Dog paws can act both as shock absorbers and brakes for our furry friends. They help protect the bones and joints in and around the foot, while also aiding in stability when on slippery surfaces or steep slopes. Though paw pads are made up of a layer of fatty tissue, they can still be susceptible to injury, cracking, and discomfort.
“A dog’s paws are the first encounter with the world around it,” says Dr. Anthony Hall, a veterinarian who operates a veterinary consulting practice in Dallas, Texas, and an expert on pet telehealth app, Airvet. “Walking on different types of textures, surfaces and terrains can pose a threat to those delicate digits. Long nails may get caught in grating, causing paws to get cut on sharp material, or even suffer wounds from the elements.”
You’ll know your fur baby has a paw issue if he or she indicates discomfort. “If they are limping and licking at the paw incessantly, or favoring a paw when walking around, you can safely assume there is something wrong,” says Dr. Brian Bourquin, founder and chief medical officer of Boston Veterinary Clinic. “It is usually due to a scratch, cut, foreign item (such as a thorn), puncture, or laceration.”
What is Dog Paw Balm?
While some dog owners outfit their pups in footwear for preventative reasons, this is not a permanent solution to mitigate paw problems for our furry friends. Enter, dog paw balm, a topical product that can help prevent damage to dogs’ paw pads, as well as soothe, heal, and moisturize when cracked or sore. “There are several types of products that people have used to rub on dog paw pads when they are dry, cracked or irritated,” says Stephanie Lantry, a veterinarian based in Sarasota, Florida, and an expert vet affiliated with Airvet. “The list includes, vitamin E cream, coconut oil, petroleum jelly, and shea butter.”
Dog Paw Balm Benefits
As mentioned earlier, dog paw balm has many benefits, including:
- Alleviating discomfort for dog paw hyperkeratosis (a.k.a. “hairy paw”), which is a health condition in dogs that cause paw pads (and noses) to thicken and crack
- Protecting paws from the elements, chemicals, ice, concrete and other rough surfaces
- Moisturizing paw pads
- Treating blisters, cracks, cuts, burns and irritation on paws and other parts brought on by allergies (since they come with all-natural healing ingredients)
How to Apply Dog Paw Balm
“Paw wax is great, but you want to make sure it is dog-safe and non-toxic [because] they tend to lick it off,” says Bourquin. “What you buy should also be simple to use and easy to apply.”
To use dog paw balm correctly, first clean your hands to keep your pup safe from infection and contamination. Then, simply rub or dab the balm onto the paw. You can also use a gentle cloth. Never use rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide on your dog’s paws. You may do this for humans when they have a cut or scrape, but those rules don’t apply for our fur babies.
Some pet parents might reward their dog with a treat after application to make the experience a positive one. This will also keep your dog distracted enough for a bit so he or she doesn’t lick the
p balm before it can do its job. Use the balm as often as directed on the packaging, which will roughly be a couple of times a day. Bedtime before your pooch goes to sleep will be the most optimal time to apply.
Another important thing to note is, to not let your dog lick off the dog paw balm. “It isn’t inherently toxic to them, but does no good if it is licked off,” says Lantry.
And since balms contain a lot of oil, they can make dogs’ paws slippery on slick surfaces, warns Lantry. “This can be a bigger issue with senior dogs who may need more traction due to arthritis.”
Best Dog Paw Balm: 5 Options to Consider
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Made in Vermont, Bag Balm’s Pet Nose, Paw, and Hot Spot Moisturizer will work on dry, cracked, cut, or scraped parts of your pooch’s body. You can also apply this protective ointment before your dog deals with harsh, icy, or rough surfaces.
- This product uses simple ingredients: petrolatum, lanolin, 8-hydroxyquinoline sulfate 0.3 percent, and paraffin wax.
- This balm is also 100 percent alcohol-free so it won’t sting.
- Works on pets of all sizes, even dairy cows (which was its initial use in 1899).
