Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Removal for Pets

Low section of man walking with dog on fallen tree over river

Poison ivy, oak, and sumac are just a few of the plants that may make people miserable. These plants' oil creates an allergic reaction, resulting in an itching rash on the skin it comes into contact with.

What happens if your dog or cat comes into contact with poison ivy, oak, or sumac? Poison ivy, oak, and sumac do not commonly cause responses in dogs and cats. Pets, on the other hand, can distribute the oil to people. There are, however, things you may do to avoid this.


Pets and Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac

When urushiol, a sap or oil found in poison ivy, oak, and sumac comes into contact with the skin, it can cause an allergic response. Brushing against the frail leaves of these plants makes it easier for the oil to be released. The stems and berries of these plants also contain urushiol. The oil can also last a long time on textiles and other things, allowing for further exposure.

Walking through the plants and obtaining plant oil on their coats and skin might expose animals to it. Fortunately, urushiol causes little allergy responses in dogs and cats. This is due to the fact that their coats shield their skin from oil exposure, and their skin is not normally as sensitive to oils as human skin is.

Even if your dogs appear to be unaffected by poison ivy, oak, or sumac, keep in mind that your dog or cat might carry the plant oil to you and others. Most people are allergic to urushiol, which causes a rash.

Note that poison ivy, oak, and sumac are not toxic to dogs and cats if eaten. However, the plant oils should be removed from the pet's coat to avoid transmission to humans in the home.

What to Do if Your Pet Was Exposed to Urushiol

If you suspect your pet has been exposed to poison ivy, oak, or sumac, wash them as quickly as possible to avoid exposure to yourself and others. Take precautions to avoid coming into touch with the allergic plant oil before washing your dog or cat.

  • Wear rubber or nitrile gloves.
  • Wear a protective gown or long-sleeved shirt
  • Or, apply a barrier cream to any exposed skin not protected by gloves. Ideally, choose a lotion that contains bentoquatum as this acts as a shield against urushiol.
  • Rinse your pet with copious amounts of lukewarm or cool water for a long period of time.
  • Obtain a degreasing pet shampoo or pet safe detergent that will break up the oil on the coat. Choose an anti-seborrheic or keratolytic shampoo designed for pets. Or, use Dawn dishwashing detergent as this is safe and effective at removing oils from the coat.
  • Apply plenty of shampoo to your pet's coat. Massage the shampoo into your pet's coat well, creating a lather. Be sure to coat all parts of the coat but avoid the eyes, ears, and genital area.
  • Rinse your pet thoroughly with lukewarm or cool water.
  • Dry your pet well and offer a yummy treat as a reward!

Removing Urushiol Oils From Objects and Surfaces

Keep an eye out for urushiol-contaminated anything that your pet has come into touch with. To avoid oil exposure, they must be well cleaned. When working with these goods, always wear gloves.


Use a degreasing detergent like Dawn dish soap to thoroughly clean your pet's leash and collar. Use the hottest water possible and additional detergent to wash pet bedding, clothing, bath towels, and other fabrics that may be washed. To eliminate all plant oil, a second wash may be necessary. Any other textiles that can't be washed in the machine should be thoroughly hand washed. Use a carpet cleaner to scrub the carpets.

Non-Porous Objects and Surfaces

Remove residues of urushiol from grooming equipment, garden tools, pet toys, pet bowls, and anything else that may have the plant oil on it with a degreasing spray detergent or rubbing alcohol. Before your pet uses an item again, make sure it has been cleaned and dried.

Removing Poison Ivy, Oak, and Sumac Plants

If there is poison ivy, oak, or sumac in your pet's area, it is probable that your pet may brush against it, exposing people to it. The greatest option is to get rid of these plants. If you are not sure in your ability to identify and remove the plants safely, you may often engage an expert crew to identify and remove them. If you opt to do it alone, keep the following points in mind:

  • Wear protective clothing, gloves, and barrier cream (if needed) when working around poison ivy, oak, and sumac.
  • Remove all parts of the plant, including the leaves, stems, and roots.
  • Cut the plants cleanly at the ground level with shears or pruners. Avoid ripping or tearing the vines as this will release the oil.
  • Dig out the roots using a shovel.
  • Place the plants and roots in a bag for disposal.
  • Spray remaining roots and stubs with a weed killer. Ideally, use a natural weed killer containing vinegar. Or, use a chemical that contains glyphosate or triclopyr.
  • Keep pets away from the sprayed area, especially if harsh chemicals were used.
  • Consider planting grass in the area where the plants were as this will prevent poison ivy, oak, and sumac from growing there.
  • Dispose of your gloves and clothing or wash them thoroughly in hot water with detergent.


Poison ivy, oak, and sumac plants should never be burned. Burning oils releases them into the air, causing acute respiratory symptoms and allergic responses. Even if you weren't previously allergic to poison oak, ivy, or sumac, reactions to this allergen are frequent and can happen at any time in a person's life.


"Kim, Yesul et al. Poison Ivy, Oak, And Sumac DermatitisDermatitis, vol 30, no. 3, 2019, pp. 183-190. Ovid Technologies (Wolters Kluwer Health), doi:10.1097/der.0000000000000472", "Poison Ivy. Animal Poison Control Center", "Poisonous Plants. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)" ;