Does Poison Ivy Affect Dogs?

You just realized your dog was romping through poison ivy. Poison ivy exposure puts you in misery, but what about Fido? The good news is that most dogs are not susceptible to this three-leafed plant, especially if they have long hair. The oil causing the rash cannot usually penetrate the coat to reach canine skin. However, if your dog has a thin coat, he may prove vulnerable to poison ivy. Hairless dog breeds, such as the Chinese Crested or American Hairless, are particularly at risk.

The bad news is that petting your pet after he is exposed to poison ivy can transfer this oil to your skin. If your dog ate poison ivy, in a worst-case scenario, he could go into potentially fatal anaphylactic shock. While the majority of dogs consuming poison ivy suffer no more than gastrointestinal distress, call your vet if you know your pet ate this plant.

Poison Ivy Symptoms

A dog exposed to poison ivy is most likely to experience symptoms on his stomach, groin, or nose, the relatively hairless parts of the body. Such symptoms include:

  • Reddened, itchy skin
  • Swelling
  • Fluid-filled scabs or blisters, much like a human reaction
  • Scratching
  • Skin chewing

Keep in mind that it can take up to a week after skin exposure for symptoms to appear.

A dog ingesting poison ivy may vomit or develop diarrhea.

Treating Poison Ivy in Dogs

Wash the areas of the dog that you believe were exposed to poison ivy with soap and water. Then rinse and repeat. Use gloves when bathing him, as the oil can easily transfer to your hands. Wash the towels immediately after use to avoid additional poison ivy contamination. You should take a bath or shower yourself afterward to rid yourself of any poison ivy oil.

Keep your dog confined or at least off the furniture until his skin condition clears. A dog with poison ivy allowed on the sofa or bed can spread the oil to his people.

Contact your vet and ask if it is possible to give your dog an over-the-counter antihistamine such as Benadryl to relieve some symptoms.

If your dog ate poison ivy, feed him a bland diet until he recovers and make sure he has constant access to water. In severe cases, he may need veterinary attention and intravenous fluids to stay hydrated.

Preventing Poison Ivy Exposure

When it comes to poison ivy exposure, an ounce of prevention is worth more than the painful and time-consuming cure. Poison ivy grows everywhere in North America, and it’s likely you will encounter it sometimes when walking your dog. You may even have it growing in your yard. If that’s the case, remove it as soon as possible.

First, learn what poison ivy looks like so you can recognize and avoid the three-leaved plant. Keep your dog on a leash when walking so that he cannot run off a walkway or trail and get into poison ivy. 

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