Plastic Allergy In Dogs And Cats

It will surprise many people to learn that animals may become allergic to plastic.  Areas of skin that contact the plastic become inflamed and often bleed.  Once the normal dermal barrier is damaged, bacteria and fungi often develop secondary infections.  Pictured below is the chin of a dog who received an automatic plastic feeder for Christmas.  The lesions often start on the chin and spread to the lips and nose. 

Treatment involves removing the plastic exposure and treating the secondary infections.  In this case, I recommended placing a metal or ceramic pan in the automatic feeder.  Given appropriate therapy, most patients will recover within two weeks. 

Unfortunately, there can also be problems associated with metal bowls (shocks from static electricity) and ceramic bowls (easily broken and lead paint).  Please see my next blog for the pros and cons of the different materials used in food and water bowls.     


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  • 1/26/2012 6:08 PM Jana Rade wrote:
    We are consistently sticking with stainless steel. From the pots and pans, to the storage containers, to feeding and drinking bowls. Haven't had any issues.
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  • 2/3/2012 5:36 AM Orange County Veterinarian wrote:
    Thanks for posting this!
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  • 2/15/2012 7:50 PM healthy pet food wrote:
    It would be wiser to bring your pet to the veterinarian whenever symptoms of rashes occurs. You may not know that your pet is allergic to plastic.
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  • 3/21/2012 6:31 PM Bill wrote:
    Where has it been documented that plastic allergies exist in dogs? And has there been a paper suggesting plastic bowl exposure relates to increased incidence of chin acne?
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    1. 3/26/2012 8:54 PM Dr Kris Nelson wrote:
      Bill, you raise a great point and it made me do a search of the literature.  To my surprise, this is an area that needs further scientific study!  Yet, I did find a few references.  In humans, a colleague brought to my attention a paper by Drs. Helig, Adams, Zaenglein in Pediatric Dermatology which linked contact dermatitis to plastic toilet seats and a school chair.  The paper was published in the September-October 2011 edition: 28 (5): 587-90.  In veterinary medicine, there is discussion of the topic in the book Veterinary Clinics of North America - Small Animal Practice 1990.  There they discuss allergic contact dermatitis in the dog surrounding plastic dishes.  In Small Animal Dermatology, the sixth edition, there is a picture of a dog with the description of plastic bowl/lip dermatitis. 
      Oddly enough, a few months ago I saw an article where the concern was a stainless steel bowl.  When it was replaced with a ceramic one, the pet responded beautifully.  It is understood in the profession that Mexican Hairless dogs sometimes develop an allergy to the stainless steel bowls.

      In my own clinical practice, I have observed dogs who when exposed to a plastic bowl have an immediate allergic reaction.  I have also changed patients away from plastic, had them clear and when accidently re-introduced to a plastic bowl, relapse.  It was a great question and certainly we could use further scientific inquiry into the topic.


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