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dog scratching poison ivy rash

Do Dogs Get Affected by Poison Ivy? Symptoms and Treatment

We all know to stay away from poison ivy on hikes and when camping, but dogs do not. Is poison ivy dangerous to dogs, and what should you do if they come in contact with it?

While out walking with your dog, it’s not uncommon to see poison ivy in publicly accessible areas like parks and nature preserves. While poison ivy’s effect on humans is relatively well known, what about symptoms and treatment concerns for dogs? Do dogs get affected by poison ivy?

Dogs can be affected by poison ivy, but it generally isn’t as debilitating as it can be with humans. However, you should still keep your dog away from poison ivy, and take them to a vet if they develop a rash or experience vomiting or diarrhea after exposure.

We’ll explore the common symptoms of poison ivy in dogs as well as some treatments you can try to lessen the effects on your dog.

What Does Poison Ivy Look Like?

You have to be able to identify poison ivy if you want to keep your dog away from it. Fortunately, it’s a fairly easy plant to identify.

It is native to North American and is found in a wide variety of environments, including fields, forests, and even backyards. It usually grows in clusters with vines (hence the name “ivy”) that are fuzzy or hairy, and can be recognized by its group of three green, smooth, almond-shaped leaves with slightly jagged edges.

The most prominent feature of poison ivy is the the grouping of three leaves, which is why children are often taught “leaves of three, let them be.”

poison ivy leaf

Poison Oak

Poison oak presents a similar threat to dogs as poison ivy, but has leaves that look like oak leaves. The leaves are a duller green than poison ivy, and have leaflets that are fuzzy on both sides.

Poison Ivy and Your Dog

What Makes Poison Ivy Dangerous to Dogs?

The part of the poison ivy plant that can cause negative effects in both people and dogs is the sap that it produces. It contains urushiol oil, which can cause a reaction when it contacts a dog’s skin.

How Likely is a Dog to Be Affected by Poison Ivy?

While dogs often are not affected in the same way that humans are by poisons or toxins, this is not the case with poison ivy. You should not allow your dog to be exposed to poison ivy, and should seek treatment if they do come in contact.

However, most dogs will have a different experience with poison ivy as compared to humans due to the differences between human and dog bodies.

Dogs have a big advantage over humans in the form of their coat. A dog’s fur creates a barrier which protects the dog’s skin from the harmful touch of the poison ivy leaves and tendrils.

How is a Dog Affected by Poison Ivy?

Poison ivy’s oil can come into parts of your dog’s body not protected by its fur. Common areas that can cause issues for your dog are the stomach, leg, groin and even their face including the nose.

If your dog’s skin is contacted by the oil, an itchy rash may develop that your dog will not be able to stop licking and scratching. This tends to present at about the same rate as it would when a human comes into contact with the urushiol oil — about three days after exposure.

Complications of Poison Ivy on a Dog

The oil of poison ivy isn’t really “poison.” And while the rash it produces can be very annoying, the greater problem that can be created is when your dog scratches incessantly at the itch and causes breaks in their skin.

Once the skin barrier is broken, bacteria and other nasties are able to get in. This can result in secondary infections and further issues developing from an otherwise innocuous rash.

Once a common bacteria or virus from outside gets past the skin via a wound, your dog is vulnerable to the effects of infection. Secondary infections, blisters and other complications that come about through scratching of poison ivy rashes can cause serious issues.

Additionally, complications can arise if your dog has eaten poison ivy. While some dogs will show no effects from ingesting it, the sap can cause them to have diarrhea and/or vomiting.

Tips to Help Your Dog Avoid Contacting Poison Ivy

Remove Poison Ivy in Your Yard

It probably sounds obvious, but you should remove any poison ivy on your property. Some dogs will sniff and chew on just about anything, so if poison ivy is present, it’s basically just a matter of when, not if. This will also protect children who may play in the yard.

Avoid Parks and Areas with Poison Ivy

Scope out places you take your dog to walk and look for the poison ivy hallmarks, including it growing as vines or low shrubs. Poison ivy can be found in most climates and each leaf on a poison ivy plant has three smaller leaflets. Look for the jagged edges as well.

Avoid these areas and find somewhere more suitable to exercise your dog. Not only is it good for them, but you’ll be protecting yourself from possible poison ivy interactions.

Train Your Dog to “Leave It”

You’ll also want to work on dog behavior training so that you can control your dog when you need to steer them away from poison ivy.

“Leave it!” Is a very useful command to teach your dog; once they learn it the behavior, you can quickly control them if they begin to get curious about poison ivy (or anything else you want them to avoid).

What to Do if Your Dog Comes in Contact with Poison Ivy

The first priority is to get any trace of the oil or sap off of your dog. Wear gloves and use soap and water to wash your dog, preferably outside to avoid further transfer of the oil to other household surfaces. Do a second wash not soon after to ensure you get everything.

Remember, you want to avoid contact with the oil yourself so that you don’t become affected.

Make sure to thoroughly wash your own clothes and everything else that your dog touched, such as leash, collar, and bedding. Use hot water to wash everything.

Treatments for Poison Ivy on Dogs

If you notice the development of a red rash or any swollen red bumps on your dog within a few days, the best option is to consult with your vet.

There are two issues that your vet will address: the rash itself and any secondary bacterial infections that may have developed. The rash is usually treated with a steroid med (topical, oral, or injected), and skin infections are treated with antibiotics.

Generally speaking, the rash from poison ivy will usually go away on its own, but secondary infection as a result of the dog scratching the surface of the skin will require antibiotics.

There are many home remedies for poison ivy on dogs, but you should check with your vet before using them. These include topical application of aloe vera, calamine lotion, and plantain leaf.

Cold compresses and cool environments can help your dog feel more comfortable.

Continue to keep the dog isolated from household surfaces such as furniture as much as possible. Stopping the spread of the oil to both people and other pets as well as possibly reinfecting the dog is important.

Can Poison Ivy Cause Severe Allergic Reaction in Dogs?

Many substances can cause severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) in dogs, including poison ivy. While not common, it certainly can occur. If your dog shows any signs of an allergic reaction or poisoning after contact with poison ivy (including nausea, vomiting, drooling, instability, swelling, bloating, lethargy), contact an emergency vet immediately.

A severe reaction can occur as a result of both physical contact or ingestion of poison ivy.

Can I Give Benadryl to a Dog Who is Affected by Poison Ivy?

Check with your vet first before giving Benadryl to your dog. While it may help to alleviate some of the symptoms, there are also risks that should be considered and your vet can advise you of these.

Superb Dog Editor

Superb Dog Editor