skin infections result in pustular growths that require antibiotic treatment. 
  • Hardened skin: Chronic dermatitis causes the affected skin to harden and thicken as a compensatory mechanism, protecting the skin from breaking due to constant friction from itching and exposure to the allergen. 

Are "Red Spots" on a Dog's Belly Signs of Contact Dermatitis?

Yes, “red spots” on a dog’s belly are a sign of contact dermatitis. These red spots, accompanied by itchiness, are among the main symptoms of contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis lesions appear on the elbows, muzzle, armpits, groin, and scrotum, depending on the area and duration of contact with the allergen. A dog rash on the belly is more visible due to the lack of fur coverage.

Is Dermatitis in Dogs Contagious?

No, dermatitis in dogs is not contagious. Allergy-related dermatitis in dogs is a genetic predisposition rather than a condition contracted from another dog. 

Parasitic causes such as mites, fleas, ticks, or fungal or yeast infections trigger specific forms of dermatitis. A veterinarian determines the exact trigger through skin scraping tests, fungal examinations, and trichogram examinations. 

What are Contact Dermatitis Dogs Treatments?

The treatments for contact dermatitis involve a combination of drugs to relieve the dog’s symptoms. Strict avoidance of contact with the identified allergen is essential to prevent skin aggravation. Administer anti-itch medication such as Oclacitinib (Apoquel) and Lokivetmab (Cytopoint) immediately when contact dermatitis symptoms appear. Steroid use relieves itching and inflammation on the dog’s skin. 

Initial treatment for contact dermatitis includes beta-lactam antibiotics such as Cephalexin or Co-Amoxiclav alongside oral or topical antifungals like Fluconazole or Ketoconazole if the veterinarian identifies a secondary infection from fungi or bacteria. Topical treatments such as Miconazole (antifungal) and Chlorhexidine (antibacterial) used in medicated baths benefit severely affected dogs. Shifting the dog to a skincare-specific veterinary prescription diet without the allergic trigger is recommended. 

Dogs with chronic, unresolved contact dermatitis require lifelong immunosuppressant medication like Cyclosporine. 

Anti-inflammatory supplements with Cannabidiol (CBD) help alleviate the painful and uncomfortable symptoms of contact dermatitis in dogs. 

Honest Paws CBD Oil Calm Tincture contains organic full-spectrum hemp mixed with a relaxing blend of chamomile and medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). Full-spectrum hemp contains CBD, other flavonoids and terpenes, and under 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) that activates the endocannabinoid system (ECS). The ECS activation leads to improved mood and reduced signs of stress from itching. Chamomile shows evidence of having sedative, anti-inflammatory, and muscle relaxant properties. 

Honest Paws CBD Oil Well Tincture features organic full-spectrum hemp and MCT. The mixture contains CBD, other flavonoids and terpenes, and under 0.3% tetrahydrocannabinol. The blend creates a potent entourage effect of anti-inflammatory compounds that help improve immunity. Improved immunity promotes healthier skin and coat in dogs and decreases the likelihood of secondary infections. 

Honest Paws Wild Alaskan Salmon Oil For Dogs + CBD combines essential Omega-3 Fatty Acids (EPA and DHA) and CBD. The ingredients include organic and full-spectrum hemp oil, salmon oil, and MCT Oil. The salmon oil promotes good skin and coat health by supplying additional EPA and DHA for dogs with contact dermatitis. Essential fatty acids with higher DHA than EPA reduce inflammatory cytokines and inflammatory responses. The product alleviates inflammation and itching and supplements skin health. 

When Should You See the Vet Regarding Suspicion Contact Dermatitis in Dogs?

You should see the vet regarding suspicion of contact dermatitis in dogs if the itching becomes so intense that the dog cannot sleep or function normally or if there is noticeable hair loss and redness in any area of the dog’s body. 

Observe the dog for 24 hours and note when itching is most intense. Consider the products used in the household, the dog's activities, or places they frequent. The environmental information helps identify the allergen.

How Long Does the Rashes from Contact Dermatitis Stay in Dogs' Body?

The rashes from contact dermatitis stay in the dog’s body until the allergic trigger is removed. The rashes subside and resolve once the allergen is identified and treated using anti-itch medication if there is no underlying secondary infection. 

