How To Remove Tar From Dog Fur

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Have you ever wondered how to remove tar from dog fur?  Not long ago while at the dog beach my Aussie mix, Linus stepped in tar and immediately the black sludge clung to his paw pad and fur seemingly impossible to remove.

I love taking Linus to the dog beach. He gets to interact with some of the other dogs, sprint along the sand, and play in the water. Unfortunately, Stetson my guide dog in training is not allowed to visit dog beach (guide dogs rules — he’s not allowed to visit any dog parks). If you’ve never been the Huntington Dog Beach is located between 21st Street and Seapoint Street in beautiful Huntington Beach, CA. They also have a dedicated website at http://www.dogbeach.org. I usually go to the dog beach after work around 6 o’clock and find that it’s usually not too crowded at that time.

Dog Beach
Pups Playing at a Dog Beach

Photo By Mike Baird

How To Remove Tar From Dog Fur

I grew up in nearby Fountain Valley and often went to the Huntington City and State Beach. During my youth I remember stepping on tar in the sand and having a heck of a time removing it from the bottom of my foot. I tried water, soap, rubbing alcohol, and none successfully removed the tar from my foot in a quick or easy manner.

So, imagine my dismay when a few days ago after returning from dog beach I found a big chunk of tar stuck right in the middle of Linus’s paw and clumped together all over his fur on the bottom of his foot. Well, I grabbed rubbing alcohol and tried furiously to remove the tar from his fur and pad. I’m pretty sure I got more tar stuck to my hand then I did on the towel I was using (the tar I moved from Linus’s paw to my hand was also a pain to get off). I figured there has got to be a better way of removing tar from dog fur, hand, and paw pad. I did a little online research and found two possible solutions.

Goo Gone To Remove Tar From Dog Fur

[UPDATE – some of our readers have noticed skin irritation from Goo Gone even after thoroughly washing their dog.  Please proceed with caution when handling any chemicals including Goo Gone around your dog or pet.]

First, people said to try using vegetable oil…hmmm…I’ll try anything once. The second solution was a product called Goo Gone. I made a run to the local grocery store and found the vegetable oil and the Goo Gone. I decided to just purchase the Goo Gone and if that didn’t work head back over to the store for the vegetable oil.

I put some of the Goo Gone on Linus’s paw and magically the tar began to melt away. It was amazing! The clumped up tar basically began to liquify with the Goo Gone. After adding a little Goo Gone I’d wipe Linus’s paw with an old rag then repeat the process. After about 5 minutes I had all the tar out of Linus’s fur and pad. My only concern was that the Goo Gone was irritating or hurting Linus’s skin. He did not complain, but I still immediately rinsed his paw with soap and water several times to make sure the Goo Gone was completely off his skin.

I never tried the vegetable oil and I’m not sure if it works better or worse then the Goo Gone, but I highly recommend Goo Gone if you ever have a tar situation with your dog or even if you get some tar stuck on yourself.

I’m sure we are all prepared to wash our dogs after a fun day at dog beach.  However, have you run into any special situations where something gross like tar gets stuck in your dogs fur coat?  What have you done to remove tar or any other nasty substance from your dogs fur?  I hate to use chemicals like Goo Gone so I’d love to know how you remove tar from dog fur.  Tell us about it in the comment section below.

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71 Comments

  1. Dawn dish soap. Works like a charm and won’t harm doggie. Goo Gone is a REALLY BAD IDEA. it’s solvent based and starts to absorb into the skin immediately. Cut away with scissors larger heavily stained fur.

  2. I used Skin So Soft from Avon and it worked great. My boy got into some open tar containers my dad left in the back yard and got it on his belly and all of his feet. My brother got most of the large chunks off with Dawn Dish Wash but I removed the rest with the Skin So Soft. It’s kind to the Skin and animal friendly.

  3. I called my vet and he suggested DAWN DISH SOAP (and removing larger chunks with scissors). It’s gentle enough for penguins in an oil spill and it didn’t hurt my dog’s skin 🙂

    1. Thanks for the advice! Definitely something we can try next time. We have pine trees in our backyard and my dogs are having a similar issue with the sap from the trees. We’ll try some of the other methods and report back on what works best. Thanks for sharing your story!

  4. Thank you so much for all the info. Just came back from Huntington Beach yesterday. Just noticed today that my Golden, Bailey, had stepped in tar while we were there yesterday. It was in between his toes and it clumped together like a hard rock. I used canola oil and after rubbing his foot for about 25 minutes it was finally completely gone. Poor Bailey sat so patiently through the whole thing even though I probably rubbed his paw raw. I think he knew I was trying to help him.

    Anyway, thanks again, glad I did not have to take him to the vet.

