Skip to main content

How to remove tree sap from your dog’s fur and paws

Tree sap and dogs don’t mix well, so here’s the remedy

A woman pets her dog in a field
Blue Bird / Pexels

When you think of sap, you might picture the good things that come of it, like maple syrup. But this sticky substance can have a bad impact on your pet, and you’ll need to be the one to take care of it. Sap can get all over your pet in summer, leading to matted fur or even an allergic reaction. If you find your buddy covered in tree extract, you’ll have to give them an extra thorough bath, plus a few more steps. Here’s how to get sap out of dog fur and paws.

What is sap?

tan and white dog sniffing tree
Sundays Photography / Shutterstock

Sap is often called the blood of a tree because it’s what allows nutrients to flow between the roots and the branches. Some trees commonly get sap on the outside, like pine, and stay pretty sticky year round. For others, the gummy problem will only occur in spring and summer and mostly stops when the weather cools. Humans have used this substance for everything from medicine to jewelry to glue. When it comes to our beloved pets, though, it’s certainly best if these two don’t mix.

Why is sap a problem for dogs?

A Dachshund in a red sweater stands proudly on a tree stump
noamvalentinoguetta / Pixabay

A few trees are toxic and their sap can cause a skin reaction or worse if ingested. Those include pine and oak, though sycamore can also cause irritation to the skin. Most will not have any extreme effect on your pup but will hurt their little paws or clump up their fur.

Your dog’s feet are especially sensitive since sap can get in between their paw pads and get stuck there. When you discover that your pooch has come into contact with a tree, you should look at their feet carefully. A sudden limp could also mean that sap is lurking there in their little toes.

How to get rid of sap?

Dog having a bath.
Masarik / Shutterstock

This may vary depending on exactly what tree you’re dealing with, but the gist remains the same. You will only need a few things, including a hair dryer, vegetable oil, a dog brush, and pet-safe shampoo.

Soften the sap

If the sap has hardened, you will have to get it soft again to properly remove all of it. Otherwise, it can be difficult to get this out without cutting your pet’s fur. Luckily, you probably have a handy device already lying around — your hair dryer! You may want to use the cool setting and should always test the air on your hand first to ensure it’s not too hot. Your pup pup will likely enjoy the spa day though.

Use oil to loosen

Vegetable oil, olive oil, coconut oil, or peanut butter works here (but check for xylitol first, which is poisonous to dogs). While you don’t really want your pet to lick it off, they’ll likely try a little bit. Rub your product of choice into his fur and make sure you cover all affected areas. Then, wait a bit so it has a chance to work itself in.

Brush the fur

Grab your dog brush and start to carefully comb through. You don’t want to snag and hurt them so take it slow. Liberally apply more oil as needed and wipe the residue while you go. It might take a few tries of the brush mixed with oil to remove all the sap that has latched on.

Treat the paws

Figuring out how to get sap off dog paws will be the biggest challenge. We’ll be honest — you may decide to take your dog to a groomer to handle some of this. Sometimes, the sap is so bad that you have to trim some of the fur under the feet. It’s very important to avoid nicking the soft parts, though, as that will hurt and bleed. Otherwise, tackle the step the same way you did the rest of the body.

Give your pup a bath

Lastly, you want to get all the goop off with a nice bath. Grab your pup shampoo and give Fido a last once-over, including those feet. You want all the oil and any last bits of sap to get washed off. It’s best to use a towel to dry them quickly afterward, since being wet for long periods can make them get cold.

Sap can be treacherous for both you and your four-legged friend. It gets into the fur and stays stuck for until you carefully rub, wipe, and comb it out. Next time you see or feel this sticky nuisance on your animal, grab your tools and rid your bud’s fur of the tree residue. It seems like a difficult task, but you’ll figure it out in no time.

Editors' Recommendations

Rebekkah Adams
Rebekkah’s been a writer and editor for more than 10 years, both in print and digital. In addition to writing about pets…
What does it mean when a dog’s teeth chatter? The answer is concerning
The most common reasons behind this odd behavior
A golden retriever smiling and showing his teeth

Did you know that dogs and humans have similar brain structures? Just like us, dogs experience emotions like happiness, anger, excitement, love, and disgust. However, a dog's brain is more similar to that of a human toddler than that of an adult, meaning their range of emotions is somewhat limited. Your dog's expressions can run the gamut from a playful smile to an aggravated sneer, but some behaviors leave even the most seasoned pet parents scratching their heads.

Have you ever wondered what dog teeth chattering means? There are several causes of dog jaw chattering. Some are simple and easily remedied -- such as extreme emotions -- and others require a trip to the vet. Here's what it means if your dog's teeth are chattering.
Why do dogs chatter their teeth? 

Read more
Coconut oil for dogs: The pros and cons you need to know
What are the benefits of coconut oil for dogs? It's complicated.
Coconut oil next to a coconut

If you've followed human wellness and nutrition trends over the years, you likely know olive oil is the golden child of oils. Lauded for being a healthy fat that can protect against heart disease, even cardiologists recommend consuming olive oil. Yet, coconut oil has also come into favor recently for health benefits ranging from weight loss to immune system and improving cognitive functioning in people with dementia. Keyword: People.

What are the benefits of coconut oil for dogs? Are there even any? Is coconut oil safe for dogs? These are all excellent questions and ones to ask a vet before giving any human food to a pet, whether you're allowing them to ingest the item or applying something topically. Some foods are toxic to pets, and topical application of some products can exacerbate the issues you want to fix. Where does coconut oil fit in? Here's what we do (and don't) know about coconut oil for dogs.
What is coconut oil?

Read more
Can you give a dog Benadryl? You’d better follow the correct dosage guide
Antihistamines can work wonders for pets with allergies
A golden retriever wearing a scarf and holding a handkerchief in his mouth

Just like us, dogs can suffer from allergies. While we can use a nasal spray or take an allergy medication, our dogs rely on us to treat their symptoms. Diphenhydramine, the generic name for the widely used name brand Benadryl, is commonly prescribed by veterinarians to treat seasonal allergies, anxiety, and even motion sickness. Have you ever wondered, "How much Benadryl can I give my dog?" We'll walk you through everything you need to know about giving dogs Benadryl, from the correct dosage to potential side effects.
Benadryl dosage for dogs 

Always speak to your vet before giving your dog any medication or supplements. Because your vet knows your pup's medical history, they can make the proper recommendations. Benadryl should not be used if your dog:

Read more