I believed for years that dogs were immune to poison oak, but guess what, this isn’t true! Dogs’ fur protects them pretty well from getting poison oak but those with very fine coats, relatively hairless bellies, or just plain sensitive skin are susceptible.
In addition to rover getting poison oak from crashing around through the brush, you can catch it from the oils on his fur. If your dog is off-roading through the bushes it’s a good idea to pack damp towels and Tecnu® soap and a pair of rubber gloves to wipe him down with before you need to handle him or let him into the car. Once you get home (or to Pet Food Express where you can rent a bathing station for $15), you can use Dawn dishwashing soap to remove any remaining poison oak oil from your dog’s coat. It is probably a lot cheaper than Tecnu® and you may want to use it as a secondary line of defense depending on how sensitive you are to poison oak.
You can choose to keep your dog with you on fire roads, avoid a lot of the brushy wooded areas and avoid a lot of labor, but this of course is up to you.
Remember if your dog does get poison oak, it will look bumpy. The dog will be itchy and will probably need to go to the vet for steroids and antibiotics (if they scratch, they can introduce bacteria into the skin causing an infection along with the poison oak rash).
Click here for more information on the four seasons of poision oak from the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy.