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How to clean dog paws

How to clean dog paws
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you've ever had a dog you'll know how important it is to clean dog paws. Your four-legged friends spend a lot of time on their feet, traipsing through mud and other dirty stuff, maybe even stepping on poo, and walking all over your house (perhaps even on your furniture).

No matter the weather, your dog is going to want to go outside, and that means they could come in with some seriously dirty paws. In some cases, your dog may have stepped in something that could be harmful to them if ingested like a pesticide, so it's important to know how to clean dog paws when the time inevitably comes.

Keep in mind that you can help prevent your dog from getting any paw-related injuries by fitting them for a set of booties, especially if you walk them in urban areas where there is hot pavement and often broken glass. It'll also help keep their feet clean and avoid them trekking whatever is outside into your home.

Often, the best dog shampoos work just fine to help clean your dog's paws, but if you want to take it a step further and really pamper your pooch, there are natural ways to moisturize your dog's paws. Here's everything you know about how to clean dog paws.

Should you clean dog paws after a walk? 

It's certainly a good idea to clean your dog's paws after a walk, and there's a few reasons why. Weather has a big impact on your dog's paw health - snow can dry their paws out, while salt used to melt ice on roads can irritate their paws, especially if they have any cracks or cuts on their paw pads.

If you walk your dog in urban areas and choose not to use booties (which are highly recommended when it comes to protecting feet), then cleaning your dog's paws after a walk gives you a chance to make sure they didn't step on anything that could have cut them. 

If you walk your dog in wooded areas, ticks or other critters could make their way to your dog's paws, so a nice clean will help ensure they don't bring any creepy crawlies inside. 

How to clean dog paws 

You can clean dog paws in two main ways: with dog wipes or by way of a bath. There are plenty of wipes made specifically for dogs, which you'll want to make sure you use. Do not use any wipes other than pet safe wipes. Dog paw wipes are great for traveling, as they're usually in bags similar to baby wipes. They'll help clean up sandy, salty, or muddy paws with ease, but may struggle with especially dirty feet.

Your dog's paws will get cleanest from a bath, however. And while you may hesitate to give your pooch a full bath when you just want to clean their paws, don't worry, as you can easily put them in the tub and fill it up to just their feet or use the shower head to direct water to just their little feets. Or, if you have a small dog, you may be able to put them in the sink. 

Use dog-safe shampoo and you'll get their feet rid of any harmful debris or dirt, and make sure to dry them thoroughly before letting your dog go. If you're feeling fancy, there are portable paw cleaners that look just like little tumblers. You simply fill it with water, put your dog's paw in there, twist the tumbler, and you've got a freshly rinsed dog foot!

How to clean a dog paw wound  

dog paw grooming

(Image credit: Getty Images)

If the unfortunate happens and you see your dog step on something sharp or notice them favoring a paw, make sure to do a proper examination of their foot. You may  need to clip the hair around their paw pad, especially if it's a dog with long hair or fur. 

If there's an injury, you'll want to clean the wound. Rinse it with warm water to rid it of any debris, then pat it dry with a clean towel or fresh paper towel. Whether the pad is punctured or torn, the VCA Animal Hospitals (opens in new tab) suggests using mild anti-bacterial soap or betadine to disinfect the wound, and if there's bleeding you can control it by putting pressure to the wound with a clean towel. 

If there's a mild tear, it should stop bleeding rather quickly, but a deeper wound may take some time to heal and could reopen when your dog starts walking again. You can apply a very small amount of antibacterial ointment to the wound, but PetMD states (opens in new tab) you should avoid any product that has a corticosteroid, like hydrocortisone. 

Try to keep your dog from licking or wiping off the ointment for a little while - the longer the better. If they'll tolerate it, you can wrap it with a bandage. You'll want to clean the wound with an antiseptic solution several times a day for a week, applying the ointment after washing and drying the affected area. If it gets worse or doesn't improve, call your vet!

 Can you put hand sanitizer on your dog? 

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The short answer is NO. With COVID anxiety, it's understandable that owners would want to clean their dog's paws, but hand sanitizer is not safe for dogs. In July 2020, the FDA issued a Tweet telling pet owners to not use hand sanitizer on their pet's paws as "it can cause poisoning if absorbed through the skin" and "can make your dog sick if eaten." 

How to clean dog paws that smell

If you're a dog owner, you may have heard the term "Frito feet" before. Many people who own dogs say that their pooch's feet smell like the famous Frito chip. Believe it or not, this is a normal dog smell, which is akin to dog body odor. The Frito smell is caused by a mix of bacteria and yeast that's perfectly normal to dogs. 

However, if your dog seems to be favoring a foot or licking it profusely, you may want to bring your dog to the vet to make sure there aren't any harmful infections going on there. And if you don't like the smell of Frito feet, the Waunakee Vet Clinic (opens in new tab) suggests you wash them once weekly with mild dog shampoo, or use a dog wipe regularly. 

But don't forget, smelly Frito feet are perfectly normal for dogs!