Most of us are probably aware that the irritating oils from poison ivy leaves can smear onto your dog or outdoor cat, then transfer onto your skin or clothes, causing that awful, telltale itching and rash.
If you live pretty much anywhere in North America where there are woods and wooded areas, there’s a good chance you or your dog risk exposure to poison ivy, oak, and sumac. Even trace amounts can result in a rash, depending on your sensitivity to urushiol.
The sticky oil that covers the leaves, stem, and roots of the plant is called urushiol, and around 85% of people are allergic to it. 50 millions Americans experience a rash every year, and get this – just because you’ve never had a bad reaction to poison ivy before doesn’t mean you never will.
You might not be aware, though, that the irritation that goes along with exposure to poison ivy can also cause the same symptoms in your dog. Not only that, but because they don’t understand that scratching makes it worse, dogs are more likely to end up with a secondary infection.
Most of the time, your dog’s coat protects it from the oil reaching the skin, but that’s not always the case. If they come into direct contact where their coat is shorter or nonexistent, like on their belly or the insides of their legs, they could end up with an itchy rash.
What’s more, there’s a good chance your dog would spread the oil to you.
If you’ve been in the woods with your dog, you should bathe the dog (and yourself) as soon as possible after you arrive home. Make sure to wear gloves, keep the water lukewarm, and use an oatmeal or other anti-itch shampoo.
If you still notice your puppers worrying at an irritation, contact your vet – they may have you apply a cream or administer Benedryl.
You should also wash your own clothes right away, including anything you and your dog touched before your bath, like towels and bath mats, the whole nine yards.
This might seem like overkill, but as someone who has suffered with poison ivy at least once a summer, I promise that you’ll be happier spending an hour making sure everyone is clean than you will scratching your skin for a couple of weeks.
It’s all fun and games until there’s no way to scratch that itch!