In most cases, a canine's thick fur protects his body from the rash-producing effects of poison oak. Yet for those times when your pup's less-furred skin -- such as areas around his mouth, muzzle and stomach -- does touch a poison oak plant, it's important to take action to remove the irritant and seek veterinary care.
Poison oak rash comes from the poison oak plant, which belongs to a group of plants named toxicodendron and known scientifically as the Rhus group. Its principle toxin is urushiol, which is an oil resin found in the plant's sap. Dogs come in contact with it in wooded areas when they rub up against the plants or accidently ingest it if they explore the plant with their mouths.
Even before the canine's skin becomes inflamed, an earliest indication your four-legged friend could develop a rash due to poison oak is finding sap stuck to his fur. Symptoms of a poison oak rash include but are not limited to red inflamed skin, irritation, scratching, your dog rubbing against firm objects in an effort to relieve itch, bumps or swelling on the skin and in the case of plant material being ingested, vomiting and diarrhea.
While the fur covering a canine's body usually protects his body from the plant's toxic sap, bare canine skin coming in contact with poison oak will require treatment. Veterinarians recommend giving your a dog longer than usual bath using hypoallergenic shampoos designed for canines. A minimum of 10 minutes is a guideline. It's also suggested you wear gloves to avoid contracting poison oak from your dog. For instances when your pup's initial reaction is severe, Dawn dishwashing liquid is an effective choice for a first-aid bath.
It will put some limits on your canine friend's freedom, yet the best method for preventing is poison oak is to keep him on a leash while out in the woods. Don't let him roam freely without supervision. If his body does not touch poison oak, he most likely won't get a poison oak rash.
Amy M. Armstrong is a former community news journalist with more than 15 years of experience writing features and covering school districts. She has received more than 40 awards for excellence in journalism and photography. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Washington State University. Armstrong grew up on a dairy farm in western Washington and wrote agricultural news while in college.