How to Remove Burrs and Stickers from a Dog’s Fur

Super Smiley here, and I’ve gotten burrs in my paw pads and have seen Angel, my German Shepherd, with stickers in her fur, and it’s a mess. We can’t pull them out ourselves and it is even hard for Megan to get them out without making us nervous that it will hurt if she pulls on our hair. What to do????

Hey, Super Smiley, not to worry. It’s Megan here now with some tips on how to remove those burrs and stickers that could hurt if not removed gently and could cause an infection if left alone. So, here we go…

First, part the fur, and work on one burr or sticker at a time or one very small section of stickers at a time.

Once you’ve isolated the small area you are working on, begin with the fur on the outer edges of the burr “knot.” Try to detangle and separate the fur on the outer edge of the burr knot gently with your fingers and gently pull the hairs away from the central matted burr a few hairs at a time.

This is a good point to assess if you need gloves to protect your skin and if you need tweezers to pick out the stickers or to help separate the hairs.

If this technique is working and the fur is moving pretty easily away from the central burr matt, you may use a pick-type grooming tool or even a fork will work well to gently pick out the loose pieces of hair and move them away from the burr or stickers.

However, if this technique is not working well and the burr is thoroughly entwined in there, you can try crushing the burr with a pair of pliers. But be very careful to not catch your dog’s skin in the pliers! This often works, because dry burrs will usually crush into many pieces, which will then release more easily.

As for a patch of stuck stickers, try putting a small amount of vegetable oil on the stickers to loosen their grip. Then gently pull them down the fur one at a time. If they are moving freely, you can advance to gently using a comb. If you use a comb, start at the end of the hair farthest away from the dog’s skin. Then as the hair begins to comb freely, gently work your way up toward the dog’s body.

If you just can’t get the stickers or burrs out with the above techniques, don’t just hope they will disintegrate with time. Don’t leave the burrs or foxtails in your dog’s fur. They need to be removed or they will continue to matt the hair more and may even work themselves into the skin. So, as a last resort, you can cut it out with scissors. First, try cutting through the burr and working the pieces out. This will leave as much of his natural coat intact as possible. If the burr and matt is a solid mess, then cut through the knot and work the loose hairs from there.

If burrs are in his coat, they may be in his paws too. Look between his paw pads carefully and remove burrs and foxtails or any foreign matter immediately. Pad injuries can be very serious as healing pads can re-split easily and so can take a very long time to heal.

And foxtails, which look like spiked wheat grass, can be very dangerous. They are barbs that are shaped in such a way that once they spear through skin, they keep moving forward migrating through the dog’s body and can move into the internal organs. So check your dog very carefully: in his paw pads, ears, nose and belly creases. And, if you find a foxtail, remove it immediately.

Dogs love to explore and roll in all those great outdoor smells, but if you find that he’s bringing home burrs, spurs and foxtails, you may want to give him a different play area that will keep his fur cleaner… and will give you and your dog more time to do the fun things in life.

Until Next Time,
Woof and Super Smiles from
Super Smiley and Megan Blake, The Pet Lifestyle Coach®

P.S.: Thank you to Smiley’s friend, Lily, from The People Store in Atlanta for demonstrating burrs and stickers in the blog photo with Smiley.

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