If you're on the hunt for safe and natural ways to moisturize dog paws, we've got you covered. Just like our own skin, a dog's paw pads can sometimes become dry and cracked, causing discomfort and potential health issues, such as red paws on dogs. We explore five effective and trustworthy methods to naturally moisturize your dog's paws, ensuring they stay healthy, protected, and ready for adventures.
Our four-legged friends require extra special care when it comes to grooming, hence why we only use the best dog nail clippers on our canines rather than a pair of kitchen scissors and is why we want to take extra care when handling their paws. It's a good idea to opt for gentle and natural solutions. Harsh chemicals or artificial products can potentially irritate your pet's sensitive paw pads. Instead, consider the power of nature's ingredients. From the healing properties of natural oils like coconut and olive oil to the protective benefits of beeswax and shea butter, we'll delve into the benefits of each method.
Further down, you’ll find some expert guidance from Dr Joanna Woodnutt, a trained vet with extensive canine health experience. However, we always recommend dog owners consult their dog’s vet before attempting any home remedies or treatments, as they can provide personalized advice based on your pet's specific needs and ensure their safety and well-being.
After graduating as a veterinarian from the University of Nottingham, Dr Joanna Woodnutt went on to practice companion animal medicine in the Midlands, UK. Dr Woodnutt is specifically interested in consulting and helping her clients understand their pets better, whether it’s around medical problems such as dermatology, behavior, and nutrition.
What causes dry dog paws?
Dogs spend a lot of time running, jumping, fetching and just generally tearing about indoors and outdoors, so it’s no surprise that their paws can take quite the battering.
While there’s plenty of skin, bone, tendons, and connective tissue to protect their pads, even the toughest paw pads aren’t made of armor and they need plenty of TLC to keep them healthy.
There are range of factors that can cause your dog’s paws to become dry, here are a few of the most common:
- Chemicals: If you take your dog on long walks in the winter and you live in a cold climate where snow is a regular occurrence, then one of the main ways your dog’s paws can dry out is through the salt that gets used to melt the ice on sidewalks. In the summer months, lawn fertilizers can also be an irritant.
- Warm weather: "Hot pavements and sand can dry out paws and cause them to become sore and even cracked," shares vet, Dr Joanna Woodnutt.
- Cold weather: Cooler weather climates and conditions can also cause dry paws, notes Woodnutt, especially if they come into contact with snow and ice, or when the heating is turned on.
- Dry or cold air: Just like us humans, a dog’s skin can quickly become dry and cracked when exposed to air conditioned or heated rooms.
- Rough or hot surfaces: Walks on hot sand, rough pavement or rocky terrain can scrape your dog’s paws and cause them to dry out.
- Allergic reactions: Every day your dog is coming into contact with a range of things in their environment that can cause allergies. Because their paws are usually bare, these irritants have a greater chance of getting into the skin where they lead to redness or itching that can cause the skin to crack.
- Excessive licking: Woodnutt says, "Constant licking of the paws due to allergies or arthritis can also cause them to dry out, just as over-licking of your own lips will cause them to dry out."
- Nutritional imbalances: When a dog's diet lacks essential nutrients, such as fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, it can result in dry skin and a decrease in the natural moisturizing oils that help keep the paws soft and supple.
- Disease: Certain medical conditions, such as allergies, autoimmune disorders, and skin infections, can affect the paws, causing inflammation, itchiness, and dryness. These conditions may disrupt the normal functioning of the skin and hinder its ability to retain moisture, leading to dry and irritated paw pads.
If you notice your pup licking or chewing their paws more than usual, it could be their way of trying to relieve the itchiness that comes with having dry paw pads. Thankfully, there are plenty of natural home remedies you can use that will have your canine companion feeling comfortable again in no time.
Home remedies for dry dog paws
1. Shea butter
Extracted from, you guessed it, the Shea tree, Shea butter soothes, softens and hydrates skin and it’s good for both humans and hounds. It’s well known for its moisturizing properties and best of all, it’s completely non-toxic, so even if your dog licks it all off after you’ve applied it, the worst that will happen is a mild upset stomach.
