Spotted spurge, ground spurge, creeping spurge, spurge laurel -- whichever variety of spurge weed you have in your area, its sap can irritate the skin of animals including humans. That may sound easier said than done, as spurge weeds are great at spreading their seeds, growing out of the smallest cracks and thriving at almost any temperature. Here's how to cope with the weed and how to help an itchy dog.
The appearance of spurge weed varies by species, but commonalities exist across the family. Spurge weed grows out from a main root but has many branches. It stays close to the ground, forming what looks a bit like a green shag carpet. It has small leaves, usually not more than a half-inch long, which grow in pairs. It can be found in gardens and grassy areas, as well as growing out of cracks in the sidewalk.
This noxious weed has a milky sap containing toxins that can irritate the skin, whether you’re a human or a dog. Dogs may be particularly prone to itching because they are closer to the ground and more likely to rub up against a patch of spurge weed. Try to avoid letting your dogs loose in an area where they could come into contact with spurge weed; if you have spurge weed in your yard, be sure to pull it so it doesn’t pose a problem.
Spurge weed is relatively easy to pull up. Wear gloves so that your hands don’t begin to itch, and grab the plant firmly by its main root. Once it’s out of the ground, don’t just leave it sitting on top of the grass, as it can easily reseed itself. Place pulled weeds in a trash bag or other container that your dog won’t get into. Herbicides can kill spurge weed, but if you’re just dealing with an outbreak in your yard or along your walking route, hand-pulling is the most effective and safest way to remove the plants.
If your dog does get into a patch of spurge weed, you will likely notice the dog scratching more than usual. The skin may get less irritated on its own, but if the dog keeps scratching a lot over the course of several days, take your dog to the vet and explain that the dog came into contact with spurge weed. Don’t try to treat your dog yourself, as using certain essential oils and shampoos can make the dog itch more. Your vet should be able to recommend a proper course of action to ease the irritation.
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