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Can Dogs Get Poison Ivy?

Yes, dogs can get poison ivy. Fortunately, it can be easily treated with topical or oral antihistamines like Benadryl.

Poison Ivy leaves on a tree trunk.

Yes, dogs can get poison ivy. Fortunately, it can be easily treated with topical or oral antihistamines like Benadryl.

By: Dr. Juli, DVM

Spending time outdoors with your furry best friend is a great way to bond with your pet, enrich them with new sights and smells, and ensure they get their daily exercise. Seasoned outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, hikers, and weekend warriors are all too familiar with the pesky plants and insects that can turn an outdoor adventure into an itchy one.

Poison ivy is a common culprit of painful, itchy rashes in people who spend time outdoors, and many dog owners may be concerned that this pesky plant can affect their dogs. Understanding the dangers of the great outdoors will ensure you and your four-pawed hiking buddy stay safe and itch-free while spending time together. 

Poison Ivy leaves on a tree trunk.

What is Poison Ivy?

The catchy phrase "leaves of three let it be" is a well-known saying among avid outdoors people and an easy tip for identifying these rash-inducing plants. Poison ivy plants can be found across North America. This rash-inducing plant can be identified by having three leaves and alternating branching stems (as opposed to side by side). Poison ivy does not have thorns and can appear as a vine, shrub, plant, or small tree.

Many people assume poison ivy is only found in deeply wooded areas; however, the plants can be present in various locations, including open fields, river banks, urban places, and roadsides. Poison ivy emits urushiol oil, and contact with this sap results in severe itching and rashes on people's skin.

Other plants containing urushiol include poison sumac and poison oak, which can cause similar skin rashes, irritation, and severe itching in people. Direct contact with the plant is not required to induce a rash because the plant oil can be transferred to and from clothing, garden tools, surfaces, or your dog's fur

Can Dogs Get Sick From Poison Ivy?

While poison ivy can wreak havoc on a pet parent's skin, fortunately, poison ivy rashes are rare in dogs. Your dog's skin is protected by fur, making it difficult for the poison urushiol oil to absorb into their skin. However, some breeds may have an increased risk for ivy-related rashes, including:

  • Hairless breeds (e.g., Chinese crested)
  • Thin/short-haired breeds (e.g., pugs)
  • Short dogs who are low to the ground (e.g., French bulldogs)
  • Working, hunting breeds (e.g., labradors, pointers)
  • Allergy prone dogs
  • Dogs with immune disorders affecting the skin barrier

Ingestion of poison ivy can also cause illness in dogs and, in some cases, may lead to severe allergic reactions, gastrointestinal (GI) distress, anaphylactic shock, or breathing difficulties. 

Poison Ivy Signs in Dogs

In most cases, dogs who come in contact with poison ivy will not develop a rash. Signs may be mild to severe, depending on how much sap has contacted your dog's skin or if they have ingested the plant. Symptoms of poison ivy exposure may include:

  • Redness or swelling of the skin
  • Blisters, bumps, hives, or scabs
  • Excess itching, licking, or scratching the skin
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Nausea
  • Decreased appetite
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal pain  

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

If you suspect your dog's fur has come in contact with poison ivy, rub a dry towel over their body to remove residual oil. Wear gloves and dispose of them properly to prevent infecting yourself with the sap. Bathing your pup with oatmeal dog shampoo or Tecnu shampoo can remove the poison ivy oil and help soothe exposed skin.

If you suspect your dog has ingested any part of a poison ivy plant, contact your veterinarian, the Pet Poison Helpline, or the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center immediately.

Dogs with a poison ivy rash may require treatment to manage the itch and prevent infections, including:

  • Antihistamine injections or oral medications (e.g., Benadryl)
  • Topical antibiotic ointment
  • Medicated baths or wipes
  • Oral antibiotics to prevent secondary infections
  • Oral anti-inflammatory medications (e.g., steroids)
  • An e-collar to prevent excess licking or self-trauma

Dogs who ingest poison ivy may require treatment to alleviate GI upset or anaphylaxis; in severe cases, this may include:

  • Anti-nausea medication 
  • Intravenous (IV) fluids
  • Gastroprotectant medication
  • Antacid medication
  • Anti-diarrheal medication
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Steroid and antihistamine injections
  • Bland diet
  • Probiotics, like Native Pet Probiotic Powder, help rebalance the gut in dogs with diarrhea
A veterinarian holds a dog with a mild rash on her belly.

How to Prevent Your Dog from Being Exposed to Poison Ivy

Contact with poison ivy plants is not always preventable because it can lurk almost anywhere outdoors. However, you can take steps to decrease the chance of your dog becoming exposed. Tips to prevent your pup from being affected by poison ivy include:

  • Keep your dog leashed when walking outside, especially in heavily wooded areas.
  • Bring a poison ivy prevention kit when hiking or camping with your dog. The kit should include gloves, a dry towel, and shampoo to wash poison oils off your dog's fur
  • Learn to recognize and avoid poison ivy, sumac, and oak. 
  • Check your yard and garden and remove any poisonous plants.
  • Regularly clean your garden tools.
  • Wash any bedding or towels that have come in contact with your dog after being outdoors.
  • Always wear gloves when handling a potentially exposed pet to avoid spreading the sap.
  • To support your pup's skin barrier and fur health, provide veterinary-approved skin and coat supplements, like Native Pet Omega Oil and Native Pet Skin and Coat chews.

Outdoor adventures with your dog are an excellent way to bond and spend time with your four-legged best friend. However, being aware of potential hazards, like poison ivy, is critical to keeping you and your dog safe. Although poison ivy rashes and illnesses are rare in dogs, some may experience discomfort or severe reactions in some cases.

Contact your veterinarian immediately if you suspect your pup has been exposed to or ingested poison ivy.

For more information and tips on your dog's health, check out the Native Pet blog.

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