Dogs & Poison Ivy: What You Need to Know
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Can dogs get poison ivy too? If you've ever wondered if your itching dog could have come into contact with this itch-causing plant, keep reading. Here's the lowdown on dogs and poison ivy, including the risk that exposure poses to both you and your dog.
What Is Poison Ivy?
Poison ivy is a plant identifiable by three ivy-like leaves that contain urushiol, an oil that typically causes people to break out in an itchy rash. Other plants that contain this oil are poison oak, which resembles the leaves of an oak tree, and poison sumac. These are typically found in the wild but sometimes encroach into parks and yards. Visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration website for more information on how to identify each of these plants.
Can Dogs Get Poison Ivy?
Dogs can get rashes from poison ivy, but it doesn't happen very often, says the Pet Poison Helpline. The skin of most dogs is protected from the rash-inducing oil, by their fur. However, dogs with thin or very short coats are more susceptible to developing rashes, but not necessarilly more reactive to urushiol. The biggest danger for most dogs, though, lies in ingesting the poison ivy plant. While this doesn't generally produce more than an upset stomach, a severe allergic reaction could cause your dog to go into anaphylactic shock, which can cause the airways to constrict, preventing him from being able to breathe. While this is not as common of an occurrence as it is with humans and allergies, it is still worth keeping an eye on your dog just in case. If you know or suspect that your dog has ingested poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac, keep a close eye on him and contact your veterinarian immediately.
Poison Ivy Symptoms to Look For
These are some common symptoms if your dog comes into contact with or ingested one of these itchy plants:
- Redness, swelling, and itching at the point of contact
- Blisters and scabs
- Abdominal pain
Between the possible risk of anaphylaxis and the fact that these signs could indicate something more serious, it's best to contact your vet if you notice any of these symptoms.
Danger of Dogs and Poison Ivy to People
Although the risk of letting dogs and poison ivy mix is low for your dog, there is a greater risk that he could pass poison ivy on to you, another human, or even other pets. If your pup gets the sap or oil from one of these plants on his fur, you could become exposed by petting or brushing up against him, or even by coming into contact with his bedding or sitting on the same chair or couch cushion he used.
To lower the risk of getting poison ivy from your pup, keep him on a leash when you go on hikes or walks, and remove any of these plants that you spot growing in your yard. Pet Poison Helpline also recommends bringing along a towel and a pair of gloves so that you can safely wipe down your pet after a hike. And if there's a chance your dog could have been exposed, bathe him right away, preferably while wearing gloves—and don't forget to wash his collar and leash. If you catch poison ivy yourself, it is also a good idea to consistently bathe your dog (as well as yourself) to prevent from transferring the oils back and forth between you two.
Poison Ivy Treatment for Dogs
If your dog does develop a poison ivy rash, the best treatment is to bathe him with a dog shampoo containing oatmeal. Stomach issues caused by ingesting it should pass on their own, but again, call your vet to be sure. And if he shows any signs of breathing problems, get him to an emergency vet immediately.
If you've noticed your dog scratching more than usual and are curious if he could have picked up a rash from poison ivy, don't fret, you can treat it like you might treat your own rash. If he does develop a rash, try your best to keep him from scratching it and making it worse. Call your vet for any additional treatment options.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet parent, pet blogger and novelist from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she usually writes under the supervision of a lapful of furbabies.