It’s not uncommon for dogs to come home covered in sap after a day of playing in the woods. While it may look harmless, sap can actually be quite harmful to your dog if it’s not removed properly. If ingested, this sticky stuff can cause gastrointestinal irritation and upset. In addition, sap can make your dog’s paws sticky and matted, and cause skin irritation if not removed quickly.
Fortunately, removing sticky sap can be done easily (and patiently) with the right process and household items. Follow these 5 simple and easy steps to get sap out of dog hair quickly:
Things you will need
- Small Pet clippers
- Vegetable/olive oil/ smooth Peanut butter or mayonnaise
- Paper towels
- +/- Alcohol (the drinking kind) if your pet has got pine tree sap on them
5 Easy steps to remove tree sap from a dog’s hair and dog’s paws
Step 1: Soften the Sap
It may seem odd to soften the sap before removing but if you want to preserve the fur this step is essential. Hardened sap can only be removed by clipping. If the sap has hardened you may need to soften it before you can get to work on step 2. This is done most safely with a hairdryer.
Set it on the lowest setting possible and fan the affected area for a few seconds. Do not fan directly or too close to the affected area to avoid burning the skin accidentally. Continually check to see if the sap is softening – it should be a playdough-like or putty-like consistency.
An alternative if you don’t have a hairdryer OR your dog hates loud noises is to soak their feet in warm water.
Step 2: Oil it Up!
You are probably wondering why on earth I had peanut butter and mayonnaise on the list – no I am sorry to say you are not making a sandwich right now! You need an oil such as peanut butter, coconut oil, mayonnaise, vegetable oil, or olive oil to help remove the gooey sap. Science is pretty great huh?
Take some of the oil and rub the oil gently on its paw pads and paw. Let it sit for a few minutes if you can. Your dog is probably going to want to lick the paw as a tasty treat. Try to avoid this and perhaps give them a nice paw massage to distract them or a fun chew toy. The oil should lubricate and loosen the sticky sap for easy removal.
Pine tree sap is a different beast. Oil will not help reduce this sticky substance. For pine sap you need alcohol (and not for yourself). Make sure there are no cuts or scrapes on the affected area as alcohol will sting! Use vodka or gin if you have them on hand. Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) also works.
The best way to get it off your dog’s paws or dog’s fur is to apply it to a cloth and hold to the area till it begins to dissolve the pine sap. Voila and no more pine sap!
Step 3: Work it out!
When the oil has soaked and lubricated the dog’s hair or dogs paws, start breaking the sap “chunks” apart with your fingers. Then get a clean towel and pull the sap slowly from the paws.
A wide-tooth comb can help this process as well as using your fingers (long nails can be helpful here) to help tease the sap out. You may need to repeat step 2 to get it all out.
Step 4: If all else fails there are always scissors!
If the sap is not coming out with just your fingers and oil, it might be time to break out the scissors. Clip away at the matted fur around the paw – careful not to clip your dog’s skin. Be sure that you get all of the sap out this way before moving on to step 5.
If you have clippers you can use these after you have cut the majority of the sap out. Don’t try to use them if you haven’t cut the majority off. You will ruin the clippers as they will get gummed up
Step 5: Bath time!
Even if you feel like most of the sticky residue was removed through the teasing process, you must bathe your pooch anyway to remove any remaining residue and oily substance. There may be lingering oils near your dog’s skin, which can cause irritation and skin problems if left.
You can use whatever pet-friendly shampoo you have on hand for this step, though some pet soaps work better than others. Even if your pet doesn’t usually have sensitive skin, they might after you just have rubbed oils on their skin and messed with their coat. For this reason, it’s important to choose a soap that will be gentle on your pet’s skin.
You can also use a grease-cutting dish soap such as Dawn soap which is often used on penguins and birds that get caught up in oil spills.
Wash your pooch as per normal but do take extra time lathering the affected fur and areas to make sure you have removed all traces of the sap residue
Reward your dog
Of so it has probably been time-consuming and a little irritating to get the sap out from your dog’s paws. However, your dog has had to sit there and suffer through it too. Give them lots of praise, snuggles, and perhaps a treat or two for their patience
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How quickly should I remove sap?
While most sap is not toxic to dogs, it can cause gastrointestinal upset if ingested in large quantities. In addition, sap can irritate the skin and cause problems for dogs with allergies. For these reasons, it’s best to remove sap as soon as possible.
There are types of sap that are very toxic. Dogs lick their feet, and it can be dangerous for the health of the dog if the dog gets to eat it.
The more the sap remains in the paws, the harder it is to remove. It is recommended to work on it when it is still easy to remove and not too sticky.
Q: Is tree sap toxic to my dog?
Most saps are not toxic and are not a serious health concern – more a nuisance. However, some saps can be toxic. The sap can cause redness and itchiness, and if your dog licks it, they may experience digestive issues, vomiting, diarrhea and minor nervous system depression. In these cases it is important to seek veterinary attention. In most cases, sap is more of a nuisance than a health hazard, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry
Q: How can I protect my dog from sap?
If you are tired of removing sap, you have to put some measures to prevent it from happening. This is probably easiest done by avoiding the areas or fencing off the offending trees. If it the sap keeps getting stuck to the paws you can always invest in some shoes for you dog.
Q: What do I do if the sap has hardened?
You will either need to soften it (see step one) OR cut or clipper it off
Q: I can’t get the sap off with your steps- what should I do now?
Your pooch may need a trip to the groomer.
Removing sap from a dog’s paws can be a challenge, but it’s important to do it as quickly as possible to avoid irritation and poisoning. There are several steps you can take to remove the sap, depending on how much of it is sticking to your dog’s paws. You can use your fingers, oil, clippers or scissors to remove the sap, and then bathe your dog to remove any remaining oils. Be sure to choose a pet soap that will be gentle on your dog’s skin. Praise your dog for their patience during this process!
Dr. Elly has always loved animals, and she knew from a young age that she wanted to be a veterinarian. After studying hard in veterinary school, she practiced in several different countries before moving to North Carolina with her husband and young family. She currently works part time as a veterinarian while caring for her 4 busy children and writing this blog. Dr. Elly genuinely cares about the welfare of her patients. She currently has three dogs, two cats, 5 chickens and 2 rabbits (yes a bit of a zoo!)