Thursday, June 22, 2006

A burning question ...

Do dogs get poison ivy? Seriously, I've been trying to find the answer without much luck.

For many years, Mr. Gomez has periodically (once or twice a year) gotten red, blistery rashes on his belly. We take him to the vet, the vet says "bacterial infection" and gives us either topical or oral antibiotics (depending on how severe it is). We follow the protocol and the rash clears up very quickly.

We've been advised that it may be the result of an allergy, and because it often occurs in warmer weather and when Mr. G has spent a lot of time in forests and such, we speculate that it may be environmental (he swims a lot--bad water maybe). But the other day Mark asked me if I though it could be poison ivy. Well, I didn't know--everything I'd read previously indicated that dogs don't get poison ivy (although they frequently pick up the urushiol oil from the plant and pass it to humans). But I figured I should try and find out a definitive answer.

I decided to ask the internet, via Google. I may as well have asked a Magic 8-Ball, though, because it appears the answer is "Reply hazy, try again." One problem, of course, is that anyone on the internet can share an opinion, so you have to go with who seems the most authoritative. The Johns Hopkins University Student health center site, which seems like it might be credible, says Only humans and higher primates are sensitive to urushiol. That seems rather definite until the next two sentences: "Dogs and cats are lucky. They generally do not get poison oak or poison ivy rashes." Generally? So does that mean they actually can get the rashes, they just "generally" don't? A site dedicated to American Eskimo dogs, opines that dogs' fur confers somesome protection in blocking the oils. Would that mean they can get it on their bellies where there's not much fur?. Someone else says so:: "Yes, short haired dogs certainly can get a rash from poison ivy. Our dachshund's belly was covered with it after running through a patch growing on the ground." That, however, is from a forum, where there's no way to gauge the credibility of the poster. Did they somehow verify that the dog indeed had a poison ivy rash?

In Gomey's case, it's easy to think that it's not PI (but I must say the rash looks amazingly like the PI rashes I've had). First off, several different vets have diagnosed it as a bacterial infection, and even though they can be wrong, they do have a little more schooling in such things than I do. But the diagnoses have always been based on a visual examination--they've never taken any sort of culture to confirm. So is it possible they just don't consider PI rash in the first place because they believe dogs don't get it? The rash always starts clearing up a few days after we start topical or oral antibiotics ... but then again, a PI rash will start clearing up on its own after a few days anyway.

However, if Mr. G had picked up some urushiol from a PI plant, wouldn't he most likely have have passed it to us? He really loves his belly rubs and we often oblige, and the oils don't wash off with water alone (we don't usually give him a real shampoo-and-water bath after every trip to the woods--we'd be bathing him several times a week if we did). I've become quite sensitive to urushiol, and I think I'd show symptoms if Mr. G brought home even a small amount on his fur.

So to make a long story short (and to state what should be obvious at this point), I still don't know whether dogs can get poison ivy rashes or not. And I don't know what exactly cause the rashes on Gomey's belly. And I'd love to hear anypone else's theories and ideas.

5 comments:

lori said...

I own a great dane, whose fur is very thin. I am in the process right now of trying to find out if dogs can get poison ivy/oak. I guess we are coming across the same info (or lack there of). I took my dog to the dog park yesterday.... she was running through the bush A LOT more than normal. She usually sticks to the path. Well... yesterday I had a rash up my arm. I didnt notice Molly scratching herself until today. She is very red and bumpy. She is itchy!! I think dogs with short fur can get it. I am taking her to the vet tomorrow.... will see what he says?

Lisa B. said...

Please share what he says--I'm very curious to know!

Anonymous said...

My dog and I had been in the woods all day and by the end of the day I noticed he had red spots on his belly the size of quarters. I took him to the vet today and was told it WAS poison ivy. A dog can get it on parts that aren't covered with a lot of fur. It doesn't usually affect them the same as humans. He doesn't even notice it. I had given him a bath right away and the vet recommended a bath again in three days and benedryl if it's bothering him.

Xtraditsy said...

I can relate my experience..my white, pink skinned toy poodle just got his summer clip..close to the skin on his torso. Went for his usual snooping run at woods edge. Next day he's got a red raised streak of skin on his back,later that day,he's rolling on his back scratching his shoulders. Two days afterward, I see he's actually got a streak fine hard red blisters in that spot.Looks just like when I get poison ivy outbreak. Funny thing is, he really enjoys when I rub the spot with anti-itch cream. So, yes, this is a case where a dog got poison ivy due to his protective fur being clipped off.

Xtraditsy said...

I can relate my experience..my white, pink skinned toy poodle just got his summer clip..close to the skin on his torso. Went for his usual snooping run at woods edge. Next day he's got a red raised streak of skin on his back,later that day,he's rolling on his back scratching his shoulders. Two days afterward, I see he's actually got a streak fine hard red blisters in that spot.Looks just like when I get poison ivy outbreak. Funny thing is, he really enjoys when I rub the spot with anti-itch cream. So, yes, this is a case where a dog got poison ivy due to his protective fur being clipped off.