News & Advice

What is Wandering Jew Poisoning?

Oct 15, 2020 | Dogs, Pet Health

Test, Herd Health Veterinarian, Anexa Vets
Wandering Jew is a common invasive weed which is common in gullies and shaded areas in the Waikato region. It takes over native vegetation very quickly and kills everything so that it may thrive. While this alone can be frustrating, it is also toxic to your dog. There have not been any reported cases of toxicity from ingestion, but severe skin reactions can occur from coming into contact with the plant. In most cases, dogs will develop severe contact dermatitis and possibly a secondary infection if not treated properly. Treatment is as simple as oral or topical medication making recovery from the toxicity of this plant easy for you and your dog.

This plant belongs to the Commelinaceae family and the genus Tradescantia. The species can be found spelled one of two ways: Tradescantia flumeninsis or Tradescantia fluminensis. It can also be known by the common name of Wandering Willy.



Symptoms may vary from case to case. Also, the onset of symptoms may also vary. Symptoms may include:

  • Redness of the feet and in between the toes
  • Ulceration around feet
  • Inflammation and blisters on hairless areas of skin under abdomen and chest
  • Redness of the muzzle
  • Redness around the eyes
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Itching of the skin
  • Loss of fur
  • Secondary infection

The exact name of the irritant from the Wandering Jew plant is unknown. Scientists just know it causes allergic dermatitis in dogs as well as other species when they walk through the plant. Symptoms appear in accidental contact cases as well as when applied on purpose for scientific studies. Wandering Jew does not necessarily cause a toxic like reaction in dogs, but more of an allergic reaction. There have been no reported cases of ingestion of this plant by a dog, but it can be assumed if it is ingested, he may develop redness, itching, and irritation of the mouth as well.



If you notice your dog’s skin is red, especially under the belly or around the feet, or if he is experiencing a lot of scratching or hair loss, veterinary care is needed. Upon arrival, the veterinarian will obtain a history of the condition and perform a physical exam.

A skin scraping sample may be taken from your dog to view under the microscope. This will allow a check for external parasites or bacterial overgrowth, both of which can also cause similar dermatologic symptoms.

The veterinarian may want to do blood work for diagnostics. When a certain white blood cell level is elevated, it is indicative of an allergy. By running a complete blood count (CBC), the information will support if this is an allergic reaction.

When discussing your dog’s symptoms with the veterinarian, be sure to mention any and all details of what he was doing before his symptoms appeared. For example, if you were out on a walk or if he was romping around an area with unknown vegetation. While it may seem like an unimportant detail to you, it may be the key to a diagnosis.



If your dog is experiencing a lot of scratching, the veterinarian will prescribe an ointment or cream as a relief. You may need to apply it two to three times a day, but it has been proven to help. If your dog scratches continuously, he may develop a secondary infection of the skin and will then need antibiotics and anti-inflammatories as well.
If there is any irritation of the eyes an ointment or drops may be prescribed for you to apply at home for a few days.



If your dog is scratching excessively and has some sort of skin irritation or rash, he needs Veterinary care. If you are able to stop the scratching before it turns into a skin infection, he will heal much more quickly and with the least amount of medications possible.

Since toxicity symptoms typically manifest as some form of dermatitis, dogs usually recover well with supportive therapies. If you know you have this plant on your property or know it is located nearby, trying to keep your dog away from it is the best thing for them. Avoid exercising your dog where this problem plant is present.

For further information or if you have concerns about your dog, please contact your Anexa vet clinic.

Share This