Thursday, March 14, 2013

Metal Allergies in Dogs

Edited to add: For an update on how we are doing with the metal allergies Koira has, check out my more recent post about it. It includes some products that we are using and love, such as collars without exposed metal, which can be hard to find otherwise. http://mylifewithflyballdogs.blogspot.com/2015/03/dealing-with-metal-allergies-in-dogs.html

First off, I am in no way an expert. I am not a vet, dermatologist, or anything else like that. What I am is the owner of a dog with an allergy to metal. If you suspect your dog has an allergy to metal or anything else, you should bring it up with your vet.

Long time readers will recall that Koira has some metal allergies that cause issues with collars, other dog equipment, vet appointments, and other sorts of fun stuff. Most likely this allergy is not to metal in general but to nickel. Nickel is the most common source of metal allergy in humans, though it is more common in women than in men. Exposure to nickel, such as by having your ears pierced, can increase your chances of becoming allergic to nickel (which is possibly why this allergy is more common in women). Once you have the allergy, you are likely affected for life, though you may go through periods of increased sensitivity, most often due to exposure.

Most of the information I have found while doing research is about nickel allergies in humans. However, there is no reason to believe that dogs have any lower rates than humans. It is possible that many dogs with this allergy go un-diagnosed because their fur prevents contact with nickel, prevents their owners from seeing the rash that occurs, or because they simply aren't taken to a vet.

I am 100% positive that Koira has an allergy to metal. I am relatively positive that this allergy is specifically to nickel, though this is a theory based on my research into human metal allergies, so may be erroneous.

When Koira was younger, she developed a really nasty rash on her neck and chest. The rash was red and very obvious due to both her fur in the area being both very thin and white. Thickening of the skin and oozing blisters came and went, occasionally getting a bit better, and sometimes getting very bad indeed. At one of the bad turns, someone even asked me if I fought my dog (as in organized dog fighting) because her neck looked so ravaged. In addition to the sores and rash on her neck, Koira's ears were affected. The tips of her ears were literally falling off in chunks. The fur and dead chunks of skin would come off in my hands when I pet her or investigated the funky looking areas on her ears. Though the ears improved and regressed as much as the rest of the rash, they were bad enough at times that I seriously thought about having her ears cropped.

As you can imagine, I tried a lot of things to help her. I put her onto an allergy formula food (Natural Balance). No improvement. I started home cooking meals for her so I could carefully control every ingredient added. No improvement. I bought her a leather collar, thinking it might be irritation from the nylon collar she was wearing. No improvement. I even took to putting a bandanna on Koira instead of a collar, but since I dangled her tags from that, there was still very little improvement. During this time, Koira also got a staph infection on her neck, chest, and belly. The theory of my vet at the time was that she had cut herself on grass and developed a staph infection from those cuts. Koira also had bad dandruff, especially on her neck and shoulders, but pretty much all down her back.

Finally, one day, completely out of the blue, a friend of mine suggested that Koira might be allergic to metal. It was like a light bulb going off. I pulled off Koira's collar and tags. I purchased plastic and ceramic bowls to replace the metal food and water bowls. I coated the hook snaps on my leashes with clear nail polish. And Koira's horrible running sores and rashes went away. Her ears (which I can only assume were coming into contact with her tags when she shook her head) improved immediately. Within days, my beautiful girl had clear skin, with nothing but a few healing scabs left over.

Since that time, I have made Koira's collars myself using heavy duty nylon hardware instead of metal. I do not put tags on her. For a while, I did try using fabric bags to hold her tags, but I never found one that kept them secure and prevented them from touching her completely. Since she is micro chipped (she did have a serious neck and face swelling in reaction to being micro chipped, but has not had any continued problems with the chip after the first couple of weeks), I have decided that her well being and comfort is more important than her wearing her tags.