We love that Shea butter is rich in vitamins and fatty acids that penetrate deeply into the skin, creating a protective barrier that stops itching, heals cracks, and leaves paws smooth and silky. It’s a natural sun protectant too and you can use it on your dog’s coat as well to boost shine.
2. Coconut oil
Another great all-natural remedy is moisture-rich coconut oil, which, as luck would have it, is also antibacterial and antiviral, so it won’t just soothe painful paws and combat dryness, it will also minimize the risk of infection that can often set in when paws are severely cracked.
When applying coconut oil, you want to let it seep in as much as possible to get the full effects. So to avoid your dog licking it off the minute you apply it, pop their paws into a set of doggy booties to allow the coconut oil to work its magic.
3. Vitamin E oil or cream
Both vitamin E oil and cream are incredibly nourishing which probably won’t come as too much of a surprise given that vitamin E is a common ingredient in the best dog food. But as well as being great for your pup’s insides, it’s also great for their outsides too.
The nutrients in vitamin E, whether in oil or cream form, can help repair cracks, heal blisters and soften dry skin. You can add the oil to a bath or apply to the paws in the same way you would coconut oil and as for the cream, massage into your dog’s pads and you’ll be giving your own hands a nice treatment in the process!
Made by honey bees and used to construct the interior of their hives, beeswax has all the same antibacterial, antifungal, and nourishing properties of honey, making it a great choice for your pooch’s paws.
Not only will it soften the skin, beeswax will keep your pup’s paw pads clean, reduce the risk of infection, and prevent the growth of yeast infections. It’s also waterproof and it does a brilliant job of locking in moisture. You’ll find it included in many commercial paw creams and in the recipe for our favorite homemade cream which we’ve listed below.
5. Specialized paw cream
There are some wonderful creams on the market designed specifically for a dog's paws and one of the things we love most about these products is that they often combine many of the ingredients listed above into a powerful formula that hits dry skin hard.
Specialized paw creams also do a brilliant job of sticking to your dog’s feet, so they can walk around all day and the balm will still be creating a protective barrier that prevents further cracks while healing existing ones. Try the ever-popular Musher’s Secret made with a variety of waxes and enriched with vitamin E.
A vet's opinion
Dr Woodnutt acknowledges that there are various moisturizing balms you can apply to your dog’s paws to help them. "They’re generally similar, so try to find one from a well-known brand that doesn’t contain too many essential oils and other fragrances, as this can irritate their feet further," she explains, "Remember, your dog is quite likely to lick off some balm while grooming, so it’s best to use products marketed for dogs rather than a generic human cream that may not be okay to ingest."
She also notes that some natural solutions, like coconut oil, can work well, but need to be used sparingly and won’t be suitable for all dogs. As always, check with your veterinarian if you aren’t sure!
When should you take your dog to the vet?
If left untreated, cracked paws can lead to pain, lameness, and infection, and even regular at-home paw pampering sessions may not always be enough to keep your dog's paw pads in tip-top condition.
Sometimes cracked and dry paws can be a sign of a more serious health condition, such as an autoimmune disorder or skin disease, so if you notice any changes in the appearance of your dog's pads or they're licking or chewing the area more than usual, take them to the vet who'll be able to run diagnostic tests.
It's also important to consult with your vet if your pet has been exposed to extreme temperatures that have led to burns or frostbite. In these cases, proper treatment will be required to help the pad injuries to heal.
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Kathryn is a freelance writer who has been a member of the PetsRadar family since it launched in 2020. Highly experienced in her field, she's driven by a desire to provide pet parents with accurate, timely, and informative content that enables them to provide their fur friends with everything they need to thrive. Kathryn works closely with vets and trainers to ensure all articles offer the most up-to-date information across a range of pet-related fields, from insights into health and behavior issues to tips on products and training. When she’s not busy crafting the perfect sentence for her features, buying guides and news pieces, she can be found hanging out with her family (which includes one super sassy cat), drinking copious amounts of Jasmine tea and reading all the books.