You never want to come home from a long day of hiking to discover that at least part of the adventure involved exposure to poison ivy.
Although you may have gotten this excruciating rash in the past, your dog—when hiking the exact same areas—may have had no problems whatsoever. How does this happen?
Let’s discuss what poison ivy is, whether or not dogs can actually get poison ivy, and how to get it out of their fur.
How to Identify Poison Ivy
Most people have heard the line, “leaves of three, let it be.” Poison ivy does in fact have leaves of three and “alternate branching”—where the stems alternate to the left and then the right (as opposed to being arranged side by side)—and never has thorns.
Poison ivy can actually appear as a plant, a vine, or even a shrub or small tree. And, to add insult to injury, not only can poison ivy cause an itchy rash, but so can poison oak and poison sumac.
Depending on the part of the world you live in and where you and your dog like to hike, it’s possible to be exposed to several plants, all of which can cause a similar rash. These plants can grow in open fields, wooded areas, and roadsides; along riverbanks; and even in urban areas.
What Causes the Poison Ivy Reaction?
It’s actually an oil that is in the plant called urushiol oil. You don’t have to come into direct contact with poison ivy to have a reaction.
If the oil gets on your tools while you’re working in the garden, on your clothing while running with your pup in the woods, or on your dog’s coat during a hike, it’s possible for you to become infected on contact with these oils. Wear protective clothing so that you reduce the risk of coming into direct contact with poison ivy.
The most dangerous reaction can happen if the oil is aerosolized. For example, inhaling the smoke from burning poison ivy can cause a very severe reaction, which can land people in the hospital.
Can Dogs Get Poison Ivy Rashes?
In reality, there has never been a documented reported case of a dog getting a contact allergy from poison ivy or poison oak. The short answer is that it appears that dogs are not sensitive to the effects of urushiol oil.
If you notice a rash on your dog’s skin and you think it may be caused by a plant, contact your veterinarian. In the meantime, you can give your dog a soothing oatmeal bath.
Can You Get Poison Ivy From Your Dog’s Fur?
Even though dogs do not get poison ivy, they can still carry the oils on their fur and then transfer these oils to you and your family.
How to Get Poison Ivy Out of Your Dog’s Fur
Put on rubber gloves and wash your dog as soon as possible after known exposure.
Use a shampoo such as Tecnu® (a poison ivy cleansing treatment) or an anti-seborrheic or keratolytic shampoo to minimize exposure.
These shampoos are most effective when used immediately, so you should always carry them with you when hiking, camping, or spending time in areas that might have poison ivy.
By: Dr. Sandra Mitchell
Featured Image: iStock.com/Vasyl Dolmatov
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