Contact dermatitis with secondary infections from fungi and bacteria should be treated symptomatically with a combination of medications and a treatment duration suited to each dog’s needs. The more severe the extent of damage from contact dermatitis, the longer the rashes and other lesions take to heal. 

What Are Preventions to Avoid Contact Dermatitis?

The preventions to avoid contact dermatitis are outlined below.

  • Use hypoallergenic shampoo. Some dog shampoos contain allergens, leading to contact dermatitis. Using hypoallergenic shampoo helps avoid having bathing-related contact dermatitis.
  • Maintain tick, flea, and mite preventatives. Parasitic infections exacerbate contact dermatitis by weakening the dog’s immune system. Strict use of preventatives and a clean living environment reduce the dog's infection risk.
  • Avoid contact with solid cleaners/detergents. Refrain from using astringent chemicals when washing dog beds, toys, or carpets. Cleaning agents' chemicals are possible allergens, so opt for a pet-safe, hypoallergenic soap. 
  • Provide high-quality, low-preservative diets. Give high-quality, skincare-specific food to dogs with skin issues to reduce daily irritation and inflammation. Consult a veterinarian for a prescription diet tailored to the dog’s specific needs. 
  • Give skincare supplements. Use Omega fatty acids from fish oils containing eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) to combat inflammation. EPA and DHA have anti-inflammatory properties and are used to treat inflammatory diseases like allergies. CBD oil contains anti-inflammatory flavonoids and terpenes that help alleviate the intensity of itching. 

How Can CBD Oil Help with Contact Dermatitis Treatment?

CBD Oil helps with contact dermatitis treatment by relieving itching and discomfort. CBD, or Cannabidiol, is a bioactive compound extracted from Cannabis. It reduces pain by providing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. 

CBD’s inflammatory action involves activating the CB1 and CB2 endocannabinoid receptors, predominantly found in the central nervous and immune systems. The receptor activation reduces ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species) and TNF-α (Tumor Necrosis Factor Alpha) levels, alleviating oxidative stress and inflammation.

CBD Oil is beneficial for managing the intensity and discomfort of itching in dogs with contact dermatitis. CBD Oil for dog allergies must contain high-quality ingredients and be tested by a third-party laboratory. Consult a licensed veterinarian for advice to avoid harmful interactions between the medication and CBD oil. 

Is CBD Oil Safe for Dogs with Contact Dermatitis?

Yes, CBD Oil is safe for dogs with contact dermatitis. CBD helps manage the uncomfortable symptoms of contact dermatitis. Choose high-quality, lab-tested CBD oil and consult a veterinarian about the appropriate dosage for the dog. 

Research conducted on dogs with chronic allergic diseases shows that CBD oil significantly reduces itching and is well-tolerated with minimal interaction with anti-itch medication. A 2022 study published in the Canadian Veterinary Journal on using CBD oil for canine atopic dermatitis showed that CBD was well-tolerated over a wide dosage range. The use of CBD decreased the occurrence of pruritus in dogs with contact dermatitis when ingested twice daily.

Can Food Trigger Contact Dermatitis?

Yes, food can trigger contact dermatitis. Contact dermatitis is mainly due to skin-to-allergen exposure. Food contaminated with or incorporated with specific allergens induces an immune response. Shifting to veterinary prescription diets helps to improve the dog’s skin and coat health. 

Can a Puppy have Contact Dermatitis?

Yes, a puppy can have contact dermatitis. Symptoms of contact dermatitis in dogs manifest at any age. Puppies get rashes on their belly due to frequent contact with surfaces. Persistent irritation leads to itching and long-term damage to the skin barrier. The damage affects the skin and coat growth as the dog ages. Immediate veterinarian attention is advised when rashes appear on the puppy’s skin.

What is the Difference Between Contact Dermatology and Inhalant Allergies?

The difference between contact dermatology and inhalant allergies lies in how the allergen triggers the immune response. Contact dermatitis stems from skin-to-allergen exposure, while inhalant allergies result from airborne allergens entering the respiratory route. 

Inhalant allergies in dogs are trickier to diagnose as they are triggered by airborne allergens such as dust, pollens, or molds that enter the dog’s body through breathing. Inhalant allergies and contact dermatitis will share similar symptoms, such as itching, hair loss, flaking, and scaling. Differentiate the causes to treat the disease properly and to avoid exposure.