How the washing machine can make your dog itch - Dr. Marty Becker

How the washing machine can make your dog itch

Thursday, Dec 29th, 2016 | By Dr. Marty Becker

Is there such a thing as too clean when it comes to washing your dog’s beds and rugs?

My wife, Teresa, is a self-proclaimed neat freak, from whom dirt, dust, bugs, and germs run in terror. Teresa saw an article in a magazine that talked about a new laundry detergent guaranteed to clean throw rugs cleaner than a surgical prep site. She couldn’t resist.

The throw rugs the dogs slept on came out of the washer looking bright and clean, and smelled really good (to us humans, anyway). Of course, she’d bought into the marketing hype and just knew that this new way of cleaning was going to better for pets and people.

It wasn’t.

Less than 24 hours later, two of our dogs were scratching like they’d been colonized by thousands of fleas. There were no parasites involved, however. It was something we veterinarians call contact dermatitis, which is basically a localized allergic reaction to an offense substance which can be a detergent, floor cleaner, lawn chemical, insecticide, or a product you put on your pet. Out two affected dogs were beet red on their bellies and the parts of their legs and faces that touched the carpet.

If you find yourself with pet who gets a rash or starts itching like you would with a hundred mosquito bites, take these steps:

  1. Wash away problems. Give the dogs a bath using an oatmeal, aloe, or tea tree oil shampoo; rinse and repeat.
  2. Toss or tumble the offending objects. If they are old rugs, maybe you can use it as an excuse to get new ones. At the very least, wash them twice in old detergent.
  3. Stop use immediately. My advice, if you think a product caused an intense allergic response, is to toss it or give it to somebody without pets. Don’t risk trying it again and putting your pet at risk of misery or worse, in the name of being “sure.”
  4. Visit the vet. If the problem doesn’t clear up in a couple of days or if the misery is too intense, you should take your dog to the veterinarian. She may have to give a medication to stop the itch and prescribe bathing products for sensitive skin.

After learning her lesson, Teresa went back to the product she’d used successfully for the almost four decades we’ve been married, and promised to stick with the tried and true from now on.