If you’re like us and love to spend summer days on long hikes exploring wooded trails with your best friend, you already know to bring plenty of water and check for pesky ticks afterward.
What you may not be as aware of (we certainly weren’t!) is that just like humans, some dogs can react negatively to poison ivy. So before you head out for your next hike outdoors with your pup here’s everything you need to know about poison ivy.
It can grow anywhere, from your backyard to wooded areas. Poison ivy is similar to other ivy in that it grows as a vine but can also appear as a small shrub. Each stem has three distinctive smaller leaves. It’s important to remember that this ivy can look a little different depending on the season. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, in Spring you may see yellow-green flowers while in the Fall it can grow small green berries that change to an off-white color.
Any reaction to poison ivy is caused by being exposed to urushiol, an allergenic oil. While it isn’t a common occurrence, some dogs can have a reaction to poison ivy. According to the experts, dogs that react to poison ivy is likely connected to the coverage of their fur and not necessarily related to their breed.
As anyone who’s suffered a brush with poison ivy will tell you, the more exposed skin that comes in contact with the ivy, the greater the reaction and this is the same with our dogs. So if you have a smaller dog they may be more likely to brush up against the ivy, particularly on their abdomens.
One question we get asked is how to tell if your pup is having a reaction to poison ivy or if it’s just an unrelated itchy rash. Because we all know that for Spring, Summer and Fall it’s pretty common for our pets to get rashes and skin irritations that could be caused by dry skin, allergies or fleas.
You’ll know your dog has a poison ivy rash when you see him acting uncomfortable and itching his skin. Check his skin for small red lumps, similar to human pimples. In severe cases you may see the red lumps blister and clear fluid come out. If this happens you should take him to your veterinarian as his skin is more prone to a secondary bacterial infection which you want to avoid at all costs. The more skin affected, the greater the pain your dog will be in.
So what should you do if you think your dog has come in contact with poison ivy? The first step is to give him a bath as quickly as possible. Wear rubber gloves and long sleeves while doing this as you don’t want to get any of the poison ivy oil on your skin! You can also talk to the experts 24/7 at the Pet Poison Control Helpline, which is completely free if you own a LINK AKC Smart Collar.
While there’s currently no vaccine or medicine to prevent your dog from getting poison ivy, there are some preventative steps you can take to protect your dog from poison ivy. Ask your veterinarian for a referral to an animal dermatologist to test your pup for allergies or if he has sensitive skin. We highly recommend this approach if you both spend a lot of time exploring the great outdoors.
However the only guaranteed way to prevent an incident with poison ivy is to try to avoid areas where poison ivy is prevalent or cover the areas of exposed skin with a lightweight dog coat. Your dog will likely hate wearing it but that’s a small price to pay to prevent a painful exposure to poison ivy, especially if you know your dog has sensitive skin.
If your dog does get exposed to a lot of poison ivy and develops the symptoms we covered in this article, take him to your vet. They may recommend steroid based antibiotics especially if your dog has started to chew on the irritated areas, to prevent a bacterial infection.
If you’re unsure your dog has poison ivy, ask yourself if he’s feverish, lethargic, has lost his appetite or just seems ‘off’. Fever in dogs starts with a temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit and if you suspect a fever take him to the vet straight away. If you notice any skin issues with your dog you should talk to your vet, because while poison ivy may be the cause, you should get to the bottom of the issue so it can be properly treated.