How to Remove Burrs/Stickers, Foxtails and Weeds from Your Pet’s Hair


Taking your pet for a romp at the park or in the forest is always good fun and great exercise.  But lying in the great outdoors is a pet and pet owner’s nemesis.  No, not parasites and critters this time….. We’re talking about a plant invasion in their fur, namely, burs/stickers, fox tails and weeds.  Read below to learn more about these irritants.



Burs are  seeds or dried fruit that have hooks or teeth. Burs catch on the fur of passing animals or the clothing of people. The hooks or teeth generally cause irritation, and can cause  injury to animals, clothing and can even damage vehicle tires or clog equipment. Since burs have hooks/teeth, they can easily attach themselves to the hair of a passing pet.  The hair will wrap around the bur causing the fur to matt.  Burs can imbed themselves into the skin creating irritation and possible infection.

Bur Removal

*Tip: Use gloves when removing burrs.  Remove as soon as possible.

  • Remove one burr at a time.  Trying to remove more than one burr causes the hair to entangle further around itself.
  • Separate as much of the hair as possible from the burr.
  • Use a metal comb to pull the burr away from the hair.
  • For large burrs, use a pair of pliers to crush the spines before combing.
  • If the burr is stubborn, a little vegetable oil can help loosen it.
  • Worst case, the hair may need to be cut off.  Ask a professional groomer for tips on cutting your pets hair.  Always be careful of their skin.
  • If a burr has embedded itself into the skin, use a pair of tweezers and gently pull straight out. Do not twist or pull at an angle as the spines of the burr can break off and remain in the skin.  Use a topical antibacterial ointment or spray for pets to prevent infection.  If the skin is inflamed, bleeding, or the pet is in pain, a trip to your local veterinarian is advised.


Fox Tails


A foxtail is a spikelet or spikelet cluster of a grass found mostly in the Western half of the United States.  This plant is called a “foxtail” due to the bushy spikes of the grass that resemble the tail of a fox.  Each spike of grass have a hardened tip or “callus” and spikes called “retrorse barbs” that point away from the tip of the callus. These spikes attach easily to pet fur and human clothing.  As the foxtail attaches to a pets fur, movement causes the foxtail to burrow into the fur,  sometimes becoming irreversibly lodged into the skin. Foxtails can also enter the nostrils, ear canals,  eyes, and genitals of a pet. Since the body can’t break down the barbs, they can move through soft tissue and organs, resulting in infection and possible death.

Since foxtail seeds are hard to find even after a thorough search of your pet, watch the following signs:

  • Feet: Swelling, redness,  limping, constant licking between toes
  • Ears: Head shaking, itching ear, holding head to one side
  • Eyes: Redness, discharge, Swelling, pawing at face
  • Nose: Discharge or incessant sneezing
  • Genitals: Persistant licking of the area or constant sitting

Since these symptoms can also be caused by other unforeseen problems, a visit to your vet is advised.

Foxtail Removal

  • Examine your pet during foxtail season-usually May to December- if your pet exercises anywhere near tall grass.
  • If you see a foxtail, use a pair of tweezers and gently pull them from the hair or skin.
  • If you see redness, swelling, or your pets cries in pain, visit your local vet right away.
  • Foxtails can be life threatening.



Some plants have leaves and stems that will have prickles, little spiny fur, or thorns.  These leaves will stick to a long-haired dog and wrap itself into the fur and create a matted mess.  If the leaf hasn’t created a huge matt yet, there’s hope before cutting it out!  Here’s what you can do.

  • Wear gloves as the spines or thorns can puncture skin.
  • Use a leave in conditioner or vegetable oil.
  • Massage the conditioner or vegetable oil around the leaf and the hair it is stuck to.
  • Using a slicker brush and fine tooth comb, gently brush/comb the hair in little sections, starting from the end of the hair and working towards the skin.
  • If the thorns/spines have reached the skin causing a scratch on the skin, cleaning with some peroxide and adding a pet safe antibiotic ointment to the skin will help the skin heal.
  • If the leaf has penetrated the skin or the skin has a large gash that is bleeding or inflamed, a visit to your local veterinarian may be necessary.

Further Reading

The great outdoors is a wonderful and exciting place for your furry friend to romp, but being vigilant daily for little creeper plants and seeds will ensure for a pleasant time.

Click on the links below for more information on this topic


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