Can Dogs Get Poison Ivy

icon June 13, 2023

"Leaves of three, let it be", a familiar American nursery rhyme, illustrates the most common poisonous plant people come in contact with - poison ivy.
Poison ivy allergy is the most reported case in the U.S. poison control centers, with at least 350,000 cases per year. When we think of poison ivy, we often associate it with humans and the itchy rashes it can cause. However, it's important to recognize that dogs can also be affected by this troublesome plant. As pet owners, it's crucial to understand the risks associated with dogs and poison ivy and take necessary precautions to keep our furry friends safe. In this article, we'll explore the dangers of poison ivy for dogs, symptoms to watch out for, and steps to prevent exposure.

What is Poison Ivy?

Poison ivy is a plant species scientifically known as Toxicodendron radicans. It is a common North American plant found in various habitats such as forests, fields, and along roadsides. Poison ivy is well-known for causing an allergic reaction in many people who come into contact with its leaves, stems, or roots.

The leaves of poison ivy typically have three leaflets, hence the popular saying "Leaves of three, let it be." However, it's important to note that some other plants, such as the harmless Virginia creeper, also have three leaflets, so it's best to rely on other identifying features to be certain. 

What Ingredients in Poison Ivy Can Cause Allergies in Dogs?

The allergic reaction caused by poison ivy is a result of an oily resin called urushiol found in the plant's sap, which is an oily resin found in the leaves, stems, and roots of the plant. When a dog comes into contact with poison ivy, the urushiol can quickly penetrate the skin and cause an itchy, blistering rash. The severity of the reaction can vary depending on the dog's sensitivity and the amount of urushiol encountered.
The reaction to poison ivy can vary from dog to dog. Some dogs may be more sensitive to the urushiol and have a more severe reaction, while others may show little to no symptoms. The rash typically appears within 24 to 48 hours after contact, and it may worsen over the following days. It is important to note that in addition to poison ivy, poison oak, and poison lacquer trees also contain lacquer phenols.

Visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for more information on how to identify these plants.

Outsmarting Poison Ivy and Other Poisonous Plants

Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac

What Does Poison Ivy Look Like on a Dog?

The signs and symptoms of poison ivy exposure in dogs can include:

  • Itchy, red, and inflamed skin
  • Swelling or bumps on the skin
  • Blistering or oozing of fluid from the affected area
  • Hair loss or thinning in the affected area
  • Excessive scratching, licking, or chewing at the skin
  • Discomfort or pain

Can Dogs Get Poison Ivy?

How Do I Get Rid of Poison Ivy on My Dog?

If you suspect that your dog has come into contact with poison ivy, it is important to take the following steps:

  • Keep your dog away from the poison ivy plant to prevent further exposure.
  • Wear gloves and wash your hands thoroughly to avoid transferring the urushiol to other parts of your dog's body or yourself.
  • Rinse your dog's skin with cool water as soon as possible after contact. This may help remove some of the urushiols before it has a chance to cause a reaction. You can use a hose or a gentle showerhead to thoroughly rinse the affected areas. Be careful not to use hot water, as it can worsen the itching and inflammation.
  • Use a mild pet shampoo to bathe your dog, ensuring you thoroughly clean the affected area.
  • After bathing, you can apply a soothing and pet-safe topical treatment recommended by your veterinarian. This can help alleviate itching and inflammation. Avoid using any human products or medications without consulting your vet, as they may not be safe for dogs.

Dog Washing & Grooming

When Should a Dog Visit a Veterinarian?

Similar to humans, the symptoms will appear as an itchy rash, around 3 to 7 days after exposure. It is important to keep your dog from licking their rash. Despite home care measures, such as bathing and using anti-itch products, the rash can develop into blisters filled with fluid. In more case, when these blisters pop, they can further spread the rash and can lead to bacterial or fungal infections. This is an emergency situation, please take them to the vet
If your dog also begins to have diarrhea or starts to vomit, facial swelling, intense itching, or a widespread rash, these reactions require veterinary treatment, a veterinarian can help alleviate their gastrointestinal upset.

How To Stop Your Dog From Licking Or Scratching A Rash?

After the dog is bathed, pay close attention to its behavior to stop licking.

To prevent your dog from licking or scratching the affected area, you may need to use an Elizabethan collar (also known as an "e-collar" or "cone") to restrict access. This will help prevent further irritation or infection. Alternatively, there are some soft, inflatable collars available that provide a more comfortable alternative to traditional e-collars.

How Long Does Poison Ivy Oil Last on Dog Fur?

The duration of poison ivy oil (urushiol) on dog fur can vary depending on various factors such as the amount of oil transferred, the dog's fur type, and how well the fur is cleaned. Urushiol can remain active on surfaces, including dog fur, for months or even years if not removed. It is a resilient oil and can cause a reaction upon contact even after a considerable period.

Cleaning and Removal: Prompt and thorough cleaning is crucial in removing the urushiol oil from the dog's fur. Washing the affected areas with pet shampoo and water can help remove the oil and reduce the risk of further exposure. However, it may take multiple washes or specific cleaning techniques to fully eliminate the oil from the fur.

Can Dogs Get Poison Ivy?

How to Help Prevent Poison Ivy in Dogs?

Learn how to identify poison ivy and other poisonous plants commonly found in your area. This knowledge will help you avoid areas where these plants are present during walks or outdoor activities with your dog.

If you spot poison ivy in your yard or areas where your dog frequents, take steps to remove them carefully. Wear protective gloves and use appropriate tools to uproot the plants, ensuring you don't come into contact with the poisonous oils.

 After outdoor excursions, especially in wooded or overgrown areas, thoroughly check your dog's coat for any plant material, including poison ivy leaves. If you find any, promptly remove them to minimize the risk of urushiol transfer.

In conclusion, while dogs are generally less affected by poison ivy compared to humans, it's crucial to be aware of the potential risks associated with this plant. By understanding the symptoms, taking preventive measures, and seeking veterinary advice when necessary, you can ensure the well-being of your canine companion and create a safe environment for both of you to enjoy outdoor activities. Stay informed, stay cautious, and enjoy your time with your furry friend!



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