Dog Care

Ruh-Roh! Can Dogs Get Poison Ivy?

Ruh-Roh! Can Dogs Get Poison Ivy?

Written By Meredith Kavanagh

Sep 16, 2016

Yes, your dog can get poison ivy and all of the itchy irritation that comes with it. If you live in a wooded area, have a lush backyard, or often hike with your pooch, then listen up! Dogs can get poison ivy just as easily as humans can, and since they don’t know any better, it’s your job as a pup-parent to keep them away from it. 

What Does Poison Ivy Look Like?

The first step in steering clear of this innocuous little shrub is identifying it. This can be tricky since poison ivy can grow anywhere, and the leaves change appearance throughout the seasons — but the basic description is enough to help you spot it.

Poison ivy is a small, bushy plant. Each stem has three smaller leaflets. During the spring, poison ivy can also sprout yellow-green flowers and small green berries which turn off-white during autumn. 

All three toxic plants contain an oily sap called urushiol, which causes an itchy rash and nasty blisters on the skin. Urushiol has to be absorbed through the skin before it can cause an allergic reaction.

poison ivy and dogs

FAQ: Can Dogs Get Poison Ivy?

1. How can dogs get poison ivy?

Poison ivy, poison oak, and sumac are three different toxic plants that all contain urushiol. These plants are easy to break, which is how the sap is released.

Since dogs are shorter and closer to the ground, they are at a higher risk of coming into contact with these dangerous plants. Urushiol needs to be absorbed into the skin to cause a reaction, so your pup’s thick coat may catch it before it gets to their skin.

2. Are certain breeds at risk for poison ivy?

All breeds are susceptible to the effects of poison ivy if they spend time outdoors or in wooded areas. If your pup is shorter or has sparsely covered fur, they may be at greater risk.

The lower their body is to the ground, the higher the chance that areas with exposed skin will come in contact with the plant. If your pet doesn’t have a thick coat to protect their skin from the urushiol, they are more likely to see an allergic reaction.

3. I think my dog has poison ivy. What do I do first?

Since the urushiol needs to be absorbed through the skin to cause an allergic reaction, the first step is to try to wash it off their coat. Give them a bath with oatmeal soap, but make sure to wear rubber gloves so that you don’t contract the poison ivy rash! Soap up their fur at least three times to get rid of as much of the oil as possible. 

Next, dry them off thoroughly to rid their coat of any remnants of the oil, and wash those towels immediately. The toxins can spread from clothing, shoes, or fur onto humans or other pets.

Tip: Since the oil can easily be transferred from your pup’s coat to your skin, wear a long sleeve shirt and pants. Try not to let your dog shake themselves dry.  

4. What are the signs that my dog has poison ivy?

Your dog will itch like they’ve never itched before! Keep an eye on the not-so-furry parts of their body where their skin is exposed. If you see them biting or itching their belly, groin, muzzle, genitals, and armpits, you should inspect for a rash or blisters. (Or fleas!)

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5. How do you treat poison ivy on dogs?

Excessive itching, a visible rash with raised bumps, and redness are all signs that your pooch is dealing with an allergic reaction. If you notice any of these symptoms, go straight to the vet! If left untreated, the bumps can blister and ooze a fluid which can make your pet susceptible to bacterial infections.

In serious cases without treatment, the inflammation from the urushiol can cause your pet to develop a fever. A fever can make your dog appear lethargic, feel depressed, and lose their appetite.

Your vet can prescribe topical, oral, or injectable steroid medication to clear the reaction. They might also prescribe antibiotics if they are worried that your pet could develop a secondary bacterial skin infection.

6. Can I use calamine lotion on my dog’s poison ivy?

No! Calamine lotion is commonly used to relieve our itching, but the zinc oxide is toxic if ingested by pets. And let’s be honest, when have you ever put something on your pet that they didn’t try to lick off?

If your vet rules out poison ivy, coconut oil for dogs can be used to treat dry skin, and it is a great way to help relieve the itch! Plus, coconut oil is completely safe for them to ingest if they lick it off.

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Did you learn something about poison ivy and dogs? Has your pooch ever gotten into poison ivy? Share your story with us in the comments below!