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What is Stinging Nettle Poisoning?

The stinging nettle plant can grow well over 10 feet tall and is commonly found in uncultivated areas of moist soil such as pastures, wasteland, and alongside streams. Dogs, humans, and other animals who come into contact with the stinging nettle will experience unpleasant symptoms that can intensify with repeated exposure.

The leaves and stems of the stinging nettle are covered with trichomes, little hairs that contain histamines and other chemicals that can cause a reaction that may last for many hours. Canines who are exposed to the plant, especially in a repeated incident, can be poisoned by thousands of injections of acetylcholine which can seriously affect the peripheral nerves. Symptoms as serious as tremors and breathing difficulties may arise. Recorded instances of death due to this plant are few in number, but it is a possibility with a severe poisoning. If your dog comes into contact with the stinging nettle and is displaying signs of pain and toxicity, a veterinary visit is warranted without delay.

The stinging nettle plant is in abundance in many regions of North America. This plant is covered in small stinging nettle hair cells that break easily on contact, injecting secretions that cause numbness, pain, and itching to humans and animals upon exposure.

Stinging Nettle Poisoning Average Cost

From 528 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $8,500

Average Cost

$4,500

Symptoms of Stinging Nettle Poisoning in Dogs

Humans that have experienced the pain caused by a stinging nettle will remember that the discomfort will begin soon after contact with the plant. Such is the case also for our canine friends. Some of the most reported symptoms in dogs who have brushed against or ingested the stinging nettle are:

  • Redness of the skin
  • Swelling of the skin
  • Intense itching and burning
  • Vomiting
  • Drooling
  • Diarrhea
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Labored breathing
  • Loss of coordination
  • Dilated pupils
  • Twitching muscles

There have been reports of exposure by inhalation as well, whereby dogs running through fields may breathe in large amounts of the stinging nettle, causing intense pain in the nasal passages along with intensified reactions to the substances contained within the plant.

Types

The stinging nettle is known scientifically as Urtica dioica L. , from the family Urticaceae. Other common names for the plant are:

  • Tall nettle
  • California nettle
  • Slender nettle
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Causes of Stinging Nettle Poisoning in Dogs

  • Within the stinging nettle are histamines, acetylcholine, and 5-hydroxytryptamine
  • The plant can be found in ditches, orchards, on farmland, and beside streams
  • The plant releases secretions that enter the skin as the hairs break upon contact
  • The hair tips are angled and hollow, allowing for easy puncturing of the skin
  • The nettle will release toxic substances to the nerves of the body, and histamines that cause swelling
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Diagnosis of Stinging Nettle Poisoning in Dogs

If your pet has returned from an off leash walk and is displaying signs of stinging nettle poisoning, or you have witnessed him coming into contact with this pain-inflicting plant it is a good idea to make a visit to the veterinary clinic in order to provide your pet with relief and to avoid further health complications.

If possible, transport a piece of the plant in a container or bag, being careful not to inflict the stinging nettle pain on your own skin. Having a sample of the plant for positive identification will enable the veterinary team to make a definitive diagnosis in a timely manner. 

Diagnosis of the stinging nettle plant will be based on the history of the event and the clinical symptoms; the veterinarian will examine your dog and verify that his vital signs (blood pressure and heart rate) are normal. The veterinarian will take a look at your pet’s skin, nose, mouth, and eyes for signs of redness due to stinging nettle exposure. There is no specific test for determining this type of poisoning, but if your pet is displaying severe signs such as loss of coordination, excessive vomiting, or dilated pupils the veterinarian may want to perform blood tests and urinalysis to rule out other types of toxicities, or to determine if an underlying disease process is exacerbating the symptoms normally seen with exposure to stinging nettle.

