Poison Ivy, Poison Oak and Poison Sumac are all related and found in many areas.
The allergen in these plants is called urushiol, an oil substance. While most pets don’t appear to be affected by the oil – perhaps partly because their fur helps to protect their skin – it can rub onto their coats. Then, when your pet rubs up against you or anything else they may sit or lie on, you can react with a rash and itching. The oil can remain active on articles for a long time.
It’s very important to learn to recognize these plants. If you find them close to your home, you may want to destroy them. But don’t burn these plants as the smoke produced is highly toxic.
If you go camping or hiking try to find out through forestry services or like organizations which areas contain the plants and try to avoid them.
It’s important to act quickly if your pet gets into any of these pesky plants. Cats have fur all over their bodies and are usually not affected. But dogs have the skin on their bellies exposed and may react to the oils in the plant. Use a towel or rag that’s available and rub the pet down. If you take your pet into the car, place a towel or some protective cloth where the pet will lie down.
As soon as you get home, using soap and water, thoroughly wash the pet making sure you reach all areas of the body. Dry your pet well. Shower yourself with soap and water as warm as you can stand it. Wash all articles of clothing and include the pet’s leash, collar, harness, blanket and any other articles your pet has come in contact with in hot water with laundry detergent.
If you are in a situation where you don’t have access to a place to wash, ask your veterinarian what products are available to have with you to combat the problem. Washing in streams or rivers can contaminate them, so it’s best to be prepared beforehand.
If your pet happens to be one of the rare ones to have a reaction to the oil, wash him/her with soap and water as soon as possible. If your pet ingests the plant, take him/her to the vet immediately where the doctor will probably induce vomiting and take any other necessary steps to help your pet.