My Pet Walked Through Paint—Now What? How to Decontaminate Your Pet

August 8, 2018

a dog covered in paint

Our pets can be a great source of love and companionship, but sometimes they get themselves into sticky situations—literally! They may walk through glue, stick their nose in paint or roll in cleaning products. While your pet’s fur and skin help protect them from some danger when they tango with these sticky substances, the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) has a few suggestions so that you know what to do should this happen. 

Sticky Substances                                                           

Gum, wax, tar or asphalt, rodent or insect traps, tree sap and adhesives (such as craft or construction glue) are a few of the sticky substances that pets may get stuck to themselves. When dealing with a sticky substance in your home, be prepared for things to get messy. If you should spill and your pet finds their way into your mess, you will first need to coat the affected area on your pet in vegetable or mineral oil (butter also works when in a pinch), and let it sit for five to ten minutes to help loosen the bond. Then, bathe your pet with a gentle liquid dishwashing soap—one you would use in a sink, NOT electric or automatic dishwashing liquid—being careful to avoid contact with your pet’s eyes. In order to finally work the substance out, these two steps may need to be repeated several times.   

If bathing is not sufficient to remove the substance, clipping the affected hair may be an option. Clipping works best on easy-to-access, long-haired areas where the substance is not closely adhered to the skin. If your pet has short hair, clipping is best left to a professional groomer. If you are unsure about clipping, or if the substance is stuck on your pet’s skin, it’s best to call your vet for advice.  

Greasy Substances 

Greasy substances may include liquid herbicides, lotions or body creams, paint or essential oils. The key to dealing with greasy substances is again, bathing with liquid dishwashing soap. Bathing may be repeated until the smell or the greasy appearance is significantly reduced.

Remember that some household products, including essential oils and herbicides, can be harmful to pets. If you think your pet may have ingested any of the above, or if they seem uncomfortable or distressed after coming into contact with these substances, you should call your veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) at 888-426-4435 immediately.

Corrosive or Irritating Substances 

Corrosive or irritating products can include a wide variety of household products such as cleaning products, mineral spirits, citronella torch fuel, gasoline or kerosene and liquid potpourri.  If your pet becomes exposed to any of these chemicals, flushing the skin with copious amounts of tepid water for at least 20 minutes is necessary.  

You’ll then want to follow that up by bathing them with liquid dish soap. If, after these steps, your pet is still distressed—attempting to bite or rub the area, vocalizing or not willing to use or touch that area—then they should be seen by a veterinarian immediately. Burns to the skin may not be apparent immediately.   

Dry Substances 

Dry substances may include powders, dust or granular product such as fertilizers or ice melts. When exposed, brushing your pet’s fur, rinsing or even bathing can be an effective way to remove these types of substances.   

General tips 

No matter what substance you may be dealing with, there are a few tips that will always apply.  

  • First, don’t forget to protect yourself when handling or touching your pet.  
  • Second, make sure your pet doesn’t try to ingest or lick the substance off of their fur, as this can cause further (and sometimes life-threatening) issues. You can prevent them from licking the affected area by placing an Elizabethan collar or a small t-shirt over it until they can be bathed or rinsed.  
  • Don’t wait to remove a substance. Generally, the faster you see it and remove it, the less chance there is for it to cause serious problems for your furry friend.  
  • If you are unsure if you can get a substance off, or if your pet is not tolerating handling, don’t hesitant to take your pet to a veterinarian.  
  • Never use harsh or abrasive cleaners on your pet, as they may be just as dangerous as what your pet got into in the first place.   

If you suspect your pet has been exposed to any poisonous substances or ingested something dangerous, contact your veterinarian or call Animal Poison Control Center (APCC) at 888-426-4435 immediately.