Can Dogs Get Poison Ivy?

If you think your pup has run into poison ivy or poison oak, here's what you need to know.

You and your pooch just spent a perfect summer afternoon hiking when you look over and see her rolling around on the forest floor in a cluster of what appears to be poison ivy. The telltale shiny, notched three-leaf vine clusters are known to make humans red and itchy. But can my dog get poison ivy, too?

Dog in Woods
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Can Dogs Get A Rash From Poison Ivy?

"Yes, dogs can get a rash from poison ivy," says Dr. Aziza Glass, Freshpet veterinarian in Houston, Texas. Although some of our furry companions may fare better than others. "Some dogs' fur protects and keeps their skin from being in contact with urushiol oils that cause the itchy rash," says Dr. Glass. If you have an old English sheepdog, he'll fare better than a Chinese crested since dogs with thin, hairless, or short coats are more at risk of developing the rash.

What Should You Do If Your Dog Rolled In Poison Ivy Or Oak?

If you're fairly certain the offending plant was poison ivy or poison oak, the best thing pet parents can do is give their pooch a bath right away. "Be sure to have gloves on when bathing them as their coats may retain oils from the poison ivy," says Dr. Glass. Also, use an oatmeal shampoo or an anti-inflammation dog shampoo that will not only remove the urushiol oil but also help to soothe their skin.

You'll need to wash any towels you use, your clothing, and anything else your pup has come into contact with before the bath, like his collar, leash, bedding, or the back seat of your car. This will help reduce the transmission of oils to you, back to him, or anyone else in the family.

Poison oak plant with its "leaves of three."
Poison oak (Rhus diversilobum) is the West Coast version of the poison ivy that grows in most other areas of the U.S. Ed Reschke/Photolibrary/Getty Images

What Are The Symptoms of Dogs With Poison Ivy Or Oak?

If your dog has come into contact with poison ivy, physical signs to watch out for include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Scratching where the rash developed
  • Blisters
  • Restlessness, lethargy, panting heavily, or trouble breathing may indicate an allergic reaction that requires immediate veterinary care

Check areas of thin, short, or no hair where your dog is most likely to develop the rash such as the armpits, groin, belly, and even the nose.

What If Your Dog Has Eaten Poison Ivy Or Oak?

Even more dangerous for your dog than developing the rash is eating the plant. "For many, it will give them an upset stomach. But for some dogs this can cause a severe allergic reaction that could cause your pet to go into anaphylactic shock, causing airways to constrict and prevent breathing," says Dr. Glass.

This is an emergency that requires immediate veterinary care. If you suspect your dog has ingested poison ivy, watch him closely to see if he's vomiting or has diarrhea. Contact your vet for advice.

Cute cocker spaniel dog with plastic dog-cone after being neutered
Roberto Machado Noa / Getty Images

How To Stop Your Dog From Licking Or Scratching A Rash

After you've washed your pet, continue to monitor his behavior and check whether he's still touching the rash. "If your dog is still scratching or trying to lick the rash, you can apply a cold compress to the rash area or keep a fan on your pet. The cool air will help to soothe the skin and reduce irritation," says Dr. Glass.

If needed, apply the appropriate size recovery cone or cloud collar to prevent him from further irritating the rash area.

Boy and Dog Running in the Forest
Boy and Dog Running in the Forest. Getty - Digital Vision/LWA

What Else Should You Know About Poison Ivy And Dogs?

If your dog has been in contact with poison ivy, know that he can also pass it on to you or even your other pets. You can contract the rash from petting a dog's coat who's been exposed to the plant and still has some sap or oil on his coat. Your other pets can get it too if one of them rubs up against the pup with poison ivy or oak. This makes it crucial that you wash your pet and everything he's come in contact with before the bath, including other pets, bedding, or furniture just to be safe.

Poison ivy and oak are most common in the eastern and midwestern states but grow throughout North America. Learn what the plants look like so you and your pup can avoid them this summer.

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