Removing burrs from your dog's fur can be a simple task, but it can also be tedious and cause discomfort to your pet. Burrs on dogs not only cause pain, but if left unattended, they can also cause infections.
Using a few tried-and-true methods, you can get these annoyances out of your dog's hair and help prevent further pain, itching, scratching, biting, and more serious health problems.
If you can't remove burrs, or if they've caused enough serious skins wounds, you might need to contact your vet, which can start with a few pictures from your phone.
Exactly what are burrs?
Burrs are hard parts of plants with a slight, sharp bend, allowing them to hook onto other parts of plants to help with reproduction.
In addition to attaching themselves to host plants, burrs can stick to passing animals or other non-smooth objects that brush up against the plant which they're part of.
Depending on how hard the initial burr-host interaction is, these plant parts can become lodged deep enough to stay on the jacket, fur, sweater, or other material until they are forcibly removed.
By themselves, most burrs are not toxic or harmful. If they become embedded into the skin, they can start to cause bleeding, which can lead to an open wound attracting bacteria and becoming infected.
See how they’re embedded
Some burrs are large enough to be seen without looking very hard. Others are small enough that you might have to spread your dog's fur to examine the coat for them, or press lightly until you feel them.
Before you start trying to remove burrs from your pet's coat, take a look to see how many there are and how deeply they're embedded. If your pet has romped through an area and picked up lots of burrs, remove a few to see how easy it is to do this. If they practically fall off by touching them, you can try a light brushing in one area to see how that works.
That might remove most of these types of burrs, letting you concentrate on the ones that are really stuck one at a time.
In cases where burrs take more than a gentle swipe to make them fall off your dog's coat, the best way to remove them is to target the individual burrs, removing them one at a time.
Trying to remove multiple burrs with a sweep of the hand or using a metal comb or a dog brush with bristles can embed the burrs further into your dog's coat and press them into the skin. A wide, rotating comb works best for removing burrs, advises Journey Dog Training.
This means that when burrs are really stuck to your pet's fur, it's best to remove them one at a time to prevent pressing them deeper into the dog's fur and into its skin.
Make sure you thoroughly check your dog's body for burrs, including behind the ears and knees and under the stomach and tail.
Start picking them out
To avoid overcomplicating things, see if you can remove burrs one at a time with your fingers before you go to a comb, brush, tweezers, or scissors. If the burrs are attached to the fur but haven't embedded into the skin, gently lift the fur away from the skin with one or two fingers, then place one or two fingers under the fur to prevent the burrs from pressing into the skin while you're trying to remove them with the other two fingers. Do this one at a time until all the burrs are gone.
If you can't get a burr out with your fingers, now it's time to try a sturdy comb or brush. Again, lift the fur with the burr in it away from the dog's skin so you don't press the burr into the skin. Brush the burr sideways and upward toward the end of the stroke, using your fingers to loosen the burr at the end. If this isn't working, try tweezers or snipping the burrs out with scissors if the burr is at the end of the hair and you won't need to cut large chunks of fur.
If the burrs are deeply embedded into the fur, you can start to separate strands of hair so the burr has less to hold onto as you begin separating the hairs. While you're doing this, make sure you don't pull the dog's hair against or out of its skin.
You can do this by holding the hair with two fingers away from the burr, then separating the hairs with your other hand. If you pull too hard while you're doing this, you'll only pull the fur which is being held by your fingers, rather than pulling the fur and the skin it's attached to.
If your dog's hair is matted, try using a de-matting comb if you have one. If burrs are a recurring problem, it's good to pick up a de-matting comb next time you're at the pet store or shopping online.
If you're still having trouble removing stubborn burrs, try lubricating dry burrs with vegetable oil which can help you crack the hard plant parts. You'll have to make sure you remove all the pieces when you do this. Avoid using lubricants around a dog's eyes, ears or mouth, or be very careful around these areas.
Treat any wounds
If you find that any of the burrs have punctured your dog's skin, or that your pet has been gnawing at the burrs and caused a skin puncture, treat each wound as you find it. Wipe it clean with water to see how bad the wound is. That might be all you need to do.
If the wound is a few days old and looks red and swollen, take a picture and send it to your vet or a qualified groomer or professional pet sitter to get advice for treatment.
If your dog had lots of burrs and more than a few skin punctures, treat your pet to a nice lukewarm bath. Avoid any cleaning agents that might irritate an open wound.
Remember that any time you groom your dog, it might have picked up burrs you're not aware of. For this reason, it's a good idea to gently stroke your dog's coat before you begin using a comb, brush, or hair trimmer.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.