Whether it’s a sunny, snowy, or rainy day, you always need to take your dog for a walk.
Dogs’ paws can accumulate dirt, salt, or harmful chemicals, so cleaning them up is essential for good health.
To clean your dog’s paws can be a challenge, so it helps to be a little prepared. Cleaning your dog is also an opportunity to spot any cuts or injuries, and of course, keep the house clean.
Below, you’ll find out some precautions to take, as well as how to clean your dog’s paws after a walk.
Before Going on a Walk
There are some precautions you can take before going out for a walk. These will help make the cleaning job easier afterward.
Prepare Your Tools
Keep a few tools near the door so you can clean your dog’s paws immediately after a walk.
These may include:
- Dry towels
- Water spray bottle
- Pet wipes
- Paper towels
- Paw wax
- Paw washer
- Doormat or runner
- Paw cleaning mitts
- Dog shampoo
Keep Foot Hair Trimmed
This is especially important for longer-haired breeds. During winter, ice balls may form in the extra hair, which could be painful for your dog. For the rest of the year, it can still collect all sorts of dirt.
Trim the hair between the pads and the sides of the foot to prevent it from accumulating debris, but leave a little hair for protection. Don’t trim too close, because the skin in this area is too sensitive, and you may end up cutting a pad by accident.
Leaving some paw hair intact can help protect sensitive skin against irritants, such as the salt found on roads during winter.
If you’re unsure how to trim your dog’s hair, visit a veterinarian or pet salon, and ask for advice on how you can do it yourself.
Use Dog Boots (Booties)
If your dog is okay with it, dog boots are the best protection you can offer for their paws. It’s the best way to keep your dog’s paws clean. You can keep multiple pairs in case one of them gets buried in the snow.
If the snow is too deep, notice if it goes higher than the boots. Ice balls may form on the fur above the boots and would need to be treated later.
Once you’re home, remove the boots immediately and pat the paws with a dry towel.
Make sure that the boots are the correct size for your dog. Ill-fitting boots may be too uncomfortable and may come off during the walk.
Apply Paw Wax
Paw wax is less effective than booties, but it’s still a viable option in more neutral weather. Simply apply a layer of your favorite brand on your furry friend’s paws.
Paw wax is meant for use in cooler temperatures and is able to provide some protection against the cold and irritants. However, it’s not useful in hot weather, because it will melt.
It’s a great way to moisturize your dog’s paws, but it’s not a proper treatment for scrapes or cuts.
How to Clean Dog Paws After a Walk
Even if you take all the precautions, dirt and ice balls will find their way to your dog’s paws.
Placing a doormat should be your house’s first line of defense against dirty paws. Consider teaching your dog to wipe paws on the doormat on command.
Alternatively, you can use a runner mat to allow the dog to walk for a distance while leaving as much dirt as possible on the mat.
For lighter dirty paws, you can use a spray bottle to lightly dampen the paws with water, then dry thoroughly with a paper towel or washcloth.
There are pet wipes available that are already damp, which can make the job faster. However, never get wet wipes that were meant for humans, as they may contain toxic chemicals that your dog shouldn’t be licking.
Make sure that the wipes you buy are marked safe for pets. This ensures that they won’t include alcohol, petrochemicals, perfumes, or other ingredients that aren’t safe for dogs.
For especially dirty paws, consider washing in a sink or bathtub. A paw cleaning mitt or a loofah may be useful in that case.
For smaller breeds, wash their paws in the sink or leave a water tray near the door. Larger or hairier breeds are easier to clean in a bathtub. Apply some dog shampoo to the paws and rinse with lukewarm water.
You can consider buying a little invention called a paw washer. Basically, you insert your dog’s paws, one at a time, into a mini bath. Once done, the paws are towel-dried and the muddy water is discarded. There are some portable alternatives as well.
Not all dogs are comfortable with using a paw washer and may take some training to get used to them.
Getting Rid of Ice Balls
After playing around in the snow, ice balls may start to form on your dog’s paws. If you followed the precautions above, the problem could be significantly minimized.
Still, you need to know how to remove the ice balls if they do form.
- First, soak your dog’s paws in a bowl of warm water. Make sure the water isn’t too hot.
- If there’s a lot of ice, you can give your dog a warm bath.
- If some of the ice still remains, you can use a warm towel or a hairdryer.
- Once done, moisturize your dog’s fur with a paw palm.
Don’t try to remove the ice manually, as it may tug at the fur and hurt your dog.
Clean Nails and Toes
When cleaning your dog’s feet, don’t ignore the toes and nails. Nasty dirt can accumulate between the toes and under the nails, hence requiring some extra attention.
While you clean your dog’s the paws, gently separate each of the dog’s claws and clean thoroughly between them, then push lightly on the pad to make the nails stick out. Clean under the nails with a pet wipe.
It helps to keep the dog’s nails trimmed, so it would collect less dirt.
Dry and Moisturize
If the paws got wet but didn’t come into contact with any salt, dirt, or chemicals, you can just dry them off with a towel. This applies after washing also.
With a dry towel, gently squeeze each paw to get most of the water out. Make sure the pad area is dry.
If a towel isn’t available, you can use disposable paper towels.
Once the paws are dry, it’s a good idea to moisturize them. You can use a ready-made paw wax or paw balm, or you can make your own. Look for natural ingredients such as shea butter, olive oil, coconut oil, and beeswax.
Remember that whatever you put on your dogs’ paws, they’re going to lick it, so it has to be a material that isn’t toxic for them.
Some people use petroleum jelly as a paw moisturizer, but too much of it can be harmful for your dog. At best, it can cause diarrhea. At worst, it may contain carcinogens.
Check for Cuts or Blisters
Cleaning your dog’s paws is the best time to check if they have any cuts or blisters. When cuts are subjected to dirt, they may get infected quickly.
If a cut appears infected, take your dog to the vet as soon as possible.
For minor wounds, wash the area with warm water, then clean with a mild antiseptic. After drying off, use an antibacterial lotion or spray that’s safe for pets.
For dry, chapped, or cracked paws, regularly moisturizing with a paw balm should be enough. If the skin is so dry that it starts to bleed, this is cause for a visit to the vet.
If your dog cut their paw on sharp ice, don’t panic! Apply steady pressure to stop the bleeding, then clean with warm water and a diluted antiseptic. Deep cuts require medical attention and may need stitches.
Your dog’s paws may require a little extra care after a walk, particularly during winter.
However, if you follow these steps and keep a few products handy, you can help keep your dog’s paws clean and healthy.
- Wax On or Wax Off – What You Need to Know About Paw Wax from PetGuide
- How to Properly Care for Your Dog’s Paw Pads from Preventive Vet