Some types of trees make a habit of leaking sticky resin all over the place, and active dogs can have a thoroughly enjoyable time getting covered in the stuff. Dealing with the gluey combination of tree sap and dog hair is unlikely to be your idea of fun, but it is usually doable.
Identify the trees producing the sap. They’re most likely to be pine or elm, but if you’re not sure, take a photograph for identification purposes later. The sap of a few species is highly toxic.
Turn on the hairdryer at its lowest setting and test it against your own hand until you find the distance at which the air feels warm, but not uncomfortably hot. If the sap has set fully on your dog’s fur, hold the hairdryer at the comfortable distance and aim the hot air at the sap until it has slightly softened.
Work olive oil, peanut butter or a commercial dog-safe sap remover into each patch of sap. You could also try mayonnaise or butter. The basic idea is to lubricate and soften the sap with something oily, enabling you to work it out. Only use oily substances that are safe for your dog to swallow, just in case.
Use your fingers and the comb to work the patches of sap out of your dog’s coat.
Cut away any stubborn hair/sap patches where the sap is at the ends of the hair, not close to the skin.
Bathe your dog using a mild dog shampoo to remove all the oily stuff. Repeat as necessary until all the oil, peanut butter, sap remover or mayonnaise is out.
Follow with conditioner, especially if your dog has a long coat or you shampooed more than once, because you’ll have stripped out the natural oils along with the mess.
Comb through his coat, checking carefully for any remaining bits of sap. If you find any, pick them off carefully.
- If any bits of sap remain that you just can’t remove and they are too close to the skin for you to cut them away, take your dog to the vet or a professional dog groomer to have them shaved off. Tree sap can cause skin irritation, and if he swallows any, an upset stomach or even poisoning.
- If you think your dog has already swallowed some of the sap through self-grooming, observe him closely. If you see any signs of digestive upset, or you think the tree sap might have been poisonous, take him to the vet.
- Never use solvents designed to remove sap from clothing or even human hair. Unlike humans, dogs lick themselves and these solvents are toxic, often more so than most tree sap. They can also be irritating to dog skin.
Judith Willson has been writing since 2009, specializing in environmental and scientific topics. She has written content for school websites and worked for a Glasgow newspaper. Willson has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.