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How to Get Tar Off Dog Paws: 9 Vet Reviewed Tips

Grant Piper

By Grant Piper

a woman holding the paw of brown dog

Vet approved

Dr. Lorna Whittemore Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Every once in a while, you might spot something lurking on your dog’s paws. Upon further examination, you might find that your dog has managed to get tar on its paws. Tar is sticky and extremely hard to dislodge. If you leave tar on your dog’s paws, it can create health issues that can become serious. For that reason, it is important to try to remove tar from your dog’s paws as soon as possible.

We recommend taking your dog to the vet if they get tar on their paws as it is difficult to remove. It is common for further injury and stress to be caused when trying to remove the tar at home. If it is not possible to get your dog to the vet the following article will talk you through the process.

Here are 7 expert tips on how to get tar off a dog’s paws.

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Before attempting to remove tar from your dog’s paws, you should gather some things together to make the job as easy as possible. Removing tar from a dog’s paw pads or fur can be a delicate situation that requires careful attention and the right tools. Here is what you need and what you can expect.

  • Time: 15–60 minutes
  • Complexity: Intermediate

What You Will Need:

  • Hair clippers or Scissors
  • Vegetable oil or Swarfega classic
  • Warm water
  • Soap
  • Rag or brush
  • Towel


Pretty and cute dog holding it's paw to owners hand
Image Credit: Robyn-May, Shutterstock

Soft vs Hard Tar

There are two types of tar that you might find on your dog’s paws. There is the tar that has hardened over time. Hard tar is usually old and can become deeply embedded in your dog’s fur or paws. Soft tar is fresh, and you will usually find this directly after your dog has stepped in it. Soft tar can be easier to get off, but it does pose its own challenges and dangers. Hardened tar and soft tar have different methods of removal.

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The 7 Tips to Remove Soft Tar From Your Dogs Paws

1. Put Your Dog in the Bathtub

For soft tar, you want to start by putting your dog into the bathtub. The bathtub will help keep your dog contained, and it will allow you easy access to the soap and water you will need in later steps. You want to keep your dog contained, calm, and still as much as possible during this process. You can use treats or peanut butter to try to keep your dog distracted during the removal process.

2. Fill a Bowl with Vegetable Oil

Next, you want to fill a bowl with vegetable oil. Any standard kitchen vegetable oil will do the trick. You want a bowl big enough to fit your entire dog’s paw. Fill the bowl up with the oil so that when you put your dog’s paw in, it will cover it completely. If you have Swarfega this can be used too.

vegetable oil on a bottle
Image Credit: HomeMaker, Pixabay

3. Soak Your Dog’s Paw for 15–20 Minutes

This is the hardest step on this list. You want to soak your dog’s paw in vegetable oil for at least 15 minutes. Distracting your dog at this point is very important. The oil will work to keep the tar soft and to help break it up so that it comes off of your dog’s paws. Keep your dog in the tub and keep the paw submerged in the vegetable oil. Using a licki mat or filled treat can be a good option to help keep your dog calm.

4. Rinse the Dog’s Paws with Soap and Water

After you are done soaking the paw (or paws), it is time to rinse. Rinse your dog’s paws with warm water and soap. Some experts suggest using dish soap like Dawn, but you can use regular soap or dog shampoo as well. Dish soap is good at cutting through things like tar, but it is abrasive due to the surfactants found in it.

After soaking, the soft tar should come off fairly easily. The oil and soap will work to break down the tar, and rinsing and washing should make it come off. This process might be frustrating for your dog, but it is very gentle and very effective.

Liquid soap
Image Credit: kboyd, Pixabay

5. Repeat Until Clean

You might need to repeat this process if the tar does not all come off at once. You might also need to repeat this if your dog has multiple paws that have soft tar contamination. If you find that the tar has hardened and soaking is not getting it off, you might need to return to step number one and cut out the hardened material.

6. Never Use Mineral Oil or Gasoline

When people get something stubborn on their hands, they are told to use chemical agents like mineral oil or gasoline to remove it. This might work for humans, but you should never use them on your dog. Gasoline can burn a dog’s skin, and licking mineral oil can be hazardous to their health. Stick to safer products like vegetable oil, water, soap, or vinegar. Never use harsh chemicals on your dog’s paws. This is doubly true if your dog has raw skin, burns, or infections.

dog paw
Image Credit: LUM3N, Pixabay

7. Look for Burns or Infections

Two adverse health effects that can come with tar are burns and infections. One of the most common ways that dogs get tar on their paws is by walking over very hot asphalt. Hot asphalt can burn a dog’s paw pads leading to a painful condition. Similarly, hard tar can cut skin and cause rubbing, which can lead to an infection.If the skin under the tar looks sore or inflamed take your dog to the vet for treatment.

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The 2 Tips to Remove Hard Tar

1. Assess the Area

The first thing you want to do if you find hard tar on your dog’s paws is to carefully assess the area. You want to locate all patches of hardened tar. You also want to look for cuts, infections, or other injuries that might be in the area. Hardened tar can press into your dog’s paws and rub the nearby skin raw. You also do not want to miss any hardened tar. You want to make sure to try to remove all of it in one go so that it does not linger and cause any problems.

2. Cut Tar Away With Clippers

One of the easiest and only ways to remove hardened tar from a dog’s paws is to cut it away with clippers. Small, ideally curved, scissors are usually effective if you do not have any specialty grooming clippers or scissors.

You want to find each section of tar, gently pull it back away from the skin, and snip the hair carefully just below the tar.. The clumps should fall away after you cut the fur. This is why assessing the area is so important before starting. You will want to be extra careful around areas of infection or injury so you can keep your dog still and calm.

Continue to cut the tar out of your dog’s paws until there is none left. Some very small areas might be difficult to remove.


groomer trimming maltese dog paw
Image Credit: Monika Wisniewska, Shutterstock

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Seeing tar on your dog’s paws can be scary, but the good news is that it is removable. Whether you do it at g in your bathtub or take your dog to the vet, there are numerous ways to get tar off of your dog’s paws. If your dog continues to get tar on its paws, you should take steps to prevent the behavior from recurring. Many times, dogs get tar from wandering around in the road, especially in hot weather, and wandering in the road is never safe for dogs.

Featured Image Credit: Ivan Babydov, Pexels

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