No, dogs and cats do not appear to be sensitive to the effects of urushiol, the allergenic oil found in poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac as many humans are. The hair coat provides protection as well.
That's the good news. The bad news is that pets can transmit the urushiol on their hair coats to their human family and other surfaces (furniture, articles of clothing, and so on).
This oil is extremely long-lived in the environment, so caution is advised for pets that roam outside.
Wear gloves and bathe your pet well to reduce contamination with this allergenic oil.
But My Pet Is Really Itchy
There are many, many reasons that pets may be itchy, scratching and chewing. Everything from fleas and other parasites, to anal sac problems to hot spots to allergies. Damage from the scratching and chewing may cause secondary infections and problems which often adds to the chewing and licking cycle. Always see your veterinarian at the first signs of itching and scratching.
Where To Find Poison Ivy, Poison Oak And Poison Sumac
Poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac are found in various combinations throughout North America (except Alaska and Hawaii). According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
"One or more of the most common poisonous plant species are found throughout the United States (except Alaska and Hawaii). These plants can be found in forests, fields, wetlands and along streams, road sides, and even in urban environments, such as, parks and backyards."
In other words, places that many dogs and people visit. Learn more from the CDC.
The Poisonous Part of the Plant
All of these plants contain an oil called urushiol, that for some individuals is highly allergenic. This oil is absorbed rapidly through the skin, producing a contact dermatitis intensely itchy and blistered lesions in susceptible individuals.
Poison Ivy/Sumac/Oak Prevention
Learn how to identify these plants (helpful photo galleries below) to reduce exposure and how to treat poison ivy in humans to keep your family happy and rash-free when outdoors.
Please note: This article has been provided for informational purposes only. If your pet is showing any signs of illness, please consult a veterinarian as quickly as possible.