Adventure Dogs, Dog Health

The 411 on Dogs and Poison Ivy (Oak & Sumac too)

September 9, 2021

It has been a week over at the Paw Print abode.  We moved last week!  Just to another rental house, so I guess it’s not that exciting, but it was a lot of work!  The way the move worked out, we had to do the entire thing in just a single day.  Since then we’ve been working hard to unpack and make the new place feel a bit more like home.  Then I woke up last Sunday morning swollen and covered in poison ivy.  If I never have to deal with poison ivy all over my eyes and lips again it will be too soon!    But what does that have to do with dogs?  Can dogs get poison ivy?  Can they really spread it to humans too?  Read on to find out!

Poison Ivy And Dogs?

So how did I get poison ivy all over my face?  It’s not like I was outside rolling around in the stuff.  I wasn’t…but my dog, Fenrir, was.  Fenrir, being an honorary cat, likes to rub up against me, including in my face when we’re snuggling on the couch.  I strongly suspect that Fen came into contact with poison ivy out in the new yard, then transferred the oils to me during our evening snuggle-fest.


How Poison Ivy, Oak, & Sumac Cause Rashes:

Poison ivy, oak, and sumac, are all known for causing red, swollen, itchie, blistery rashes in humans.  Although the three plants are different, they all contain a odorless, colorless, sappy oil called urushiol.  An estimated 85% of the human population is allergic to urushiol.  If it comes into contact with their skin, the resulting rash is known as urushiol-induced contact dermatitis.

How strongly each individual reacts to urushiol can depend on their unique immune system, whether they’ve been exposed to urushiol before, medications they may be taking, what part of the body is exposed (thin skin of the face and genitals usually reacts more strongly), duration of exposure, and the amount of urushiol that came into contact with their skin.  If you know you’ve been exposed to urushiol, there is a short window where it can be removed with either soap and water, or alcohol to either eliminate, or greatly reduce, the occurrence of a rash.  Once it’s been absorbed into the skin you’re out of luck, assuming you’re part of the 85% of the population that reacts to urushiol.

Now Back To How This Relates To Dogs…

Coming into direct contact with a urushiol containing plant yourself isn’t the only route of exposure.  Urushiol can also rub off plants onto surfaces like clothing, your dogs’ leash, shoes, and, yes, even fur.  If it’s not thoroughly washed off, urushiol can remain on surfaces for an amazing 1 to 5 years.  Basically, if your furry friend brushes against poison ivy the oil can sit on the surface of his/her fur where it can then be transferred to your skin the next time you touch them – or, you know, the next time they decide to go in for a face snuggle.

How To Prevent “Catching” Poison Ivy From Your Pet:

Dogs and Poison Ivy

I’ll spare you any images of my gross swollen face, and instead share the adorable Mr.Fen playing in his new yard!

The most effective way to avoid transferring urushiol from your pet’s fur to your skin, barring just not coming into contact with urushiol in the first place, is to wash your pet.  If you suspect, or know, that your furry friend has come into contact with poison ivy, oak, or sumac, step 1 is to avoid touching them as much as possible.  Give him/her a bath as soon as you can, using soap because, remember, urushiol is an oil.

Dish soap isn’t something I commonly recommend using on pets, but it can be a good way to remove urushiol from fur due to it’s ability to effectively remove oils.  It can be helpful to wipe down your dog after hikes or walks in the woods, even if you didn’t notice any poison ivy, just in case.  Pay special attention to their paws, legs, and bellies as those are the areas most likely to come into contact with urushiol containing plants.  Unless your dog is like my Fenrir, then wipe down the whole darned dog because he’s probably been rolling around all over everything.  Sigh.

Don’t forget to also wash things like your pets’ leashes, collars, harnesses, and any clothing items they (and you) were wearing.

Did You Know That Dogs CAN Get Poison Ivy Too?

Cases of animals developing rashes from plants like poison ivy are not nearly as common as in humans, but they do happen.  Urushiol can cause itchie, red rashes on dogs just like it does on people.  However, for the most part dogs’ fur prevents the urushiol from reaching their skin.  Dogs with no, or thin, fur, and dogs suffering from other skin conditions are more prone to urushiol reactions.  Small dogs, especially if they have bare bellies, are more at risk.  Poison ivy, oak, or sumac rashes on dogs will look very similar to those on humans.  Watch out for patches of skin that appear red, swollen, itchie, with blisters that may ooze a clear or yellowish liquid before scabbing over.

Poison ivy, and related plants, are also toxic to dogs if ingested.  It can cause symptoms of GI upset, such as vomiting and diarrhea, but, in rare cases, can cause more serious symptoms such as anaphylactic shock.


Of course, as they say, when it comes to things like poison ivy, prevention is always the best ‘cure’.  A bit too late at this point, but I’ve started keeping Kit and Fen away from the borders of our yard where the poison ivy is.  Thankfully my face is getting a little less swollen everyday.  Since I really don’t want to repeat this experience again anytime soon, I’ll be being much more careful when it comes to avoiding poison ivy (and making sure my dogs avoid it too) in the future.

Comment below!  Are you allergic to poison ivy too?  Did you know that other animals can (rarely) develop rashes from it like people can, or that they can pass on the oils from their fur?

Dogs and Poison Ivy

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  • Reply Ruth Epstein September 11, 2021 at 1:49 pm

    Great post and I always say we learn from our mistakes, through trial and error, so I learned something today that I never knew although I do not have a yard but we do go to different parks etc and will keep my eye out more so this does not happen to us.