When we have to go to the vet for shots or other procedures that might involve contact with metal, I make sure to dose Koira with Benadryl before we go and again later in the day. It mostly prevents site reactions. (And, yes, stainless steel DOES contain nickel.) I honestly do not know what I would do if Koira were to require something like pins to hold together a broken bone. I just hope we never have to find out.

I am bringing up all of this because I have been looking longingly at some leather collars. I really wish I could get Koira and Pallo nice matching supple leather collars to wear. But leather collars come with metal hardware. Brass does not always contain nickel. But, since I don't know how to find out if the hardware being used contains nickel or not, and I don't know for sure that it is only nickel that Koira is allergic to, I don't know what to do. Do I buy a couple of really nice dog collars, test the hardware with this nickel testing kit and then just not use them if the test is positive? It would certainly be a lot of money to spend on the collars and the test kit only to find out I can't use them.

I will admit that in the past few weeks Koira has been occasionally wearing a new collar that has a stainless steel D ring on it. The collar is an LED light up collar that she only wears out to the park and so far I have not seen any reactions. I am not, however, so foolish as to hope she is "over" this allergy- that doesn't happen. I am sure that if she were to be exposed to more metal, the full reaction would come back relatively quickly. And I don't really want to risk that.

In any case, I didn't really write this post just because I want a nice collar for my dog. I wrote it more because, while doing all of the reading and research about metal allergies this evening in an attempt to find some kind of hardware that might be safe for my dog to wear, I came across almost no mention of metal allergies in dogs. And those that I did see were mostly passing mention of it in a forum thread.

So, if anyone has a dog they think or know has a metal allergy and wants to ask any questions or share any knowledge, I would love to hear from you. If you stumble on this blog post by searching the web for what could be causing the oozing rashes your dog has, I hope this can give you something to try out to help your dog.

35 comments:

  1. My dogs don't have any allergies (that I know of), so I can't give you any advice on that.

    However, Etsy has some adorable handmade collars. I'm sure you could order one with special instructions to leave out the D ring?

    Glad you figured out what was wrong with Koira. She's a beaut.

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  2. Ugh...allergies can be so hard. My sister has an allergy to nickel and you are right, sensitivity comes and goes.

    What about custom leather collars with plastic D-rings? Or maybe even more custom by having the leather pieces sewn together with leather strips, and rings and loops can also be made of leather...it's strong stuff. You can even have her name and contact information stamped directly into the leather. No tags needed. And if you do a fitted or martingale 'slip over the head' style you wouldn't need buckles or clips to attach the collar to her.

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  3. Ah. You know I can relate to this... My struggle with Elli's metal allergy wasn't nearly as long as yours was, though.

    Sucks about the leather collar conundrum. I know Ella's Lead answered to people wanting just-as-strong non-leather (vegan) collars, so you might be able to ask them about plastic hardware?

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  4. I know I could get a custom leather collar made with plastic hardware, but really, it kind of defeats the point in my opinion. Leather collars should be gorgeous and luxurious, and they just don't look good with plastic hardware.

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  5. I agree. I'd consider solid brass, then.

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  6. First, it seems my puppy is allergic to dog tags. I do not know what type of metal they are made of. I had two, one for contact info and one for rabies. I just ordered a plastic collar tag that snaps on instead of hanging. Unfortunately, she will just have to do without the rabies tag. It had occured to me it may be lead in the metal or the paint, but after reading your post nickel is certainly a possibility as well of course.

    If you are willing to go all so far for a leather collar, you may want to check to see if there is a leather smith in your area. I did business with one about 10 years ago. It seems they still have a following in niche areas such as law enforcement, so there are probably still some custom leather options around if you look. If you can find one you are likely to be impressed at what they can do for you. The item I ordered used no metal for aesthetic reasons. It was intricate layers and designs with leather stitching. To this day the item is in excellent condition. If anything it looks better with age.