    1. I’m glad the article helped. It sounds like Bailey was a very good boy while you got the tar out. It’s been a while since Linus had tar stuck in his paw and we’re hoping it never happens again. Thanks for sharing your story.

  5. Took my golden to Huntington dog beach a couple of days ago and came home with tar all over his paw. I didnt know what to do so I took him to a groomer. The groomer shaved around the paw and got the tar off but a couple hours later a bad razor burn showed up. My dog kept licking the area probably making it worse. It looked very red. That was all yesterday, today it looks a little better but if I had to do it over again I would not have let the groomer shave so close to the skin and I would try the remedies mentioned here first. I thought the groomer would be the right person to go to but I guess I was wrong.

    1. Just a followup to my comment above, my dog woke up the day after taking him to the groomer and his paw was very red and he was limping. I immediately took him to the vet who said the paw was infected and had discharge coming out. He was given antibiotics, steroid spray, and anti inflamatory medications along with a cone to prevent him from further licking the area. The vet said that the groomer should never have shaved the fur from the paw and that the groomer had injured the paw. Just wanted to let everyone know that taking a dog to the groomer for tar removal is NOT the thing to do. I thought I was doing the right thing by my dog and ended up trusting someone who I thought was professional and knew what they were doing and instead ended up with a further injured dog.

  6. First off – thanks for all the tips on caring for our dog. We too ran into the dreaded “beach tar” with our GSD and tried just about everything. The tar was incredibly pervasive, and migrated into hard nuggets in between her toes that drove her crazy. We started with baby oil, then olive oil, and found that while both would somewhat dissolve the tar, they were largely ineffective at removing the tar nuggets and, in the process, made the tar smear all over the place (e.g., house carpet, car seats, etc.) We then tried Goo Gone which, while it is advertised as an “orange oil” type of product, is incredibly powerful and more akin to turpentine than Palmolive. I wasn’t comfortable putting too much of this on my dog’s paws at is has poison control warning language and I knew she would immediately try to lick it off. After several tubs, shampoo, oils, and dishwashing liquid we were forced to admit defeat and take her to the vet. After only 24 hours the vet said all of her skin in between her toes was red and inflamed by the crude petroleum (and her worrying the area) and she ended up having to sedate the dog and use an electric shaver to completely remove all of the tar nuggets and affected hair – not fun and not pretty. But at least the tar is gone. From now on we will REALLY keep an eye out for that dreaded beach tar.

    1. Todd, I’m sorry to hear about your GSD, but I’m glad in the end your vet was able to resolve your tar problem. Thanks for sharing your story.

  7. Hi folks! Took our gorgeous Wyatt (1 year old Carolina Dog) to the Huntington Dog Beach for the first time today and, of course, he stepped in tar.

    Didn’t notice it until HOURS after we got home, but he was lethargic and not himself.

    The key to removing the tar is to wet the area, first. Then apply a blob of petroleum jelly. Rub it in until it’s good and softened up.

    Wipe it down with a warm, damp towel, then thoroughly wet the area again, and apply oil, (vegetable, olive, coconut, doesn’t really matter), and massage it in gently.

    The tar should break down immediately into a brown sludge.

    Wipe the sludge off with a warm, damp towel and then wash, thoroughly, with warm water and LOTS of liquid dish soap. I did it three times, until his paw was squeaky clean.

    Even with all his squirming and me having to re-position him, the job was done in about 10 minutes.

    He perked right up afterwards. I’ll keep an eye on him tonight. Hopefully, no ill effects from the tar.

    Thank you to Colby for posting this up. I know you’re not likely to need this information again, anytime soon, but this page comes up when searching for a remedy for “tar on dog’s paw”, and is probably very helpful to lots of folks looking for help with this problem.

    1. Great tip Wyatt’s Mom! Its been a while since this happened to Linus and all of the suggestions that have rolled into the comment section on this page are great. Thank you so much for sharing!

    2. my cane corso just rolled in the driveway patch I just had put down. Poured vegetable oil on her, wiped her off with old towel , gave her two baths and she is as good as new!!!!

  8. Hi my name is Rosco im a 3 yr old pitbull. Just today my boyfriend took my baby for a walk and somehow he got tar all over him.. I didnt know what to do untill I read the story about linus and what his owner used… Thank u for putting up ur story… Goo Gone worked immediatly.. I just wanted to say thank u from the bottom of our hearts…

  9. DEFINITELY coconut oil! We just got back from Dog Beach at Huntington. Big glob of tar in my terrier’s foot. Tried acetone, worked a little. Coconut oil DID THE TRICK! Just have a big towel, it’s messy. Then use liquid hand soap or dish soap to clean his paw so he won’t ruin the carpet.

    1. Thanks for the advice! I’m glad people have responded to this post as this gives me a lot more options next time I find tar in my dogs fur.

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