How to Treat Nettle Stings on Dogs

You could be out for a walk in the countryside, the dog park or even in the garden when it happens. Your curious canine has been exploring and sniffing some hedgerow and suddenly they’re limping and whining.

If you’re out and about during the spring or summer, there could be a common plant to blame – stinging nettles.

If you’ve ever accidentally stumbled into a patch of stinging nettles, you’re probably familiar with the nasty sting and irritating itch that comes with touching this pesky plant (and therefore know to approach with caution). Our pups on the other hand may confidently stride into nettle beds without a care in the world.

Unfortunately, dogs can get stung by stinging nettles too. 

Even though dogs are covered in hair, they can still experience a nasty reaction from stinging nettles, especially on the exposed parts of their body.

It’s not always obvious if your dog is stung by nettles, so check out our guide below on how to tell if your dog has been stung and how to treat nettle stings on dogs.

Are stinging nettles toxic to dogs?

Nettles are covered in fine, tiny hairs called trichomes and it’s these little hairs that contain a mixture of chemicals (like acetylcholine and histamine) that cause irritation and swelling when touched. The initial stinging reaction is caused by the histamine and no hooman or hound is safe from nettle stings.

We’ve all experienced the intense itch and red rash caused by a stinging nettle, right? Well, our canine companions experience similar symptoms too.

If your dog has been stung by nettles, the area they’ve been stung is likely to be red and swollen, and it’ll be itchy too. Your dog may also dig at the ground and paw at their face and ears.

Common signs that your dog has been stung by stinging nettles

It can sometimes be hard to tell if your dog has been stung by a stinging nettle, especially if they’re covered in fur or like to put on a brave face, however there are tell-tale symptoms to look out for, including:

  • Redness

  • Swelling

  • Intense itching

  • Drooling

  • Pawing at the mouth

  • Laboured breathing

  • Being sick

  • Muscle twitching

  • Loss of coordination

What happens if your dog eats stinging nettles?

It’s not unusual for our four-legged friends to chomp on grass and other greenery when you’re out and about, so it’s not uncommon for dogs to nibble on some nettles among a patch of grass.

If your dog eats stinging nettles, they may salivate excessively, paw at their mouth and experience laboured breathing. They may also be sick, have diarrhoea, involuntary muscle twitches, and lose their coordination.

If you suspect that your dog has eaten or swallowed stinging nettles or your pup’s eyes have been affected then it’s important to contact your vet, who’ll provide further help.

Be sure to keep an eye on what your canine is chewing on outside, especially as lots of plants are poisonous to dogs, like these spring plants.

Can all dogs be stung by stinging nettles?

Yes, all dogs can be stung by stinging nettles, regardless of age or breed.

While a dog’s fur will offer them some protection from stinging nettles, (more than us hairless hoomans at least!) they can still experience a nettle rash.

Short or fine haired dogs are more likely to be stung and a nettle rash will be more obvious on their skin, however doggos with thick furry coats aren’t totally safe around nettles, they just might experience the sting slightly less.

Your dog’s belly and other areas where they have little to no fur will be particularly vulnerable without their coat protecting their skin. If your dog strolls over a patch of pesky nettles, their bare belly is more at risk due to being lower to the ground and being more exposed.

Can a dog’s paws be stung by nettles? 

As your dog’s paw pads are exposed skin, stinging nettles can certainly sting their paws. Because your pup is likely to walk in and around nettles, it’s a given that their feet will trample on this pesky plant.

Fortunately, because most adult dogs have hard, calloused pads on their feet, this means their toe beans won’t feel nettle stings as much as they would on their exposed skin. 

However, if you have a puppy or a young dog who hasn’t walked on hard surfaces much, they’ll still have soft, sensitive paws so stepping on stinging nettles will hurt their paws at this stage. To help harden your pup’s paws, it’s a good idea to practise walking on pavements.

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What to do if your dog is stung by stinging nettles

If you think your dog has ingested stinging nettles or their eyes have been affected, then you should contact your vet.

If you are ever concerned about your pup’s health, especially if they’re experiencing laboured breathing, being sick, have diarrhoea, involuntary muscle twitches, and loss of coordination, then it’s important to seek the care and guidance from your vet.

However, for symptoms such as redness or itching, you can do a few things to help your pup:

  1. Dock leaves are often found near stinging nettles and they contain a natural remedy to nettle stings. You just need to crush the leaf in your hand and rub the juice on the infected area to help ease the itch.

  2. If possible, try to stop your dog from rubbing or itching as this will only make the itching worse.

  3. Wash the infected area with warm soapy water, this can help remove the tiny hairs that are causing the irritation.

  4. Make a paste with bicarbonate of soda and water and apply to your sore areas on your dog’s skin.

  5. If your dog has previously been prescribed Piriton antihistamine, then a dose of this can help reduce the reaction. Anti-inflammatory medication may also help, but only give this to your dog if it’s been prescribed by your vet.

Be Prepared with Yappy’s First Aid Kit for Dogs

You never know when your dog might find themselves in a spot of bother, so it’s good to always be prepared.

This handy, travel-size first aid kit will help you care for injuries your dog might face either at home or on the move. Packed with 36 items, the contents will provide aid and comfort to your dog for minor injuries, or until professional help is sought if needed.


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