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Treatment of Stinging Nettle Poisoning in Dogs

Fortunately, most cases of stinging nettle poisoning result in dermatitis only. If this is the situation with your pet, a gentle washing of the skin, and sometimes a light scraping of the skin’s surface (in a dog’s case particularly the pads of the feet and areas of the body where fur cover is sparse) to remove any embedded plant hairs will be the first step of treatment. A topical medication may be applied to ease the redness and itching. When a dog is having a more intense reaction to the sting and pain, an injection of atropine sulfate to counteract the poisoning and nerve sensitivity may be given, along with an antihistamine to relieve inflammation and swelling that may have resulted from the nettle penetration.

If your pet chewed on the nettle, the veterinary team will rinse your dog’s mouth with cool water in an effort to remove some of the nettle hairs and to provide relief from the sting.

In the rare case of severe poisoning by stinging nettle that may involve excessive vomiting and diarrhea, dogs may need to be given intravenous fluids to bring electrolytes back to normal. Medication, if needed for pain relief, reversal of nerve irritation, or to stop nausea and vomiting, can also be given easily through intravenous therapy, which will help to calm an anxious pet.

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Recovery of Stinging Nettle Poisoning in Dogs

The majority of incidences of stinging nettle poisoning will end on a positive note after a period of several hours at most. Studies have shown that the effects of the nettle can be felt for up to 12 hours. There has been recorded documentation of a group of hunting dogs who suffered repeated exposure to large amounts of inhalation and penetration of the skin perishing as a result of stinging nettle poisoning without treatment; however, death is not common.

Because the stinging nettle grows so prolifically in fields, ditches and open areas with moist soil, it is recommended that you avoid these areas when allowing your dog off leash. Walking your pet on leash in a safe, nettle free park may be the wisest decision in order to avoid a painful, potentially harsh, experience for your pet.

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Stinging Nettle Poisoning Average Cost

From 528 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $8,500

Average Cost

$4,500

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Stinging Nettle Poisoning Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Pit Bull

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Two Years

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Unknown severity

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2 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Redness Rash

My pit has a red rash all on his belly and inner thighs. I’m fairly certain it’s from stinging nettle in our dog park. What would you say is the best course of action to help it go away?

Aug. 21, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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2 Recommendations

Hello, So sorry to hear about your dog. YOu can try Benadryl at 1mg/pound. If this does not help your dog may need steroids and antibiotics to help. I would also give her a bath in oatmeal shampoo to help soothe her skin. I hope your dog starts to improve soon.

Aug. 21, 2020

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Monroe

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Alaskan Malamute

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3 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Vomiting
Moping Around
No Interest In Food

My 3 year old Alaskan malamute has ingested what looks like a s/nettle plant found in our garden. She has thrown up a few times and isn't showing interest in her food. It's been more than 24 hours and is still not herself however not whimpering in pain or anything. We're going through really bad financial difficulties at the moment so a vet visit is really going to hurt us however if necessary we will make the trip. Is there anything at all you can suggest. Shes like family 😭

June 10, 2018

Monroe's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

The stinging nettle may be very irritating to Monroe's mouth, throat, and GI tract, and that may be why she is not wanting to eat. If she is not still vomiting, you may be able to try and feed her a bland diet mixture of boiled chicken and rice and see if that entices her to get her appetite back. If she is still not interested in food, it would probably be best to have her seen by a veterinarian.

June 10, 2018

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Daisy

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Jack Russell Terrier

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1 Year

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Restless

HI, when i took my 1 year old jack russell out for the toilet last night she went straight to a corner around the house and would not come back when I called her. I went around and she had her nose in the centre of a stinging nettle plant. She was obsessed with it and would not leave it alone. I picked her up and took her inside but she was all hyped up like she was high or something. Normally she would go straight to bed but last night she kept pawing at the door so I took her back out in case she needed to go more, but she went straight back to the plant. She did the same thing again early this morning, so she is locked inside until its daylight and I can go dig them up. She hasnt had any of the other symptoms that I can see just this obsessiveness and hyper activity. Its a sunday so no local vets open is there anything I should do?

