Q:My dog has a small blistery rash on her chest and on the inside of one front paw (about where our thumb would be). She was recently exposed to poison ivy. Do dogs get poison ivy? If so, are there home remedies to treat it?A: Oh, to have a dog's life. It is with an envious heart that I must announce that there have been no documented cases of contact allergy to poison ivy in the dog or cat.That being said, there have been cases of contact allergy in the dog to two other plants, Wandering Jew and Asian Jasmine. The lesions in dogs and the clinical signs look much like the rash commonly observed in humans with poison ivy. The compound in poison ivy that people react to is called uroshiol. It is an oily allergen that can stay on many types of surfaces for a relatively long period of time.
The reason dogs are immune to the painful red blistering itch of poison ivy is probably because of their coats. The oil from the plant cannot get through the coat to the skin to cause the allergic reaction. But the oils can and do commonly stay on the coat, where they are easily transmitted to their human owners. When you touch a pet that has poison ivy oils on his coat, presto, your dog is watching you itch for the next two weeks. It seems like an unfair joke, huh?It does sound like your dog could have a contact dermatitis to some offending agent. Contact dermatitis is an inflammatory skin reaction caused by direct contact with an offending substance. This could be a chemical in his environment, such as a fertilizer or a cleaner. They can produce lesions where hair coat is thin or missing such as the chest, toes and under the tail. Liquid contact irritants like shampoos or topical medicines often produce lesions at the site where the irritant touches the skin. So it really depends on the irritant as to how the pet will react and the resulting dermatitis. To treat a dog with a contact irritant the first thing ideally would be to determine what the irritant was and then to eliminate the substance from the pet's environment. That is easier said than done. But if you can eliminate the substance, the skin disease can spontaneously heal without further treatment. If that is not to be the case for you, oral steroids and/or antibiotics may be needed to start the healing process. Shampoo therapy can be helpful and indicated to remove offensive substances from their fur but more often than not oral medicine is recommended. I recommend you take him to your veterinarian so you can start to heal his skin.Send questions for Dr. Allison Dascoli to "Ask the Vet," Charleston Daily Mail, 1001 Virginia St. E., Charleston WV 25301 or e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments or suggestions can be submitted the same way.