While we bask in the sun’s warm rays, knowing that summertime weather may only last until September and not return until May, our pets don’t typically seek the heat. Not only do their all-season coats and limited ability to regulate body temperature by panting and sweating keep them toasty, but unprotected body parts like ear tips, noses, upturned bellies, and especially tender paws take the brunt of the sun’s damage. And while humans think to bundle themselves and their pets up against the cold winter temperatures, we often forget to protect dogs in the summer.
It’s quite common for dogs to dislike grooming and handling, or anything that feels unnatural, in general. For many of our pets, having their paws (or face) handled is quite nerve-racking. Using force or restraint to apply something such as a balm only makes things worse, exhausting you and reinforcing to your pup that it is, in fact, something to fear.
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.
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. Hot pavement can cause red paws or cracked paws. And rough terrain can really take a toll on your dog's delicate pads.
You’ll know your fur baby has a paw issue if they indicate 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. It is usually due to a scratch, cut, foreign item (such as a thorn or glass), puncture, or laceration. A paw balm would be a great solution for these problems, that is, if you can actually apply it to your dog!
It can be tricky, but with a little knowledge and some tricks, you can change your dog’s mind about having their paws handled and paw waxes or balms applied. We’ve got a few helpful tips that will make applying the right balm a breeze for both you and your dog in the summer months and beyond.
What is 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. Dog's feet are delicate, believe it or not, and dog booties are not always the answer. Enter, dog paw balm, a topical product that can help prevent damage to a dog's paw pads, as well as soothe, heal, and moisturize them when cracked or sore. Healthy paws = happy dogs.
They’re meant to offer a barrier between your pup’s paws and the ground, repair dry or cracked pads, and act as preventative care to keep pads smooth and strong. Some are even useful for dogs with sensitive skin or environmental and food allergies.
The Benefits of Dog Paw Balm:
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 or other areas
- Helping paws heal properly, or assisting with the healing process when a dog's foot has injuries causing discomfort
Dog paw balms condition and hydrate
An organic, all-natural balm soothes paws and also other problem areas, such as cracked/rough elbow skin and a dry little nose. Balms are great at hydrating and moisturising dog skin due to ingredients such as: shea butter, hemp seed oil and beeswax, all of which are non-toxic for dogs.
Even though a dog's paws are designed to carry them through the elements sans shoes, the pads of their feet still need some occasional relief. Dog balm is intended to soothe a pup's paws in the same way you'd cure your own dry, cracked hands or feet. Especially a dog's red paws. The moisturizing properties give dog paws some much-needed relief, while the waxy texture acts as a buffer between their paws and whatever terrain they explore, from icy, salt-covered winter sidewalks to hot summer pavement.
How to Apply Paw Balm:
The first step to successful balm application is timing! For best results, you’ll want to apply a balm to your dog's feet when your dog is relaxed, to minimize squirming or anxiety about handling. Try nap time or sleep time. You want to make sure any balm you use is dog-safe and non-toxic because they tend to lick it off. Any balm you purchase 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 directly 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 precious fur babies.
Some pet parents might reward their dog with a treat after application to the dog's paw pads 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 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. At night, or right before your pooch goes to sleep, will be the most optimal time to apply since they will be in a more still position.
Since balms sometimes contain a lot of oil, they can make dogs’ paws slippery on slick surfaces. This can be a bigger issue with senior dogs who may need more traction due to arthritis. Try to let the product(s) dry a bit before the dog walks around or plays.
It can be tempting to put a sock or cover over your dog’s paw—some balm manufacturers even suggest it to stop any licking and to keep floors clean. But some veterinarians recommended against it. Covering dog paws can encourage moisture buildup, and excessive moisture can cause a whole different set of paw problems such as yeast infection or contact dermatitis.
It’s best to apply butter or balm when your dog is resting. Be sure to apply enough to cover the pad but not much more. Watch your dog to see if they’re prone to licking, and have a few chew treats available to keep them distracted. Not all dogs are keen to having it applied.
READ ALSO - How to keep your dog safe in the summer heat?
Applying Paw Balm To The Nose:
Nose-related discomfort is quite often due to dry or flaky skin on the top ridge of your dog’s nose. To alleviate pain, nourish, and protect your pup’s nose, gently apply a balm 2-3 times a day until their nose is consistently smooth and moist.
