Can Dogs Feel Nettle Stings?

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Introduction

You're in the yard when it happens. You and your pooch have been running around outside all day long, enjoying the weather and, more importantly, your time together, when suddenly, you turn around and see your pup whimpering, limping, and feeling pretty pitiful. 

It's happened - your poor pooch has run through one of the worst plants on the planet, a stinging nettle. If you've ever swung your barefoot through a stinging nettle, you know how it feels. Generally, it's not a hazard that most pet owners consider. So, to answer any misleading questions or articles you might find on the web, your doggo can definitely feel a nettle sting, and unfortunately, it doesn't feel good. 

The good news? Your doggo is covered in hair, which means they're far more protected than we are, the hairless humans. However, short or fine-coated dogs can definitely develop nettle rash the same way that humans can (your long-haired dog might be able to contract this, too, it's just a bit less likely).

It can be hard to tell if your dog has been stung by a nettle, mostly because of all that hair. But there are certain signs you can look out for. Check out our guide below to get a better understanding of what stinging nettle is, how you can tell if your doggo has been stung by a nettle, and what you should do if they have been. Read on! 

Signs That Your Dog Has Been Stung by a Nettle

As we said, it's less likely that your dog will be stung by or affected by a stinging nettle, but it's still possible. If your dog spends tons of time running around a yard where stinging nettles are prevalent, it's likely it could happen to your pooch. Even worse, your doggo could get stinging nettle poisoning from repeat stinging nettle encounters. 

So, how can you tell? If your doggo is a brave soul (or is covered in tons of hair), it can be hard to know if they've been stung by the devil-plant, but there are certain signs you can look out for.  

For example, if your doggo seems swollen in any area, you'll want to get a closer look and investigate. Does your dog have any areas on their body that are red, itchy, or seemingly burning? All of these are tell-tale signs of stinging nettle exposure or stinging nettle poisoning. 

Worse, your doggo might experience muscle twitches (involuntary), experience labored breathing, have a hard time with their coordination, and more. If you see your pooch pawing at his or her mouth, and they're having gastrointestinal issues that involve diarrhea or vomiting, you'll definitely want to get your pup checked out by a dog-tor. 

Body Language

Odds are, if your doggo has been expose to stinging nettles, there will be a few obvious signs. Some of them are:
  • Panting
  • Scratching
  • Raspy panting
  • Twitching whiskers
  • Drooling
  • Sweaty paws

Other Signs

Here are a few other signs you should be looking out for
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Loss of coordination
  • Pupils dilating
  • Muscles twitching
  • Intense swelling and itching

Historic Causes of Stinging Nettles

Stinging nettles aren't fun. If you've ever run your foot through one, you understand the pain. Dogs can feel that pain, too. But, what are the most historic causes of nettle stings or of stinging nettle poisoning? 

First things first, stinging nettles are found in ditches, orchards, farmlands, near streams, in meadows, fields, and more - translation: all the places that dogs love to run around. Dogs typically get these stings because they're curious and exploring. Typically, a dog will run by the nettle, and the hair tips - they're angled and hollowed - will catch on to your dog, entering your pup's skin and breaking upon contact. 

Nettles will release a toxic substance to the nerve of your pup's body and the histamines inside it will cause the swelling. Sometimes, too, your doggo can get too close for a sniff and accidentally ingest nettles. This will result in a terrible, swollen muzzle for your poor pooch. 

The Science of Stinging Nettles

To understand how stinging nettles can affect your dog, it's probably vital to first understand what a stinging nettle is and how it works. What causes the sting? What makes it hurt? Why does it hurt? 

For starters, a stinging nettle is a plant that is known as the Urtica dioica L from the family Urticaceae. They are broadleaf weeds that are native to North America that grown anywhere from to 10-20 feet high and are typically in colonies. 

Stinging nettles are covered in very fine hairs on their leaves and stems called trisomes. These hairs contain harmful chemicals (like acetylcholine and histamine) that cause contact dermatitis in both people and pets when touched. The histamine causes the initial stinging reaction.

Training Your Dog to Avoid and Deal with Nettle Stings

It's important to train your dog to avoid nettle stings. Though sometimes they're unavoidable, it can be helpful to train your dog to stay in areas that you have deemed safe. 

The first way you can do this is train your dog to walk on a leash properly. Make sure your pup is trained well on a leash so they don't pull, tug, or run off. If your dog does this, it's possible they'll tug you toward nettles and get stung, or, they'll get loose and run toward a field they're not supposed to. 

Next, it's important that you train your dog to stay where you tell them to. Teach your dog the boundaries of your yard. Make sure that if your yard isn't fenced, your pup understands they're not to roam wildly. Additionally, you'll need to make sure that your yard is clear of stinging nettles - you can't blame your pup for running through a nettle in their own yard if you haven't cleared them out. If your dog has a hard time staying within the boundaries, consider training him or her to get accustomed to an electric fence. Train your pooch to understand what the boundaries mean and what will happen if he or she doesn't abide by them. 

In the event that your dog does get into a stinging nettle though, you'll want to make sure they're well-trained so they can handle the proper treatment. 

First things first, your dog-tor will likely advise that you give them an approved antihistamine, so it's important you've trained your doggo to take a pill from your hand, eat it in their food, or catch it when you throw it to them. Next, you'll want to ensure they're comfortable going to the vet's office. Make sure you give your pooch plenty of treats for good dog-tor's office visits. 

How to Keep Your Dog Safe From Nettle Stings:

  • Monitor your dog's play area.
  • Keep an eye on where your dog is running around.
  • Make sure you have a treatment plan worked out with your vet.
  • Keep your dog's area clear of nettles.
  • If your dog is stung, contact your vet.
  • Never let your dog run free in a meadow, orchard, or unfamiliar area that might have nettles.
  • Train your dog to stay within the boundaries you set to avoid nettles.

Tell Us About Your Pooch's Run In with Stinging Nettles!