At least three times a day, I take Belle and Charlie around our short block for some exercise. They are so excited to get to sniff the neighborhood hot spots to see who has been in their area and to mark their territory – and boy, do they mark some territory.
Last week, Charlie stopped at one of his usual spots, and before I could stop him, he took a bite out of a leaf of poison ivy! Once I realized what he had done, I quickly moved him away from the plant. It was a very tiny bite of a very tiny leaf, but I was concerned.
It never once occurred to me that a dog would eat poison ivy. I just assumed they would somehow know that this was a toxic plant. He had been around it many times and never tried to taste it.
As a result of this experience, it made me realize how important it is for pet owners to know how to identify poison ivy, for the sake of their pets’ health.
How to Identify Poison Ivy
Use these tips to identify poison ivy
- It is a vine (can sometimes be a small upright single- or multi-stem shrub)
- It has 3 leaves (Leaves of 3 let me be)
- The leaves are smooth and they may be notched (but not serrated)
- The berries are white
- In fall, the leaves are bright red
- The woody vine appears hairy as it has a lot of aerial roots coming from it
Symptoms of Poison Ivy Ingestion in Dogs
I was very fortunate that Charlie did not have a bad reaction to the tiny piece of poison ivy he ingested. I kept a close eye on him for four hours.
Because of the oil that poison ivy produces, eating the plant can be dangerous for a dog. Poison ivy can irritate the throat, causing it to swell and reduce the airway. The plant can also cause stomach irritation as well, with resulting diarrhea, vomiting and potentially severe damage (see resource here)
The reaction a dog has to eating poison ivy will vary, depending on the dog and the amount of the plant it ate. I assume that the reaction would be even stronger if a puppy ate the plant. In Charlie’s case, he was very, very fortunate.
You should immediately contact your veterinarian and seek medical advice if your dog has eaten any amount of poison ivy.
My vet’s office was closed when I called them and he had only eaten a very tiny piece of the plant, which was why I opted to keep a close eye on Charlie. If I saw any symptoms, I was prepared to take him to the emergency clinic.
The best option is to remove the plant from your yard and especially your dog’s pen or living area. Be cautious when you remove it. Be sure to wear gloves and cover your arms. All parts of the plant, including the roots, produce the oil that causes a rash. Wash yourself with soap and water after handling the plant. DO NOT BURN POISON IVY! The smoke from burning poison ivy can really harm people who have severe reactions to the plant, as it gets into their lungs.
Research the best method for you to remove poison ivy – whether it may be the use of chemicals or mechanical methods.