Pet First Aid: tar, paint, oil on dog fur

Claire Dunling

Whether you’re into your DIY or not, the likelihood of having pots of paint, varnish removers, glues, waxes and fuel in your store cupboards is pretty high. While they might be out of sight and out of mind in the shed or garage, they won’t be so if they come into contact with your pets. A splatter of paint on fur compared to oil doused fur, of course, affect your pet to differing severities. So get informed on pet first aid and keep a close eye on your pets when they are exploring this summertime.

Paint on fur

While most paints can easily be removed, you should still be careful and check labels to see if toxic chemicals are present. When it comes to petroleum products (a la gas, diesel, solvents, wax) there is little leeway. Either from inhaling fumes or ingesting the product through grooming, your pet could have a severe reaction called petroleum hydrocarbon toxicosis. If your pet has the condition, they will present typical poisoning symptoms: fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, difficulty breathing and respiratory issues. In this case, contact an emergency clinic or your local vet immediately. If you’re 100% certain they haven’t consumed any product, attempt to remove as much as you possibly can at home before seeking professional advice following the steps below:

– Never use harsh substances like alcohol, turpentine or gasoline to remove – these can often do more damage than good. At best they’ll cause irritation and soreness to the skin. At worst, they could cause severe reactions like chemical pneumonitis if inhaled.

– Put them in a soapy warm bath and gently rub away at the affected area with a cloth to remove what you can. This should work on acrylic or latex based paints.

– Cut away at the fur that can’t be saved. Then apply an oil substance like vegetable or coconut oil, Vaseline or even peanut butter is said to be effective at removing thick substances like tar. Let it sink in for a couple of hours. Then try another soapy bath to remove any excess products.

– For thick, greasy products like tar or fuel, you may need to incorporate a washing liquid wash into this process and repeat until you see the product running out of their coat.

– If these steps fail, take your pet to your nearest pet groomers to have the affected area shaved. Your groomer will then advise if further veterinary care is needed.

As soon as you notice your pet with any substance that shouldn’t be on their coat, paws or tail – remove immediately! Poisonous compounds found in certain oils, like petroleum or tar, can be directly absorbed into the skin or they could ingest the products by grooming themselves. It will be a natural instinct for your cat or dog to remove any dirt and groom themselves. Long-haired breed cats and dogs are especially at risk if their fur is matted as the product can become trapped against the skin for longer periods of time.

So be sure to lock the shed and garage. Keep all containers up high, in secure containers and if you notice any spills from the car on the driveway or garage floor – clean up immediately. Animals can be affected either topically (when in contact with their skin) or through inhalation. The same care for small children should be applied to animals so having a sense check every now and then will give you peace of mind that your pet will be safe around the home this summer.

This article is for guidance only and if you have any concerns about your pet you should always seek the advice of a qualified vet.

If in doubt contact your veterinary practice

And always keep your vet's phone number handy - just in case!