If your dog is allergic to their collar, the best (and most obvious) thing you can do is switch collars. Be sure to choose a collar that’s made from different materials. For example, if your dog is allergic to their nylon collar, switch to a metal collar.
Dogs can be allergic to a number of substances. Some of their allergies are environmental, like dust, pollen, and grass. Some of them can be allergic to specific items, like food or materials. If your dog is allergic to the material of their collars, they might experience unnecessary discomfort.
Common Collar Allergens
Dog collars come in a variety of materials. The most common are leather, nylon, and cotton, but some dogs (usually tougher-looking breeds) wear metal collars.
Metal collars are traditionally either silver, brass, or plated in nickel and chrome. Some collars can be a mix, with the actual collars being made of fabric and metal spikes or decoration added to the material.
Dogs can have skin allergies to any of these common materials. Skin allergies are an overreaction of the immune system.
When an allergen is introduced to the skin, the immune system produces a compound known as histamine that results in swelling, itchiness, and—if there is continued exposure to the allergen— hair loss.
If your dog has a metal allergy, even if the collar is made of fabric, chances are it has a metal clip or buckle.
If your dog is allergic to the type of metal used, even something as small as the buckle could cause discomfort or irritation.
Thin haired dogs are more prone to metal allergies. If your dog has a metal allergy, they won’t just be affected by their collar, but by metal bowls and crates, as well.
Nylon is a synthetic polymer. It is very common and used in a wide variety of products. A nylon allergy is rare, but not impossible.
Nylon is made with many chemicals, so more often than not, the allergy is a reaction to one of those chemicals rather than to nylon itself.
Identifying and Treating A Collar Allergy
Signs and Symptoms
If your dog is allergic to its collar, there are a few things that would indicate this problem. The most common would be itchy skin around their neck, loss of fur, and change in the skin’s pigmentation in the neck area. Other symptoms might include lesions, bumps, or signs of an infection.
To determine if your pup is allergic to their collar—and what that specific allergy is—there are a few different methods your vet can use.
Skin scrapings, blood tests, and cytologic analysis of cells are tests that require laboratory analysis.
A patch test refers to the process where the suspected allergen is applied to a cloth and placed on the affected skin area. It is covered for a day or two and then taken off. The skin is then observed for a few days afterward to see if there is any reaction.
Once the allergy is properly diagnosed, treatment begins immediately.
The first step in treatment is administering an antihistamine, depending on the severity of the reaction. Most antihistamines can be administered topically, but corticosteroid injections are also possible.
It is then necessary to properly clean and decontaminate the reaction site.
Finally, the most important part of treatment is removing the allergen from the dog’s environment as soon as possible.
Allergic reactions will usually clear up and heal within a few days, as long as the allergen is removed.
If your dog is allergic to its collar, the easiest solution is to switch to a different material.
Leather and hemp-based collars are made of materials that are soft, environmentally friendly, and easy on your dog’s skin.
Cotton and nylon are also suitable substitutes, assuming your dog is not allergic to either of those, as well.
If your dog is not necessarily allergic to anything but has certain skin sensitivities, look for collars free of nontoxic dyes and made with minimal chemicals. Plant-based fibers and paints are preferable.
But What if it Isn’t the Collar?
If your dog has a rash or is losing hair around their neck, most owners would assume their dog is allergic to the collar. Although that is likely the case, there could be something else causing the rash or hair loss.
Infection or Irritation
Is your dog’s collar too tight? If it is, this can be extremely uncomfortable for them. The friction of the collar against their skin could cause hair loss and/or chafing of the skin.
Your dog might also be consistently scratching at their neck in an attempt to loosen the collar, which results in hair loss and skin abrasions.
If these skin abrasions go untreated, they could get infected and lead to worse problems for your pup.
You not only have to make sure the area around your dog’s collar is clean, but the collar itself.
Think about it. Would you wear the same shirt every day, even if it was dirty? And by dirty, I mean covered in dirt or mud or whatever else your dog might get into.
If you have a rambunctious or outdoorsy pup, there’s a good chance their collar is seeing some grime.
Keep the collar clean and dry so it does not become a breeding ground for harmful mold and bacteria.
Reaction to Chemicals
Flea and tick collars are a widely used method of flea and tick prevention.
These collars use chemicals that continuously release into your dog’s fur to kill fleas, ticks, and larvae that might lurk there.
These collars usually remain effective for a few months at a time and are relatively harmless.
However, that is not to say that your dog might be sensitive to the chemicals used and have a reaction to the collar.
The most common adverse reaction is hair loss, but skin redness and irritation can happen as well.
If this occurs, it is best to consult with your vet for other flea and tick prevention methods. Once removing the collar, the hair will usually grow back within a few weeks.
Dogs can either be born with food allergies or manifest them over time, just like humans. The most common food allergens for dogs are soy, wheat, dairy, and beef.
You can determine if your dog is allergic to a particular food by starting a veterinarian-recommended food trial, where you feed them only hypoallergenic food for a few weeks.
Does your dog start itching like crazy in the spring? They might have a pollen allergy.
Other common environmental allergens for dogs include grass, mold, weeds, trees, dust, and dander.
You can help lessen the severity of their allergy symptoms by making sure they are bathed regularly, avoiding the allergen as much as possible, and possibly even administering some anti-itch medication like Apoquel when their symptoms are the most severe.
Shampoos and Soaps
It is imperative to never use shampoos and soaps made for people on your dog.
It’s best to use a hypoallergenic soap or shampoo when bathing your dog. If they suffer from excessive itchiness, perhaps a medicated shampoo.
Your vet will recommend a brand they think is best. If you want to try a shampoo that is best for dry, itchy skin without the medicated factor, oatmeal and aloe-based shampoos are usually very effective.
Medication that is prescribed to your dog can sometimes cause them to have an allergic reaction. This is usually antibiotics and/or vaccinations, but it can also be something topical.
If you believe your dog is experiencing an adverse reaction to a medication or supplement, stop the dosage and consult with your vet before proceeding with any treatment.
Don’t Assume The Collar is to Blame
If your dog is developing rashes or losing hair under their collar, there’s a good chance they are allergic to the material. However, if you replace their collar with one made of different material and they are still showing symptoms, they could be allergic to something else.
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