    • Reply Michelle & The Paw Pack September 16, 2021 at 1:06 pm

      For sure something to keep an eye out for even without a yard. I used to see it growing in the city park that I took the boys too before we moved.

  • Reply Kamira Gayle September 11, 2021 at 2:33 pm

    Oh, I’m so sorry that happened to you. I never realized our pets can also get poison ivy. Honestly, I had not thought about it as I have always had cats and kept them indoors. My friends with dogs usually have them close to home and fenced in a large yard so out of sight out of mind. I had no idea that impact can include anaphylactic shock! Thanks for helping to educate and inform us of the dangers.

    • Reply Michelle & The Paw Pack September 16, 2021 at 1:18 pm

      I actually didn’t know that animals could get poison ivy before either, or that the oil could last so long on their fur or leash. It’s not something I had to deal with so much before we moved to a yard full of it, lol.

  • Reply Robin September 11, 2021 at 5:19 pm

    I’m so sorry about your poison ivy rash! I hope that it heals quickly for you. These are all great reminders about handling pets around poison ivy. I hadn’t really thought about a pet’s fur tranferring the oils to you, but it makes perfect sense.

    • Reply Michelle & The Paw Pack September 16, 2021 at 1:19 pm

      Right? I still think that must have been how I got it so badly, because I can recognize it and stay out of it myself but, thinking back, I’m pretty sure Fen was playing in it.

  • Reply Beth September 12, 2021 at 2:52 pm

    I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with poison ivy, moving is stressful enough! About fifteen years ago I had a case of poison ivy and we realized that the dog might be the source. Luckily, she was okay. My husband has since pulled up the poison ivy using the pickup dog poop method of turning the bag inside out as you pick up the dreaded item. If your rash doesn’t go away soon, I would go to the doctor, they will probably prescribe prednisone for you.

    • Reply Michelle & The Paw Pack September 16, 2021 at 1:21 pm

      Thanks! Yeah we gotta figure out a good way to remove it from our yard. There is SO much of it, if we use a similar bag method we’ll need a lot of bags. I don’t want to use chemicals though, because it’s very close to where our well is. I’ll have to figure something out before next spring, I’m so excited to garden in the new yard but don’t want to end up with poison ivy again!

  • Reply Jana Rade September 12, 2021 at 4:07 pm

    Yeah, our dog got a rash from poison Sumac–I believe. Nothing bad but enough to get a secondary bacterial infection.

    These things can affect any areas that are not covered with fur, such as the belly.

    • Reply Michelle & The Paw Pack September 16, 2021 at 1:22 pm

      Aw I’m sorry! I was kind of relieved that it was me that got it and not one of my dogs. At least humans understand what it is, that it will go away soon, and not to scratch. My dogs are nightmares to deal with when they get itchie.

  • Reply Terri September 12, 2021 at 5:15 pm

    Oh no! You’re due for a run of good luck! I can’t say that I’ve run into poison oak or sumac, but I’m always worried about it when I’m out hiking with my dog. Thank you for going through the steps of what to do. I hope you recover quickly and your fairy godmother shows up soon!

    • Reply Michelle & The Paw Pack September 16, 2021 at 1:24 pm

      Right!? I’ve totally had bad luck lately. Hopefully it changes for the better soon. I always worry about poison ivy etc while hiking too, and go figure I haven’t gotten it from hiking in years then get it from our own yard.

  • Reply Marjorie Dawson September 12, 2021 at 6:52 pm

    * Ouch * I am so sorry you had to deal with that, it must be really unpleasant and horrible. BUT!!!! You have made lemonade from the lemons with a really helpful post that might save other people from the same fate – especially the fact that it stays put for up to FIVE YEARS!!!!!!

    Oh my goodness. Honestly? I hope you get a break soon, a long-time home with a safe garden for the boys and somewhere free of this dreadful stuff!

    • Reply Michelle & The Paw Pack September 16, 2021 at 1:26 pm

      It’s SO uncomfortable, especially since I react to it so badly. But, thankfully, besides an area on my hand that’s been really bad the rest of it is already gone. Hopefully I have better luck soon, lol, and my bad luck helps someone else avoid the awful stuff!

  • Reply Nikki September 14, 2021 at 7:11 pm

    Oh no! I’m so sorry to hear about your experience – it’s not exactly a comfortable situation. But as you said – at least a quick bath and the largest issue is solved. Very thankful we haven’t had a run-in with Poison Ivy at our house.

    • Reply Michelle & The Paw Pack September 16, 2021 at 1:28 pm

      I wish mine had gone away with a quick bath, sadly I didn’t realize I was exposed to it till it was too late and had to deal with a pretty bad reaction for around a week or so. I still have it on my hand, but thankfully it’s gone from my face. That was the worst part! You’re lucky to not have it at your house!

  • Reply Sweet Purrfections September 15, 2021 at 12:21 am

    I’m so sorry to hear you have poison ivy. It’s a nasty thing to deal with. I had no idea that dogs could bring it in on their fur, but it makes sense. I hope you recover quickly.

    • Reply Michelle & The Paw Pack September 16, 2021 at 1:30 pm

      It’s horrible for sure, especially so when it makes your eyes swell shut! Yes, any animal really can carry it on their fur and expose humans, which is no fun. I’ve been being much more careful to keep an eye on where my dogs are rolling around outside that’s for sure!

  • Reply Cathy Armato September 17, 2021 at 7:51 pm

    Oh how awful! I’m sorry you had to suffer through poison ivy, it’s the Worst! We always have poison ivy soap (for humans) on hand, it really relieves the itching & rash. On a positive note, I’m glad you’re settling into the new place! We moved last year so I know how you feel – moving is exhausting!

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