Poison ivy is a woody vine that produces a toxic resin called urushiol that causes intense itching and rashes when it comes into contact with skin. Poison ivy grows in most parts of the United States and is best identified by its bright green color and three-leaf structure.
How Poison Ivy Affects Dogs
While a dog’s hair coat provides some physical protection from poison ivy, the skin of exposed areas where hair is thin or absent, such as on the belly, the inner legs and the muzzle, can be dramatically affected by contact with the plant. Clinical signs include itching, scratching, open sores and inflamed, irritated, red and raised skin patches. If a dog ingests poison ivy, it can become severely ill.
Causes of Adverse Effects of Poison Ivy
“Poison ivy” is Toxicodendron radicans. It causes severe contact dermatitis in dogs and people. Small breeds with short-haired coats are more likely to develop clinical signs. Poison ivy can cause severe gastrointestinal illness when ingested.
Preventing Adverse Poison Ivy Reactions in Dogs
The best way to prevent the extreme contact dermatitis and/or gastrointestinal distress caused by poison ivy is to prevent a dog from having access to the plant. Dogs should not be allowed to roam freely in unfamiliar areas, and owners should be conscious of the types of flora in areas they frequent with their pets.
If an owner suspects that his dog has nibbled on any part of a poisonous plant, the dog should be taken to a veterinarian immediately. If a dog has run through an area where poison ivy is prevalent, the owner should be careful not to pet or rub the dog’s coat until a thorough bathing (with gloves) has happened to remove toxic resin residue. The prognosis for dogs with dermatitis caused by contact with poison ivy is excellent. Ingestion of the plant causes a more severe systemic reaction, but this occurs uncommonly.