September 04, 2022 5 min read

Whether you keep them indoors or outdoors, dogs will, sooner rather than later, get their paw pads dirty. Pets spend most of their time on germ-ridden floors and are constantly exposed to bacteria found in dirt, puddles, snow, and other outdoor elements. As owners, we can tell when our dogs need a bath by looking at tell-tale signs like dirty fur or foul smells; however, there is one “sign” we often pay little attention to, but it is perhaps one of the most important indicators of our dog’s hygiene and overall health--their paws!

While dog’s paw can endure most indoor and outdoor conditions, they can be sensitive to germs and bacteria in the environment. Dogs paws, especially if dry or cracked, are highly susceptible to retaining bacteria and germs that can lead to discomfort, infection, and even diseases.

Even if your dog spends most of their time indoors, they can still contract bacteria during their walks, especially in the cold winter months. Cold climates utilize ice melters like unpurified rock salts and ferrocyanide in most municipalities in North America. Rock salts may include traces of toxic metals such as mercury and lead while ice melters contain poisonous chemicals that may be ingested if your dog licks their paws.

Keeping Dog Paws Clean

A weekly paw-cleaning routine can help improve your dog’s hygiene and most importantly, improve their overall health and happiness. Luckily, keeping your dog’s paws clean and healthy is not a difficult task. Here are some easy-to-follow steps for a complete paw treatment guaranteed to make your dog wag its tails with joy:

Setting Up

Before you bring your dog inside for a paw inspection, set up a cleaning station with all the necessary dog grooming products.

Setting up a space for cleaning paws does not have to be too complicated, it is just about keeping the basics handy to make the process easier for you and your dog. What are the basics?

  • An absorbent mat
  • Old towels or dog wipes
  • Nail clippers
  • Paw cleaner
  • Moisturizing Balm
  • A bucket of water
  • Treats (optional)

Use disinfecting baby wipes to sanitize the area before you start, and make sure to clean pup’s paws first.

Wiping

Start to gently wipe your dog’s paws with a clean towel soaked in warm water. Get rid of any excess dirt by cleaning their paws on the surface (pads) and between digits, or “toes.” Alternatively, you could also use pet-friendly wet wipes that do not contain harmful chemicals and fragrances. Make sure to not use the same section of wipe on both the paws so that both the paws are properly cleaned.

Trimming

If your dog has long hair covering its paws, keep their foot hair trimmed to check for ticks and lesions. Be careful not to trim too much though, as hair helps protect the pads from the elements.

Clipping

While trimming your dog’s nails (claws) may not be entirely easy, your dog’s nails can store dirt and bacteria just like your human nails do. It is crucial you keep their nails short and clean. But, how often should you be trimming their nails? A reliable sign that your dog may need a “pawdicure” is if you hear their claws clicking on a hard surface like you would hear heels. Using either the scissor or guillotine type clippers, snip off small bits of each toenail until the desired length. If the nail feels spongy or if it starts bleeding, stop immediately. Naturally, dogs detest getting their paws handled, so treats may be useful during this process.

Using Special Paw Cleaners for Dogs

Once excess hair and nails are out of the way, it’s time to use a special dog paw cleaner to thoroughly clean and protect your dog’s paws. Unlike a rag in warm water, dog paw cleaners are specially formulated to kill 99.9% of all bacteria and germs that dogs carry. Additionally, paw cleaners can prevent the passing of harmful parasites to other pets and members of your family.

Use dog paw cleaners that are alcohol-free and non-toxic for the best results.

Dry their feet properly

Wet feet can cause problems for a dog's toes, therefore it's important to keep them completely dry. Wet dog fur between the toes and foot pads can result in dermatitis and infections.

This is also a good time to check for any wounds or cuts between the toes or on the pet’s paws. For a proper check, separate each of the claws and have a look at every nook and cranny.

Clean wounds or cuts

Don’t ignore signs of cuts or wounds as even minor wounds can invite infection. Small wounds or abrasions, that dogs lick, can be washed, dried, and then layered with antiseptic cream or lotion which is safe for pets.

However, if the dog paw wound seems severe or infected, consult your veterinarian.

Treat your pooch

Most pets are fussy about getting their paws cleaned. It's better to encourage them with treats. This helps them become habituated to the procedure and reinforces the good results of getting themselves cleaned.

Protect than regret

Make sure your dog’s paws stay protected with moisturizing balms made with natural ingredients. A natural paw care moisturizer can help prevent cracked and inflammed feet, and skin irritation, among other conditions that may lead to severe health problems.

Other ways to protect your dog’s paws from germs and icky things is by walking on grass - the safest surface as compared to the more disadvantageous concrete or gravel surfaces, or by choosing to stay away from the sidewalks in winters.

Dog boots are also a good idea to save you from the ordeal and protect your pet’s paws to a great extent. They are also great at protecting your dog’s bare skin from the hot pavement or hot asphalt surfaces in the summer months. However, they might be slightly uncomfortable initially but that’s a small price to pay for clean paws.

Home-made solutions

Sometimes, you might want to use organic, easily-available products that are softer on your pet’s body. These products from your kitchen are not likely to harm your pet:

  • Water and vinegar (2:1 parts) solution to spray and keep the foul-smelling bacteria and yeast infections away
  • Coconut and apple cider vinegar mix to heal cracks and keep feet clean

FAQs

  • How can I clean my dog's paws naturally?

    While paper towels dipped in lukewarm water with a mild dog shampoo do the job of cleaning your dog’s paws, you do have quicker, inexpensive, and more natural options. The easiest way is to DIY a cleaner solution by mixing equal parts of water and vinegar.

  • Should you clean your dog's paws?

    Yes! Cleaning your dog’s feet should be a part of your routine, especially after walks. Cleaning your dog’s paws will allow you to keep check for cuts, wounds, or inflammation on the paw pads. It only takes a few minutes but keeps your dog healthy.

  • What can I use to wipe my dog's paws?

    You can use a wet towelette or a damp washcloth or even a paper towel to quickly clean dirty paws. If you choose to use baby wipes, ensure that they are pet-safe.

  • Do I need to wash my dog's paws after a walk?

    Your dog carries a lot of germs and bacteria that accumulate in its paws after a walk outside. You must wash your dog's paws after a walk, just like you would wash your own dirty feet. This will prevent your dog from bringing dirty paws into your home.