We posed the question, “Do you wipe your dog’s paws after a trip outside?” to our Facebook friends recently. Wow! The response was overwhelming and very insightful. In fact, the reasons if they did or did not were more complex than we expected, and usually depended on the situation and the companion dog’s health status.
So, should you wipe your dog’s paws and how? We will dissect this question from the perspective of our respondents, and provide their and our how-to suggestions.
The responses we received definitely covered a spectrum from those who never wipe or soak their dog’s paws to doing it after every single trip outside.
The weather was the most common reason to wipe the paws. Mud, rain and snow were noted most often. Two commenters, who live in Southeast Asia, said they wiped the paws because if they didn’t fungal infections would arise between the pads due to the humidity. [Remember that dogs sweat through their foot pads.]
Seasonal allergies are classified as grasses, weeds, trees, molds, fungi – especially yeast, pollen, etc. Usually, first indications are incessant paw licking or inflamed, reddened paws and ears. Wiping or rinsing the paws should reduce these signs. If these problems persist, it could be a food intolerance instead.
When we refer to environmental, we are thinking of situations where the dog left the property to go to the veterinarian, pet supply store, or even for a walk. Mikelle wrote, “If the dogs go to the vet or off of our 13 acres, where I can’t control what is put on the surface, I will clean their paws.” Indeed, this seemed to be a resounding sentiment amongst dog companion caregivers. For instance, one dog companion caregiver noted she wipes the paws of her therapy dog after trips to the hospital.
A common theme was also if the neighbors used lawn chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides that might blow over into the yards of pets. The concern is escalated to ingestion of these toxic chemicals or having them spread throughout the house. Again, incessant paw licking or inflamed paws could also be caused by lawn chemicals.
Mikelle went on to say, “We encourage a healthy amount of germs in our house to help our kids (dogs and human child) to develop healthy immune systems.” This is a valid point because If we encase ourselves and our companion dogs in sterility, it can compromise immunity and make us all more susceptible to diseases.
Wiping or Soaking Dog Paws?
Paw soaks are actually recommended at least once per day if your dog does not wear booties outside.
Some people actually have a little “dog paw soaking factory” that the dogs walk through then they walk on a towel or rug, or they use a paw plunger that will squeegee off the excess water and debris.
Below are a couple of ideas we thought were interesting. We understand if this doesn’t work for your household or lifestyle and will give tips on wiping as well.
W. Jean Dodds and Hemopet prefer (especially for white and light-colored pets) a green tea bag poultice, solution, or wipe. Tea of a variety of types can be used as the tannins and polyphenols are antioxidant, anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory.
Dr. Karen Becker uses povidone iodine (betadine), which is an over-the-counter topical antiseptic meant to reduce the number of microorganisms on the skin. Several of our readers use this method, too. Dr. Becker suggests:
- A couple inches of water
- Enough povidone iodine to change the color to iced tea
- Soak for 2-5 minutes
- No need to rinse
- Pat dry
You can use the same soaking method noted above. However, if you use soap, you will need to rinse it off.
- A couple of respondents use a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water. Apple cider vinegar can help reduce irritation to seasonal allergies. [See more below about using tea, as an alternative.]
- Lemon juice and water
- Castile soap and water
- Doggy shampoo and water
We understand if soaking is not going to work for your household. Some dogs scurry away when you take a shower because they think a doggy bath is next. As well, lifestyles or house sizes don’t always allow for a proper paw soak.
To our surprise, we thought more of our respondents used the disposable paw wipes. If you choose the paw wipes, avoid the ones that have antibacterial and/or antifungal properties unless your veterinarian recommends them for a specific condition. The reason why is because fungi and bacteria mutate to resist the antifungal and antibacterial solutions. Remember, you need a healthy balance of germs to build immune system defense functions.
The majority of you use a towel or washcloth. One commentator dips a cloth in a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water. However, if you are using a soap, it is best to wipe that off with a wet cloth.
When you are wiping off your dog’s paws, really get in the crevices. Also, please use the opportunity to check out the condition of the pads and the crevices for possible irritation, or contaminants like burrs or foxtails.
One of the drawbacks to wiping or soaking paws is the possibility that the pads become cracked, bloody or irritated from the watery solution. Then, bacteria and fungi can invade the body more easily.
However, the crevices between the paw pads are actually quite moist, so they are breeding grounds for fungi.
Indeed, you can be creating a condition to prevent another condition.
What to do? Well, think of it in terms of your personal grooming habits. For instance, you probably moisturize your arms after showering and apply deodorant to your armpits.
We suggest that you do a paw soak or at least wipe your dog’s paws as much as you can and apply a moisturizer made for dogs (not humans!) to the pads, but avoid the deep crevices.