Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Poison Ivy and Your Pet!

So, you've taken the doggie ashore on the mainland or an island for a little exercise. "Hey, you look so cute in the bush."

The final flowers of fall are still standing. You've got to get a shot of the beautiful field of six-foot tall yellow wildflowers before they're gone.
Suddenly, your early warning system clicks on and you remember to look down instead of up to see what you're tromping through on that barely there trail to the flowers.
Poison ivy starting to turn red in the fall along the Ottawa River, Quebec, Canada.
 Ah, ha! Of course. There are a few strands of poison ivy creeping out under the tall stuff! And you manage to avoid it.

But where's the doggie?

She's romping right through all that poison ivy you've just avoided and now her fur, paws and collar may be full of the oil, called urushiol, from the poison ivy plants - the oil that can cause a nasty rash if it gets on your skin, especially if you're one of the many who are allergic to the toxin from the plants.

But you're not quite sure. Did the oil from the poison ivy rub off on the dog just because she ran through it?

Next up, the doggie finds another, even bigger patch of poison ivy turning a luxurious fall red and decides it's time for a long and joyful, "I'm so happy!" roll in the middle of it! And you watch in horror. Now, you're absolutely sure the doggie is covered in oil from the poison ivy patch. Absolutely sure!
Poison ivy patch turning red in the fall
 Some dogs just love to roll. Riley is one of them. She loves to roll in rocks, dirt, mud, sand, leaves, grass, small bushes, and whatever else is on the ground, including poison ivy.
Our pets, dogs and cats, don't seem to be affected by the toxins from poisonous plants, like poison ivy, that make most of us break out in a nasty red and blistering rash that can last from 10 to 14 days of pure misery. It amazes me how Riley can roll in poison ivy and not be affected by it. If I did that, I'd be in trouble.

Once the oil from poison ivy or other poisonous plants like poison oak or poison sumac get on to your pet, it can rub off on to you and things they sit or lay on, like your car seat, furniture, or bed! Making it easy or inevitable that your skin comes in contact with the potent rash-causing oil.

The oil from poisonous plants can also get onto other things that come into contact with the plants, like your gear, tools, clothing, shoes, or bicycle, and remains active for a long time.


Recently, I saw a picture of poison oak, poison sumac, and poison ivy pasted on the wall of a doctor's office in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada, so I asked him a few questions about poisonous plants:

Question: "We've only got to worry about poison ivy around here right?"

Doctor's Answer: Smiling with a wide grin and pointing to the picture of the poisonous plants on the wall, "No, we got lucky in the National Capital Region of Canada (Ottawa, Ontario/Gatineau, Quebec), we've got all three! Poison oak, poison sumac, and poison ivy! Recently a grandmother brought in her three-year old granddaughter with a bad poison sumac rash. She didn't know that "pretty little plant" in her garden was poison sumac!"

Question: "What should you do if your dog or cat gets into it?"

Doctor's Answer: "It's the oil from the plants that can cause the allergic reaction and rash when it gets on your skin. The oil from poisonous plants has to be washed off with something that will remove the oil, like soap and water. Rinsing with water is not enough. Water alone won't remove the oil. Shampoo the dog or cat thoroughly, then rinse well."
 
Question: "Is everyone allergic to the oil from poison ivy? If you already know you're allergic to contact with poison ivy, does that mean you're also allergic to other poisonous plants?

Doctor's Answer: "No, not everyone is allergic to the oil from poison ivy. Some people can rub their faces with the leaves and not have an allergic reaction. If you are allergic to poison ivy, it is very likely that you are also allergic to other poisonous plants like poison oak and poison sumac."

Question: "When my skin comes in contact with poison ivy or the oil from poison ivy on my dog or other objects, how much time do I have to wash it off?"

Doctor's Answer: "The sooner the better. The toxin from the plants penetrates quickly into the skin. You have maybe 15 to 20 minutes. You don't have time to wait until you get home from a hike and take a shower."
Poison ivy warning sign in the 1000 Islands, St. Lawrence River, Ontario, Canada
"Warning! Don't touch the dog. She just rolled in a big patch of poison ivy! What do we do now!?"

Good luck. Maybe keep her on a leash next time . . . you can't shampoo the dog at the beach!

If I drive to a location to run the dog (Riley does not walk - she runs!), I bring a big towel along to rub down the dog if she's run through or rolled in poison ivy to try and remove some of the plant oils, and place another big clean towel on the car seat for the dog to sit on until we get home and I can wash her properly. Then I put the towel I rubbed the dog down with into a plastic bag, and quickly and thoroughly wash my hands.

When I get home, I thoroughly shampoo the dog, rinse well, and towel her dry. All the towels that came in contact with the dog, or anything else that may have come in contact with the dog like her leash or collar, or my clothing, gets washed with soap and water, or goes into the wash with laundry soap, and I select hot water, not cold or warm.

If you take your dog boating with you and let the dog run loose on the mainland or along those charming wooded trails on islands, you may want to have a plan for what to do if your dog runs into poison ivy or other poisonous plants. 
Island trail, 1000 Islands Region, St. Lawrence River, Ontario, Canada
Talk to your vet and ask for advice on what to do or what products may be available to you if you are on a boat or on a camping trip with your dog and don't have access to a safe place to wash the oils from the poisonous plants off your dog. You can't wash the dog in or near a lake, river, stream, or the ocean with soap. This is harmful to the environment and the creatures that live in it.

Dogs are so much work! :) But worth all your efforts . . . right!?
Be prepared. Don't wait until you or family members break out with a nasty rash from poisonous plants before you learn about them.
  • Find out where poisonous plants are found where you live and other places you travel. 
  • Learn how to identify and avoid contact with poisonous plants.
  • Never burn poison ivy leaves or plants. Inhaling the smoke from burning any part of poison ivy plants and other poisonous plants is extremely toxic.
  • Learn what to do if you do come in contact with poisonous plants or break out in an allergic rash.
Poison ivy has three leaves. It is green in the summer, turns red in the fall, then the leaves fall off.  Poison ivy can look different depending on where it grows and the time of year. This image shows poison ivy in August in the 1000 Islands Region, Ontario, Canada. All parts of the plant can cause an allergic reaction from mild to severe. 
Get More Information About Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, and Poison Sumac

The U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): Poisonous Plants, Poison Ivy, Poison Oak, Poison Sumac provides information, advice, photos, and general maps of where these poisonous plants are found in the U.S. and Canada. 

Now, what is your horse walking through and rolling in on those trails and fields?!
Trail riding in the southern California mountains. Watch out for poison oak in the woods. Even after the leaves have fallen off the plants in the fall, coming in contact with the plants or leaves can cause a rash. Also look out for mountain lions, rattlesnakes, and big, hairy black widow spiders.
Happy trails without mishaps with poisonous plants or things that bite!
The BaffinPaddler
http://baffinpaddler.blogspot.com

Coming Soon: 
Adirondack Turtle Tails . . . 50 Baby Snapping Turtles!

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