May 26, 2018

Daisy's Owner

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0 Recommendations

This is strange behaviour being exhibited by Daisy, if no symptoms are being presented of poisoning or irritation I would just keep an eye on her and dispose of the nettles during the day so that she cannot go back to them. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 27, 2018

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Draco

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Presa Canario

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5 Months

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Loss Of Fur. Itching. Biting.

I have quite a lot of nettles in my garden and both my dogs run through them but my 5month old puppy has recently started losing fur and biting himself a lot and has a slight rash on one side of his back end. Could this be down to the nettles and If so should I take him to the vet? Or could it be something else causing the loss of fur. He’s losinf quite a bit over the last week.

May 24, 2018

Draco's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Stinging nettles may cause a rash and irritating like they do in humans, your other dogs may have thick coats or are used to the nettles so are not affected; you should keep Draco indoors for a few days and bathing him with a sensitive dog shampoo and monitor him to see if there is a reduction in irritation and scratching. If there is no improvement you should visit your Veterinarian for an examination and remove the nettles from your garden. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

May 25, 2018

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Kimbo

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german shepard

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2 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Coughing ,
Coughing , Licking Dry Heaving

Just wondering if I should be worried . He seems him self just aggravated. He keeps licking and coughing every hour . Is there anything I can do to make him feel better

April 18, 2018

Kimbo's Owner

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0 Recommendations

Typically symptoms are similar in dogs as in humans, but if a dog eats some nettles they may present with other symptoms including drooling, pawing at the mouth, vomiting among other symptoms. Dogs are generally alright, but if the throat is swollen it may cause an issue with breathing; keep an eye on Kimbo but visit your Veterinarian if there is no improvement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

April 18, 2018

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Jasper

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Yorkshire Terrier

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11 Months

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Staring, Jolting, Pacing, Licking

my dad took my dog on a walk but when he came back he was staring off into space and acting very strange. we know he is exhausted because he keeps nodding off while standing but everytime he lies down he gets up so suddenly and starts pacing. he is also licking his paws. i have searched it up and this came up. i'm really not sure but i am very worried about what to do as i am not 100% sure that it was nettles and i cannot bring him to the vet.

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Honey

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Springer spaniel cross retriever

dog-age-icon

9 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Face And Body
Redness Of Skin

9 year old springer spaniel cross retriever was outside in garden we think it’s stinging nettles but not sure she has swollen face and her side is swollen it looks like her whole body looks swollen her skin looks red and she wants to itch she’s sleeping now so have no idea what it is she may have even been bite it’s happened quite quick

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Truble

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Staffordshire Bull Terrier

dog-age-icon

5 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Redness
Rash
Red Bumps

My dogs have recently started walking in a new area, through a field of grazing grass, then down to a river with woodland. I have noticed redness, little bumps and inflamation on their bellies. They are both Staffordshire Bull Terriers so quite low to the ground. There are a lot of nettles on the home route and I have also got the occassional sting on my ankle. Is there anything I can do to prevent them reacting in future? And how can I treat the inflammation/bumps? The rash is not bothering either of them and doesn't appear to be getting any worse (around 3 days now) they have no other symptoms and are acting normally. What can I do to treat this at home? What can I do to prevent them being affected in the future? (or will they become immune?)

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Nala

dog-breed-icon

Icelandic Sheepdog

dog-age-icon

9 Years

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Redness
Swelling
Vomiting
No Interest In Food

She came home after I let her out about two hours ago with swelling all over her face. The swelling has since gotten worse. My first thought was that she had attacked a bee, but then I realized it's the beginning of January. When I saw she had swelling on her legs I realized she must have run through the bed of nettle in the unclaimed property next to ours. I've been tending to her with cold water and letting her out to cool off and vomit every now and then. My main concern is that she always barks in front of the door so we'll let her in again, but the past few times I've only been hearing small grunts through the door. It's like she can't properly make noise, and I was wondering if that's normal.

Stinging Nettle Poisoning Average Cost

From 528 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $8,500

Average Cost

$4,500

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