If you’ve ever had poison ivy, you know how uncomfortable it can be. Flashbacks of raw, itchy skin may still haunt you and leave you reticent to do much exploring in the great outdoors lest you come in contact with poison ivy again. If you’re a dog owner, going for walks and hikes in the woods is likely something you’ve come to really enjoy. This may leave you with an important question—can dogs get poison ivy? The answer is yes, they can though it is not often seen in dogs. Thankfully, if your pooch is one of the few that’s had a run in with this itch-inducing plant, it is treatable.
What Can I Do to Keep My Dog Safe from Poison Ivy?
It is not often that a dog will succumb to poison ivy. However, if your dog suffers from sensitive skin, it is best to avoid contact with this plant as a precaution. If your dog should step or roll in poison ivy or poison oak, you should immediately bath your dog upon returning home.
If after bathing your dog you see signs of a rash or other reaction, it is a good idea to call your veterinarian for an appointment. Most often, the dog is reacting to something else other than the poison ivy; however, it is still best to have your dog’s skin assessed by a veterinary professional. Even if poison ivy is not to blame for the reaction, your vet may prescribe medication to soothe the skin and help reduce the rash and resolve any inflammation.
It’s important to note that if your dog steps on poison ivy and does not react to it, it could still be transferred to your skin. Because dogs pick up the oils from the plant on their bodies, they can be transmitted from your dog to you when you brush, pet, or bath your dog.
Are Certain Breeds More Likely to React to Plants Like Poison Ivy?
There is no question that some dog breeds are more predisposed to allergic reactions to environmental stimuli. However, a better indicator of whether or not harmful plants may cause unpleasant reactions in your dog is how much coat your dog carries. Dogs that have less coat and more exposed skin have less protection from the oils and leaves of plants like poison ivy, putting them more at risk of a reaction.
But it is not just coat type and exposed skin that can play a factor in whether or not your dog will react to coming into contact with harmful plants. Dogs that are shorter of stature or that regularly engage in activities like hiking with their families have a greater rate of exposure than larger breeds or city dwellers.
What are the Symptoms of Poison Ivy?
There are a few things you should look for if you suspect your dog may be having a reaction to poison ivy. These include:
- Redness of the skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blistering of the skin
If you notice any of the above symptoms in your dog, it is best to call your veterinarian for assistance.
How Soon Will I Notice a Reaction in My Dog?
The time between exposure to a reaction is typically three to seven days. If your dog exhibits any signs of a poison ivy exposure, you will need to take steps to make sure your dog cannot lick the affected areas. Licking may cause the rash to spread and can also cause blisters to pop, worsening the rash and potentially leading to serious infections.
How Can I Avoid a Poison Ivy Exposure?
The best way to avoid exposure to poison ivy is by staying away from places where it is known to grow. If you do happen to discover some when out on a walk, keep your dog well away from the area. Some dogs will not only play and walk through it, they will also eat it if given the opportunity. For best results, simply find another place to walk that is free from potentially harmful plants.
How Can I Identify Toxic Plants Like Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac?
Poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac all belong to the same plant classification: Anacardiaceae. These plants all prefer to grow in areas that are damp to wet and wooded.
The poison ivy plant is green and leafy. Its leaves are sectioned off in threes with each leaf have a ruffled edge to it. Many people repeat the old adage, “Leaves of three, let them be” to remind themselves not to touch this poisonous plant.
Though poison oak also has leaves that are bundled in threes, this plant’s leaves are rounded. Poison oak is also a fruit-bearing plant and may been seen with white-yellow berries growing from its center.
Poison sumac’s leaves are oval in shape. They are smooth and long and grow in large clusters ranging from as few as seven to as many as 13.
What Makes Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac Toxic?
All three of these plants contain the same toxic substance: urushiol. Urushiol is a powerful sap that is oily to the touch. It is found over every surface of the plant, making it virtually impossible to avoid.
Are There Any Home Remedies for Dogs Affected by Poison Ivy?
If your dog is reacting to poison ivy, you need to bath your dog as soon as possible. To prevent the oils from getting on your skin, it is recommended that you cover as much of your skin as possible by using waterproof gloves and wearing clothing that keeps your arms and legs protected.
A mild shampoo is the best product for the job. Even a very well diluted blue Dawn dish soap will do. You will need to completely wet down your dog’s coat with cold water. Add the soap and lather vigorously, rinsing with warm water. Exercise great caution when bathing to avoid soap getting into your dog’s sensitive areas like his eyes, ears, and genitals.
It may take at two washes to completely remove the urushiol from your dog’s coat and skin. Once you have completed the bathing, dry your dog thoroughly with a plush towel.
Once your dog is completely clean and dry, it is time to deal with your own clothing. Remove everything you were wearing and anything that you or your dog may have touched. All of these things will need to be washed on the highest heat cycle in your washing machine. This includes shoes, leashes, bedding, and collars.
For things that cannot be put in a washing machine, you will need to use a strong fabric cleaner on them. Among the items that will require this type of cleaning are your furniture, your car seats, and your carpets.
If your dog is suffering from a mild rash, call your veterinarian to ask if you can safely give your dog Benadryl. Your vet will be able to advise if you can treat your dog at home or if he needs to come in to be seen by a veterinary professional. Your vet can also provide you with the correct dosage of Benadryl for your dog’s weight and size.
Coconut oil can also help soothe itchy skin. However, exercise caution when applying this as many dogs like the taste of it and will try to eat lick it off. This could potentially give your dog an upset stomach and even cause any blisters to break.
For dogs that are showing signs of nausea or who are vomiting, it is a good idea to put your dog on a bland diet short term. Boiled chicken and rice with no added seasonings will help soothe an upset tummy. Make sure your dog always has easy access to fresh water to prevent dehydration from occurring.
How Will I Know If My Dog Needs to See a Vet?
Most often, dogs that react to poison ivy experience only very mild symptoms from the exposure. It is, however, possible that something more serious could happen. If you see any of the following symptoms, your dog needs emergency care:
- Anaphylactic shock
- Oozing sores or blisters
- Excessive biting of the skin
- Persistent scratching
- Loss of appetite
Can dogs get poison ivy? They can, but it is very rare. For best results, avoid places where poisonous plants are known to grow or give a wide berth to anything that looks suspicious. Fido will thank you for it!