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  7. My dog also has a metal allergy but did not react to the micro chip. Now she is just a rash free wennie

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  8. I just removed a collar from my dog because her collar was special ordered, one of those belt buckle collars..its so pretty in her, but right where the buckle hits her skin she had this huge red irritation that just kept getting worse. I believe she also has an allergy to metal/nickel. She never had problems in smaller doses like the clasp of a leather collar, but she does best with the plastic clasps which are also really nice. Thanks for sharing.

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  10. My dog is having the same issues. Stumbled on this blog trying to research her skin problems

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  11. My dog is having the same issues. Stumbled on this blog trying to research her skin problems

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  12. I am glad this post is still coming up when people search about allergies. I hope it helps some more people figure out what is causing their dog's allergy symptoms. If any one has any questions regarding the metal allergy, feel free to ask in a comment here or send me an email.

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  13. I once had a dog with an allergy to stainless steel too.

    He would get scabs and sores on his nose and around his mouth. We tried everything we could think of and it turned out to be his water bowl.

    We now have a cat with a similar allergy and symptoms so as soon as I noticed them we immediately replaced all of our pets food and water bowls with plastic ones. (4 cats and a dog) and since we did no more scabs.

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  14. We adopted a bi-black sheltie male six years old about four months ago and in the past couple of weeks he has developed an allergy to his tags. His chest hair being white started turning little dark in one area but then he would get groomed and I wouldn't notice it as much. He scratches at his neck and collar so I checked it and his skin was very red and we immediately took collar and tags off. I had ordered him a cloth collar already and the only thing I can figure out is the circular tag holder that they put on their are affecting him or the metal ID tag we got him. I ordered him a plastic ID tag and his Chip tag is plastic but his rabies is not. The only thing I can figure out is that he has allergy to metal. I can relate I have nickel allergy myself. Does anyone else have any advice for me please let me know. I put Neosporin on his skin and it is better after couple of days. Debbie in Baton Rouge, LA

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  15. I've wondered if my dog has developed an allergy to metal as well. It wasn't just collar rubbing. I did notice she had some pink skin where the collar buckle was, but it wasn't too bad. Plus the collar area was fine every time i washed her collar. (She also has seasonal allergies so i think the pollen build-up and the washing helping was related) But regardless she would get this red hot spot lower than her collar line, hair loss there, etc where her tags touched her skin all day. I removed the collar/tags and it healed right up. She wasn't always this way, but i wonder if the color on her tags wore off exposing the metal, making it more severe over time. considering a plastic coating spray?? or fleece sleeve for collar that would "hold up" the tags. she is collarless right now, but that makes me uncomfortable even though tagged. much to think about. thank you for your posting.

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  16. Thank you thank you thank you! I was convinced our pits horrible rash/ugly spot was from his collar and the metal but my husband didn't seem to think so. Now I don't feel so crazy. =) I'm allergic to nickel so it only makes sense dogs could be as well. Our pit Thor also had really bad allergies that make his eyes itch and swell. The spot on Thor's neck started small but grew to the size of a half dollar rather quickly. I thought it was a hot spot at first but when it wasn't getting better we took him to the vet and they put him on steroids and antibiotics. It cleared up beautifully and was almost fully healed when it came back with a vengeance a few days after finishing his meds. He keeps scratching it open every time it's healing, and knows how to take his cone off, so it's just an awful looking bald, oozing, sometimes bloody, spot on his neck. A little girl who stopped to pet him asked if he got burned =( Our dogs ears are already clipped (he's a rescue and the previous owners did a HORRENDOUS at home hack job), so the spot his neck makes it look like he's a fighter, which I hate! I'm definitely going to look into a harness or custom leather collar without metal or rough stitching. I think the combo of the nylon with rough seams and metal are definitely negatively affecting my fur baby.

