Does my Dog Have Poison Ivy?

dog in field

Spring is a special time of year where mild temps and sunny skies beckon us outdoors. Whether you’re called to hike your local nature trail or commit yourself to yard work, outside time is just more fun with a furry friend at your side.

Still, it’s important to remember there are dangers while enjoying the great outdoors. Since your pup is so low to the ground, they’re especially susceptible to skin irritants like poison ivy. This non-descript plant can easily hide along tree-lined paths and fenced backyards, or disguise itself in your landscaping.

Knowing how to identify and treat this covert crop is the best way to keep your dog safe all year long. Here’s what you need to know:

How to Spot Poison Ivy

The only way to prevent a poison ivy flare up is to avoid it. Knowing how to spot it is the first step. Sidestepping this sneaky shrub can be difficult since it grows just about everywhere. It also goes through some physical changes as the seasons shift, making it tough to identify at times.

Poison ivy’s signature tell is a collection of three leaflets that are pointed at the tip. It grows in both vine and bush form, sprouting green leaves with yellow flowers in spring, red-ish orange fronds in the fall and white berries during winter months. You can learn more about how to spot poison ivy online.

Signs Your Dog has Poison Ivy

Once the oily sap, urushiol, comes in contact with the skin and gets absorbed, it causes an allergic reaction that may cause your dog to experience a variety of symptoms including:

  • itchy rashes
  • painful blisters
  • swelling and inflammation
  • raised bumps
  • severe itching


Welts may start leaking clear fluids if left untreated, making them susceptible to bacterial infections. Should your dog ingest a poison ivy plant, vomiting or diarrhea may soon follow.

If you suspect your dog may have encountered poison ivy, thoroughly check areas like the groin, genitals, muzzle and armpits. These and other parts of the body where fur is sparser are highly susceptible to irritation.

Failing to treat urushiol inflammation could lead to more serious conditions like fever, lethargy, depression and loss of appetite.


How to Treat a Dog for Poison Ivy

Providing complete relief may take some time, but there are some steps you should take immediately after your dog has a brush with this poisonous bush. First, get yourself some gloves and put on long sleeves and pants. This will prevent the urushiol from being transferred.

Next, draw an oatmeal bath and clean with gentle oatmeal soap. Remove as much of the oils as you can by lathering, rinsing and repeating at least three times or more if your dog has long hair or a super thick coat.

Once they’re out of the bath, move to immediately towel try your dog and try to prevent them from shaking excess water off their fur. Immediately wash the towel you used and the clothes you wore. The oily toxin can be easily spread to and from clothing or shoes and spread from their fur to other pets.

Depending on the severity of the rash, your veterinarian may prescribe a topical cream, oral supplement or steroid. Antibiotics can be used to ward off possible bacterial infections at blister sites.

Whatever you do, steer clear of calamine lotion as the zinc oxide is highly toxic your pet’s internal systems. However, some over the counter medication like Benadryl is safe for dogs.

Final Thoughts

As hard is can be for a human to spot poison ivy, dogs have zero defense when it comes to avoiding this vicious vine. Remaining vigilant and proactive will help your pup stay out of the (poisonous) woods. If for some reason they do have a run in with poison ivy, you’ll know what to do to bring them some relief.

Poison Ivy Photo Courtesy

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