Cleaning the paws is an essential part of your dog’s grooming regimen. Your dog’s paws encounter foreign objects and substances in the environment that can harm them. Unlike full baths, which should be monthly, you can clean the feet more frequently when needed, especially for outdoor-loving dogs.
Your dog may have muddy paws, or you came from a long walk. Either way, you’ll need to clean your dog’s paws after they frolic outside. Before washing your dog’s paw pads, check for minuscule objects like pebbles and other pieces of glass lodged between the paws.
7 ways to clean your dog’s paws
Cleaning your dog’s paws will not only keep muddy paw prints out of your house, but it will also promote foot health. Some pet owners neglect their dog’s paws, but they also need extensive care, just like the teeth, coat, and ears.
As the ASPCA expounds, paws provide additional cushioning to protect the bones and joints from shock as dogs walk. They protect the tissue underneath the paw pads and provide insulation against extreme weather. Knowing all these functions, pet parents must diligently protect their dogs’ paws.
The paw pads are quite sensitive, so constant exposure to substances and objects like road salt and hot asphalt is harmful. Unlike humans, dogs do well without additional foot protection at all times, but extra caution promotes paw health and overall well-being. These 7 ways to clean your dog’s paws will take their paw hygiene to the next level.
Doggy wet wipes
Sometimes, your dog’s feet need a little touching up in addition to the regular wash routine. Before using any wet wipes, ensure they’re dog-specific or labeled pet friendly at the very least. Dogs self-groom, so many wet wipes for humans expose them to toxic substances like alcohol and petrochemicals.
Wet wipes are excellent for minor clean-ups like sandy or dusty paws. Dogs suffering from seasonal allergies benefit from quick wipe-downs because pollen grains can come into contact with the feet. Dog wipes are also easy to carry, which is a plus if you’re on vacation with your dog or on a long journey.
Damp clothes are safe and effective alternatives to dog wet wipes. In case you notice your pup’s paw pads are dry and cracked, consider using a dog paw moisturizer formulated to restore your dog’s paws. Quick wipes with wet wipes eliminate dirt and debris which can accumulate, leading to bacterial infections.
Stubborn messes may prove challenging to eliminate with wet wipes or a damp cloth. If this is the case, you may need to lather the paws up in the sink or bathtub, depending on your dog’s size. Paw washes don’t mean you have to soak your dog entirely; just the paws.
We don’t recommend using human shampoos because they may be too harsh on your dog’s sensitive skin. Once you have soaked the paws, use dog shampoo to get the dirt and debris out of the pads completely. You can use a detachable shower head to wash the feet in the sink for small dogs or the bathtub for larger dogs.
It may be tempting to give your pooch a quick rinse with shampoo and water, but resist the urge if it crops up. Washes are the perfect time to inspect your dog’s paws for parasites, cuts, and punctures. The hair lies completely flat on the skin, making previously hidden paw spots nicely visible.
Once you’ve taken your time to spread the toes out and inspect for lumps or cuts, it’s drying time. Keep a drying towel on hand, as you’d hate to deal with wet paw prints if your dog escapes from the tub. Be thorough with the drying because bacteria and yeast love moisture and happily infest damp paws.
Your dog’s paws may be clean and perfectly hydrated, but if the nails are lacking, the paws will suffer. Dogs do well with monthly nail trims, but you can do it more frequently if necessary. The nails should end right before touching the ground, and you shouldn’t hear clicking sounds when your dog walks.
Before you get the dog nail cutter to trim overgrown nails, check the condition of the paws. This is an ideal time to slap some vitamin E oil or paw cream on your dog’s dry and possibly cracked feet. You can read our linked article on how to moisturize a dog’s paws properly to find out more.
Excessively long nails are more likely to tear, and your pup can rip them off when they snag on the carpet or plants; yikes! And yes, they are as painful as they sound, seeing from all the bleeding and limping that follows a broken nail.
Long nails will likely overgrow into the paw, causing painful ingrown nails. Long nails apply more pressure to the nail bed, making walking on hard surfaces like the floor quite difficult for your dog. Shorter nails have the bonus of being more comfortable for you during snuggle; no scratches for you.
Trimming between the toes
Long-haired dogs are pleasant to look at, but their hair grows long even at the paws. During bath time or your usual doggy paw spa day, take a look at the paw pads and trim overgrown hair between toes. Excessive paw hair causes your dog to slip on smooth surfaces and may harbor bacteria from the surroundings.
Use dog boots
Protective boots aren’t a cleaning method but are a preventive measure for clean paws in the first place. Burns and blisters due to your dog walking on hot pavements and roads cause paw swelling. We’ve expounded other common causes of swollen paws because narrowing down to the specific reason for swelling is the first step of treatment.
Dog boots protect a dog’s feet when they walk on snowy or hot roads. Low temperatures and exposure to road salt in the winter are the biggest enemies to your dog’s paw pad health. Dog boots are a line of protection against all these harsh elements, keeping the paw pads clean and well protected.
Clean and disinfect wounds immediately
Open wounds are unpleasant to behold, especially if you get queasy at the sight of raw cuts and blood. Taking immediate action when you notice a cut or puncture on your dog’s paws and body keeps them infection free. Wounds are a leeway for nasty bacteria into your dog’s body leading to infections.
Before your dog’s leg wounds get infected, clean the area with warm water and dry off with towels. Disinfect with a mild anti-bacterial soap, and apply pressure with a towel if there’s still bleeding. Avoid using antibacterial products with a corticosteroid, like hydrocortisone. They can have long-term effects like iatrogenic Cushing’s disease.
Home remedies like vinegar and coconut
Some cost-friendly and readily available household products like apple cider vinegar are safe ways to clean paws. Mix equal parts of water and apple cider vinegar to get a potent and pet-friendly cleaning solution. You can use this homemade solution when you don’t want to use dog shampoo or if you don’t have one.
Coconut oil, beeswax, shea butter, and vitamin E oil are natural products that moisturize the paws after cleaning them. Monitor your dog after application because some dogs love to lick the treatments off their paw pads shortly after you rub them in. The natural ingredients are unlikely to harm your dog once they ingest them.
Note: Visit the vet if paw issues persist, even with consistent care. Persistent paw issues indicate canine pododermatitis, which refers to an inflammation of the paws. Medical issues like allergies and skin conditions can trigger pododermatitis, and they resolve with proper medication as prescribed by the vet.
Cleaning and maintaining the paw pads is remarkably easy and beneficial. Dog wet wipes, full paw washes, regular nail trims, dog boots, and home remedies like apple cider vinegar keep the paws clean. You may do everything right, but encounter recurrent paw problems, possibly due to a skin condition.
If this is the case, consult your vet, who’ll show you the way forward using antibiotics or antibacterial creams and soaps. Addressing paw problems early ensures they don’t progress to more severe forms and infections. Inspect the paws regularly for punctures or tears that could cause your dog to limp.
Tamsin De La HarpeAuthor
Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions.
Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.