Our Favorite Balm
THE BALM by PRIDE+GROOM is all natural and addresses those pet parts that are prone to dryness. Whether the culprit is the cold, the heat, or just plain genes, a quick slick of the balm to paws, noses and pesky dry patches delivers moisturizing healing, long-lasting relief. Ruff spots begone!
Over time, applying a good dog-safe balm or butter should reduce cracking, red and inflamed paws, environmental allergies, and dryness and help to protect your dog’s paws against rough terrain and other environmental factors.
Due to natural, high quality ingredients in this product, we recommend storing in a cool, dry place.
Ingredients: Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Prunus Amygdalus Dulcis (Sweet Almond) Oil, Beeswax White, Argania Spinosa Kernel Oil, Tocopherol, Fragrance, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Flower Oil, Helichrysum Gymnocephalum Essential Oil, Sweet Marjoram Essential Oil.
Beat the Heat During Summer Walks
Hot asphalt and hot surfaces come directly from prolonged sun exposure and high temperatures. To help beat the heat during the dog days of summer, our first tip is to try to go for walks when it is cooler outside. This is typically early in the morning or just near sunset during the summer. Pavement and sand can get extremely hot and not feel good on your pup’s paws.
If the temperatures are soaring feel the pavement yourself with your hand to get an idea of what your dog will have to experience. Simply touch the pavement with the back of your hand for seven seconds. If you can't hold out for the full seven seconds because the surface is too hot, then it's also too hot for your dog's paws.
If you must walk in the heat of the day it can be a good idea to find an area with grass and shade. Using a paw balm before you go outside could also help provide relief for your dog. If you end up taking your dog out during the warmer times of the day, be sure to stay on the grass and stick to shady areas. Avoid walking on sidewalks or any paved areas to avoid burning. A shady park can be a great place to take your dog on a warm afternoon.
Hot Summer Surfaces
Just like we take those extra steps to protect ourselves, pet parents may find that they need to take extra precautions to protect their four-legged friends, as well. The heat can create conditions that are more dangerous to our dog's toes, feet and nails. One of the biggest and most common injuries that pups get during the summer is a burned paw pad. Your dog’s paws have footpads that can usually handle whatever a stroll or walk in nature throws at them. But a lot of human-made surfaces can burn your pooch’s paws, including concrete, metal, pavement, sidewalks and asphalt.
These surfaces naturally absorb heat. Surfaces like asphalt tend to be dark in color and draw in heat, often making them much hotter than the climate itself. On an 80°F (26°C) day, the pavement can reach temperatures as high as 125°F (51°C). As you can imagine, this can quickly become a danger to your puppy's paws.
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. 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.
Look for signs of overheating or injury when out with your dog. Did you know when dogs become overheated they can sweat from their paws? If your dog is panting and has damp paw pads take action to get them out of the heat and place a cool washcloth on their paws. A trip to the vet immediately and physical exam are recommended to assess the paws if they are burned.
Dogs showing these symptoms may have burned paws:
- Limping or avoiding walking
- Licking or chewing feet
- Paw pads are darker in color than usual
- Pads are visibly damaged
- Blisters or redness
Being outdoors more can also lead to things getting lodged in between paw pads so keep an eye out for limping, excess licking or red paw pads. Another reason your dog may be excessively licking their paws this time of year is allergies. Contact with grass, weeds and pollen is a common source of irritation and wiping paws when you come inside can help, which is a good reason to use our all natural grooming wipes after your summer adventures.
When It’s Cold Outside
Similarly, when there are freezing temperatures, sharp pieces of ice can cut into your dogs’ paws. The added irritation from frozen and salted sidewalks can cause great pain for a dog. Some sort of protective covering like dog shoes would be recommended for any extended outdoor time during chilly weather. Only use dog-safe salt and ice melt on your sidewalks and steps. Keep the fur on the underside of your dog’s paws trimmed short to reduce ice ball accumulation, and if your dog develops ice balls, soak their feet in room temperature water to remove the ice balls before applying paw pad balm.
Always make sure any balm that you are applying to your dog’s paws or nose is dog-friendly and non-toxic if ingested. That’s why we recommend THE BALM. And, if you’re ever unsure, just ask your friendly neighborhood veterinarian.
Taking a little extra care of your dog’s paws can ensure you both get to enjoy all of summer’s adventures. From avoiding the heat, taking preventative paw care seriously and keeping an eye out for signs of trouble we hope you find the tips above helpful. If you're looking for more summer tips check out our blog on our summer travel pet essentials.