Poison ivy is a common plant known to cause allergic reactions in many people, causing red, itchy rashes on the skin. Dogs can easily be exposed to poison ivy, but it may not affect them in the same way it affects people.
Can Dogs Get Poison Ivy?
Technically, dogs can be affected by poison ivy, but it’s uncommon. A dog’s coat may act as a barrier to protect the skin from urushiol, the irritating oil/sap found in poison ivy. Urushiol is also within poison oak and sumac. Some dogs will react to urushiol if it touches their pores and skin, but many experience no reaction.
How Poison Ivy Affects Dogs
Dogs may be exposed to poison ivy through direct contact with your skin when walking through the plants. The fragile leaves release oil or sap onto to coat and exposed skin. Dogs that are sensitive to urushiol may experience a reaction if it gets on their skin. Wear protective gloves and clothing while cutting out poison ivy growth. Follow with a dog-specific conditioner to moisturize the skin and coat. Some dogs enjoy grazing or nibbling on grass and leaves, and mistakenly ingesting poison ivy in the process.
It’s important for owners to know that dogs can carry urushiol on their coats and pass it onto humans.
+ Signs of Poison Ivy Reaction in Dogs
- Red, itchy skin rash
- Oral ulcerations
How to Spot Poison Ivy
Poison ivy can be found all over the continental United States and is prevalent in wooded areas like forests, wetlands, and fields. It can also be found in parks, residential neighborhoods, or cities. The plants grow with three leaves that can be glossy or dull. The middle leaf typically has a longer stem than the leaves on the sides. Poison ivy may grow as a shrub or in a climbing vine. When in doubt, avoid vegetation with three leaves.
Treatment of Poison Ivy in Dogs
There are ways to protect yourself and your dog from reactions after exposure to poison ivy. It’s important to bathe your dog as soon as possible to remove urushiol from his coat. Wear gloves and protective clothing on your skin so you will not come into contact with the oil from poison ivy. Bathe your pet with a pet-safe shampoo or degreasing agent. Poison ivy may be mixed in with other plant growth along trails, paths, and roads. You may also use Dawn dish soap to bathe your dog. Your dog may need medication to treat nausean and inflammation.
Dogs may experience irritation to the mouth and gastrointestinal tract if they lick, chew, or eat poison ivy plants.
Contact your veterinarian if your pet develops a skin rash after poison ivy exposure. Your dog may need to be treated with topical and/or oral medications to reduce itching and irritation. An e-collar may become necessary to keep your dog from licking or chewing the affected area.
Poison ivy is not toxic if ingested, nonetheless it may cause discomfort to your dog. Offer water to your dog if he has been eating, licking, or chewing on poison ivy leaves. You may also wish to rinse out the mouth to remove urushiol residue and reduce irritation. You can rinse the mouth with water, saline, or diluted black tea; just make sure it is cool in temperature. Contact your veterinarian if you notice drooling, mouth sores, and/or vomiting. Be sure to protect your dog’s eyes by applying mineral oil or eye lubricating ointment prior to bathing.
How to Prevent Poison Ivy Exposure
You can reduce your dog’s exposure to poison ivy at home by identifying it in your yards and carefully removing it. This causes an itchy rash that will get worse if the dog scratches, licks, or chews the affected area. Use a pet-safe weed killer on the remaining stems and roots. Check your yard frequently for regrowth.
Keep your dog on a leash as much as possible during walks and hikes to reduce exposure to poison ivy. Watch your pet closely if you allow him off the leash. Do not enable your dog to roam freely. Choose an anti-seborrheic, keratolytic, or colloidal oatmeal shampoo designed for dogs. Your dog can easily wander through it without your knowledge.
If you suspect your pet is sick, call your vet immediately. For health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian, as they have examined your pet, know the pet’s health history, and can make the best recommendations for your pet.