Things to Consider
- You’ll have to apply it twice a day as directed on the packaging.
You’ll notice results immediately after using this Paw Soother from Natural Dog Company. This vegan dog paw wax promises to protect and heal dry, cracked, irritated paws, as well as moisturize and soothe. This variety comes in a stick form, so it’s very easy to apply to paws and noses.
- Organic and made of all-natural ingredients, like mango butter, cocoa butter, coconut oil, hemp seed oil, jojoba oil, candelilla wax, chamomile, cajeput, calendula, rosemary, and natural vitamin E.
- Safe for all breeds, ages, and sizes.
- Can also treat and heal skin-related symptoms brought on by allergy.
Things to Consider
- Pricier than other balms.
Musher’s Secret wax aims to form a breathable barrier to keep paws protected from the elements and rough terrain. From sand to ice, its moisturizing formula blends natural wax with vitamin E to soothe pads when cracked, cut, scraped, or just dry.
- This product is formulated with 100 percent pure natural waxes.
- You can also use Musher’s Secret Paw Protection on snouts.
Things to Consider
- You will have to reapply as needed for constant protection.
This Burt’s Bees lotion crafted specifically for dogs’ paws and noses will replenish dry, cracked areas using a blend of beeswax, honey, oils, extracts, and more. Reviewers have said this product works fast and is not too greasy.
- This product does not include colorants, sulfates, or added fragrances.
- Brand is cruelty-free.
Things to Consider
- As with the other products, this item is only as effective as it stays on. Hopefully your dog won’t lick it.
This all-natural, organic product promises to soothe and moisturize dogs’ paws pads that are susceptible to snow, ice, heat, and rough surfaces. Free of chemicals, parabens and fragrances, your dog will be safe even if he licks this.
- This product protects dogs’ paws from heat and cold.
- It will also promote healing, while soothing and moisturizing.
- Made with food-grade ingredients.
Things to Consider
- Needs time to soak in skin as a couple of reviewers have mentioned.
- Some dogs did not like its smell too much.
Dog Paw Care: Other Tips and Advice
Here are some other dog paw care tips and advice to keep in mind:
How to know there’s an issue: “Examine the bottoms of the paws to try to identify where the problem is coming from and how severe it is,” explains Lantry. “If you notice any scabbing, oozing or crusting, it may be soothing to soak the paws in antibacterial soap and water. If you suspect something may be embedded in the paw, you can soak the paw in warm water and Epsom salts.”
When it’s hot: Walking on the hot ground can burn paw pads. “When the weather is hot, avoid taking your dog out during peak hours,” Hall says. “It’s best to get those walks in early in the morning and late at night before the sun has had a chance to really heat things up.” Test the pavement with your bare foot—if it is too hot for your foot, it is too hot for your dog’s paw.
When it’s cold: Similarly, when there’s freezing temperatures, sharp pieces of ice can cut into your dogs’ paws. “The added irritation from frozen and salted [walkways] can cause great pain,” Hall adds. “Some sort of protective covering like dog shoes would be recommended for any extended outdoor time during chilly weather.”
Furthermore, Bourquin suggests, “One of the most important things a dog owner should do—for those that live in cold weather climates—is to only use dog-safe salt and ice melt on their sidewalks and steps.” Keep the fur on the underside of the paw trimmed short to reduce ice ball accumulation, and if your dog develops ice balls, soak your dog’s feet in room temperature water to remove the ice balls before applying paw pad balm.
When walking on rough terrain: Hall cautions that rough terrain (like jagged rocks and gravel) may pose a danger to your pups’ paws and risk of cutting into the skin between the pads. “This can leave open wounds that may end up becoming infected,” Hall explains. “Using a product that can be topically applied to the pads to temporarily strengthen them for outdoor activity may help mitigate this.”
When applying a topical treatment like dog paw balm, Hall says to make sure the product is dog-friendly and non-toxic if ingested. And, if you’re ever unsure, just ask your friendly neighborhood veterinarian.