If you are like me, then chances are you probably only clean them when they are wet and/or muddy because you don’t want them making a mess indoors, right?
Lately however, I have changed my mind about when and how I clean and care for my dogs paws and claws.
If you have ever had cracked heels; a broken or torn toe nail; a cut or bruised toe, you will know just how uncomfortable it is spending time on your feet. Our dogs may have tougher feet than we do, but cold weather and rough terrain can often cause wear and tear and sometimes injury to their paw pads and claws. So, it’s important to check their feet regularly and keep them in good shape so that running, playing or even leash walks along a tarred or cement surface are easy and pain free.
In the wintertime where I live, the streets, sidewalks and foot paths are regularly sprayed with rock salt to melt the snow and ice, and often a layer of coarse grit is spread over that for extra traction and a non-slip surface. It may be helpful for drivers and pedestrians, but it’s certainly not good for our pups’ paws. The freezing temperatures (and, by extension, snow and ice) can cause dry cracked paw pads, and the mixture of salt, grit and also antifreeze (used in vehicle engine cooling systems and windscreen wash) can irritate this further and cause pain to the already damaged skin.
These salts and chemicals are also highly toxic for our dogs!
Be aware that if you don’t clean your dog’s paws thoroughly, they will do the job themselves by licking their paws and subsequently ingesting the salt and chemicals. Not only can this cause burning of the mouth and throat, but can also result in gastrointestinal irritation, nausea, vomiting and in some cases even poisoning resulting in dehydration, liver and kidney failure and pancreatitis.
So, you can see that getting into a habit of cleaning your dog’s paws after each and every walk is not only a good idea, but vital for keeping your dog fit and healthy!
There are various ways to clean your dog’s paws. Wiping with a damp cloth or spraying with some water and patting dry can help, but I think this only serves to get rid of the surface debris and not the salt and chemicals which can dissolve into the skin and fur on the feet.
For this reason I think a far better option is to soak your dog’s paws in a foot bath.
But, if you have a dog like my Leila, who has pretty sensitive paws and doesn’t enjoy having them handled, then dipping them one by one in a bowl of water and drying them can be quite a stressful task.
So, I set about finding a way to make the process as easy and stress free as possible for both of us. I decided to teach her that foot baths can actually be fun or at least no big deal.
In my home we call it a ‘footy-bath’.
PREPARING A FOOTY-BATH
1. Find a large, shallow plastic container (I used an under-bed storage box).
2. Place a non-slip rubber mat on the bottom of the container (I used a shower mat).
3. Pour in just enough water (luke warm or room temperature) to cover the base of the container and cover your dog’s paws when they are standing in the ‘footy-bath’.
You can have the container of water prepared before you go for a walk so that it’s ready and the water is at room temperature when you get back.
CONDITIONING THE FOOTY-BATH
1. Begin with an empty footy-bath.
2. Have some tasty treats ready. I used a squeezy tube of liver paste that my dog could have tiny licks of as a reward for standing in position in the footy-bath.
3. Once your dog is reliably and confidently stepping into the plastic container you can slowly start to add the water, one cup at a time, until it’s deep enough to just cover the top of their feet.
4. Your end goal is to get your dog to comfortably stand in the container with water with all four paws for about 5 mins to give them a good soak.
5. Place towels around the footy-bath so that when they step out, most of the water will be absorbed. Then you can carefully and gently dry each paw and between the toes with a dry cloth or towel.
NB: The training process was done over 3 or 4 short sessions over a couple of days. Do not rush the process. Go at your dog’s pace and make sure they are not showing signs of being nervous or stressed. Remember this needs to be a fun and rewarding process for your dog, so talk to them, encourage them and reward them with plenty of praise and yummy treats!
EXTRA CARE AND PROTECTION
After paws are completely dry it’s a good idea to apply a paw balm once or twice a week. You can buy a ready-made preparation, or make your own using organic coconut oil, St John’s Wort oil and a drop or two of Lavender or Bergamot Essential Oil which are soothing and rejuvenating for the skin.