Dr Tracy Douglas
Your guide to this article today is by veterinarian Dr Tracy Douglas
Published 13:23 pm

Poison Ivy is so well known by humans that there is even a song about it! But do dogs get poison ivy? After all, your pooch wanders around in the undergrowth a lot more than you do! Here’s what you need to know about poisoned ivy and dogs so you can be prepared next time you head out on an adventure.

Jack Russell Terrier dog sitting on the grass

What Is Poison Ivy?

This annoying little plant is actually called Eastern poison ivy or Western poison ivy and they are both part of the Toxicodendron genus. It causes a very nasty contact dermatitis in humans who suffer extreme itching and irritation in the affected area. The irritation is triggered by a substance called urushiol which is found in the sap of the plant.

Despite the name, this is not actually an ivy at all. The true ivy is the Hedera genus and they do not cause a rash. Poison ivy is part of the cashew and pistachio family and part of the Anacardiaceae species of plants. Many animals happily eat poison ivy and it is nothing more than an unwelcome weed in many parks and gardens.

Humans react to contact with poison ivy and sadly so do dogs.

How to Spot Poison Ivy

If you know what Poison Ivy looks like, you stand a better chance of avoiding it. At least you will know when your dog has come into contact with it. In the US, it is a native plant and is most often found in rural areas. Watch out for it when you are in forests, fields and wetlands. You could also find it in your own backyard or garden. Basically, all the places that your dog loves to hang out!

It grows as a cluster of shrubs or vines and it has distinctive three jagged leaves which are bright green. The old rhyme, “Leaves of three, let them be” was made up to help people avoid poison ivy. All parts of the plant have sap in them and so all parts can cause a reaction. The reaction is caused by the body’s response to the urushiol which is essentially an allergic reaction.

Dog Poison Ivy Symptoms

So, are dogs allergic to poison ivy? The answer is yes because they react when they have been exposed to it. Dog poison ivy symptoms are caused when their skin comes into contact with urushiol oil. The oil stays on a dog’s skin and coat and can transfer to you or to other pets. Once your pooch has been in contact with poison ivy, you and all other pets in the home are also at risk and the oil remains potent for a long time.

Symptoms are caused by your dog either ingesting the plant or rubbing their skin up against it. The type of exposure will affect the symptoms that have. Of course, many dogs may have done both! These are the sort of symptoms that you should look out for.

  • Red areas on the skin
  • Itching – dogs will scratch and lick the infected area
  • Inflammation and raised bumps
  • Blistering of the skin and scabs that ooze fluid
  • Vomiting and diarrhea are more likely after ingestion

The most serious type of allergic reaction is called anaphylaxis and it can be life-threatening. A dog with anaphylaxis will have a sudden onset of vomiting and diarrhea and will have pale gums and cold limbs. They will also have an increased heart rate or a weak pulse and may struggle to breathe. This is a medical emergency and they need a vet right away.

There is, however, no need for you to be overly concerned about this issue because poison ivy reactions are quite rare in dogs because their fur protects the skin. Dogs that have no hair or very sparse hair are at most at risk. So, if you are the proud owner of an American Hairless, a Chinese Crested, a Hairless Khala, a Peruvian Inca Orchid or a Xoloitzcuintli, this is something that you should be more worried about.

The areas of your dog’s body that has thinner fur is at most risk of coming into contact with the sap and suffering a reaction. Typically, this is a dog’s belly and groin area.

How to Treat Poison Ivy on a Dog

Don’t attempt to treat your dog without first putting on gloves. You must protect your own skin. Start by giving your dog a warm bath and wash their coat with a mild shampoo, rinsing repeatedly.

If you dry them with a towel, this must be washed immediately. Keep your dog off the sofa and chairs until the reaction has resolved to prevent contamination of your home.

Many mild cases resolve on their own but if the symptoms do not resolve quickly, take your dog to see your vet. They may need some medication.

Several home remedies can help including aloe vera, plantain leaf, cucumber slices and calamine lotion. However, check with your vet first. Cold compresses and fans help to ease irritation and make your pooch more comfortable. Ingestion of the plant tends to be more serious and you should always consult a vet.

Poison Ivy plant

To Sum Up

So, are dogs affected by poison ivy? The answer is yes. The bottom line is that poison ivy can and does cause allergic reactions in dogs. However, because dogs have fur, their skin is less likely to be exposed. If your dog has poison ivy sap on their coat, they can spread it to your skin and you could suffer a reaction. Breeds with little hair are more likely to have a problem.

It causes symptoms of skin irritation but more serious symptoms, including seizures, are also possible. It can be treated with home remedies to soothe the skin but if symptoms do not resolve quickly, a trip to the vet is required.


  1. Everything You Need to Know About Poison IvyDes Moines University
Dr Tracy Douglas
General Practice Veterinarian, currently working at the Glenwood Veterinary Clinic, Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Dr. Douglas began her veterinary career as a Veterinary Nurse in Highton Veterinary Clinic, Highton Victoria, and then as an Emergency Veterinarian in Uintah Pet Emergency, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Tracy is particularly interested in surgery, neurology and internal medicine, which gives her a well-rounded knowledge on animal health and well-being. She received her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Melbourne, while her undergraduate bachelor of science is from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York.


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