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  17. Thank you for documenting your experiences. I have a very fluffy white dog with a completely black mouth, nose and eye rims. I noticed that his inner lips started to turn pink on just one side. At first I thought it was an injury but there was no damage - just the depigmentation. It happened in a short time - less than seven days. Then a pink splotch started on the other side of his mouth. There didn't seem to be any problems elsewhere with his skin but he's so fluffy that his tags and the clasp on his collar just rest on fur and don't touch his skin. I took him to a vet to examine the depigmentation and his response was "that's just dog." The vet told me to watch it and send him photos if there were further changes. I did a lot of research online - and of course came up with lots of diseases some very disturbing, some just cosmetic -- vitiligo, lupus, thyroid disease, UVD/VKH which can also cause blindness. There was a brief mention on a site about metal and plastic allergies sometimes causing depigmentation. I changed his water and food bowls to porcelain. Within three days, the pigment started to return, and by week's end, there is only a small pink dot. I'm hopeful that I've found the reason for the depigmentation.

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  18. Wow...Gibby my Great Dane has had a darn area on his neck by his throat. When he was a baby my vet gave him medicated shampoo..but it didn't really do anything. On and off the spot gets from " not too bad " to " really bad." In Feb Gibby had a bad accident and surgeries.... so he didn't have his collar on at all...besides after that..friends sent him home made fabric collars. A month ago I had just said to my husband that it MUST have been the collar that was causing problems because his neck had NO marks or rash on it at all. THEN the collar he had been wearing broke and I put his nylon one on again with a big clasp. He has been wearing ir for about 2 weeks and I just noticed that his neck is worse than I had ever seen it. I just found this doing research on dogs being allergic to metal. Thank God there are others to make me feel better.

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  19. I had no idea so many dogs had metal allergies. We have a 6 month old puppy who had no adverse reaction to being chipped nor to the D rings or pet tag on his nylon collar. We bought him a nylon and metal corrective collar which is mainly nylon and that was fine. However, we bought a full metal corrective collar to train him to walk better on the lead and stop dragging us around. We have been using it for a week and in the last 2 days the fur around his neck has gone black, started falling out in one patch in particular and has taken on a real moth eaten appearance with lumps under the skin. I can't imagine what else it could be. He's diet is exactly the same and he's not on any medication. At a loss to know what I can now use as a training colla . He's a mastiff cross so I need something fairly strong. Will have to start googling. Its such a shame as he was really doing well with the walking and it was so much calmer for all concerned. Back to the drawing board!

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  20. Just found this post on Google.
    We adopted Diesel - a billy boy, from our local shelter. He was there for months, because no one wanted to deal with his allergy issues despite the fact he is a sweet, loving boy and such a good dog. Even the pound weren't sure what he was allergic to, just put him on hypoallergenic food and steroids.
    We've been struggling to get his coat to even out; he still licks and itches all the time. We just bought a chain collar, and you guessed it...after three days his neck looks awful. He also has been eating/drinking from stainless bowls, so those go tonight.
    I'm still convinced he has food/environmental allergies above and beyond. I know in humans there can be correlations between latex and some fruits (melons mostly), and I DON's want him on long term Prednisone (I'm a nurse, and I know the side effects...don't want that for my boy).
    Anyway - does anyone know if there are correlations between metal allergies and certain foods? I'm going to keep looking.

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  21. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3667300/

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  22. I am SO happy I came across this!! Thank you! I have been having so many skin issues with our adopted Doberman. I have done everything humanely possible in the food department to help him. But the other day I noticed , after he had worn his gorgeous leather collar with studs, that he had raised bumps just around his neck.... I'm going to look into this further
    Thank you again!

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  23. Hi - definitely I have a dog with a nickel allergy. I just found (and ordered) one of these http://www.original-herm-sprenger-dog-collars.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=36 nickel free and seem pretty cool. Not a gorgeous leather martingale, but it's a start...

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    1. Oh, I like the martingale curogan collar. It looks pretty sharp. For the price, though, I would rather have durable leather. It is so much more comfortable, probably for both me and the dog. For an update on what I've been using with my dog lately, I did a more recent post: http://mylifewithflyballdogs.blogspot.com/2015/03/dealing-with-metal-allergies-in-dogs.html

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    2. Thank you! My dog has a horrible allergy to metal, I don't know which type but she had the blistering sores etc. I am desperately searching for a plastic d ring collar, or ceramic tags, any info you have I would appreciate. Thanks.

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    3. I've been using a new collar lately, made with biothane and a black anodized hardware. I absolutely love it, and it doesn't seem to cause any problems. I'm sure the metal in the hardware will get exposed eventually with use, but the collar itself was only $14, so I am okay with that. And, it is waterproof since it is made out of biothane. I'm kind of in love with it.

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    4. I think my dog may have allergies to metal also - all the same symptoms described. I'm going to remove her tags and use one of these collars from LL Bean: http://www.llbean.com/llb/shop/83841 - I'm going to cut the D ring off it when I get it.

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  24. My dog Ella is a boxer mixed, she is white with little brown on her. When we first got her she was beautiful!!! Then few months later she had welps on her I have pictures if you would like to see I can email to you. Red skin, always scratching, chewing her paws, which vet told us was side effect of an allergic reaction to something! Spent 100's of dollars at the vets office and 100's of dollars on different foods! With wheat without with chicken and without, even went as far as vegetarian food which she hated! And we couldn't clear this up even with medication from the doctor and each time she had ear infections with this! She wears an invisible fence shock collar, well (she is and is an inside dog that goes out alone to potty) well a week ago her collar fell off and I needed to try and fix it or buy new collar and try punch holes in it for piece for eletric fence to hook to it. All of a sudden like you said a light bulb went off after about 4 days that....she looked better! Her skin wasn't as red! She wasn't chewing her paws!!! So giving it a few more days to see if her skin heals completely! So for just my opinion she is allergic to the metal on the prongs on the shock collar! Keeping fingers crossed this continues to get better!

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    1. Our boxer is allergic to her invisible fence collar. We cover the prongs with fabric from an old t-shirt and take it off as soon as she comes in the house. Her neck cleared up. We recently have change out all water, food bowls to glass.

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  25. I just adopted a dog that had already been diagnosed with a metal allergy. His chest where the tags were is all red so I took off his collar while in the house. He was covered in hives when we adopted him 3 days ago (while in a metal cage at the shelter for the last month) and his hives have vastly improved except for two spots in his chest and neck. I'm hoping to get him on allergy meds and find a metal free collar and harness.

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  26. Keep this in mind as well - vaccines can be the cause of the allergies in the first place.. :( http://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/you-want-to-detox-a-vaccination-think-again/

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  27. Hi. I read your article with interest as my cavi/cocker also has skin allergies. I also started making my own and also did a lot of research. Please see my range at www.jollywagtails.com Stainless steel does have some nickel but it is a low 8% (compared to other Nickel Plated Dee rings) and it is corrosion resistant. It is the corrosion that causes the problem and the amount of nickel. I also use breathable 100% cotton canvas, not synthethic which is high in chemicals and possible irritants as well. All comments welcome, as I too am determined to use the best hardware possible. Cheers, Susie

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  28. Thank you so much for posting this. I was assured by the dermatology vet that nickel (and other contact allergies) in dogs are not nearly as common as they are in humans, so, therefore, my dog was not suffering from one.

    My dog is allergic to a lot of things - probably including nickel. It's one of the more common contact allergies in humans; why wouldn't that be the case in dogs as well? Although the pup has been getting allergy shots for over two months, and his skin has improved, he hates wearing his harness (which has metal attachments) and needs to be pulled along on walks occasionally. His skin has improved, but mostly on the parts that his harness doesn't come into contact with. I read your post and it clicked. Thanks again!

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  29. Hi,
    Your post is too good with lots of information. Biothane dog leashes have excellent grip, no edges and holds nicely in one's hand during walks. The leash does neither grind nor chafe and long tours become a real enjoyment. Thank you.

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