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Paw balms in the lab

Testing eight paw balms in The Lab

Balms protect dog paws against the elements and can help heal dry, cracked paw pads. For pet parents shopping online, it’s hard to determine which balms stay on paws or stain fabrics. We reviewed these best dog paw balms against the following criteria: ingredients, smell, lickability, staining, and application.

Browse our top eight choices below for the best balm for your budget and your pup’s paws!

The best paw balms in 2024

Our vegan pick: Natural Dog Company Paw Soother Balm

Pros Cons
✓ Antifungal and antibacterial properties ✕ May leave behind yellow residue
✓ Stick applies easily like deodorant
✓ Nontoxic, safe to lick

Paw Soother contains organic, vegan ingredients that are safe for dogs to lick. The balm hydrates with coconut oil, calendula oil, and jojoba oil. The rosemary extract contains antibacterial and antifungal properties and gives the product a fresh, herbal scent. Paw Soother’s formula also includes chamomile and natural vitamin E to heal and soothe.

We like that Paw Soother comes in a stick-like deodorant. It’s available in several sizes and is easy to apply. One downside — pet parents caution that this balm left behind yellow residue when tested on fabric. So you shouldn’t apply Paw Soother to your dog’s paws on your white sofa or rug.

What our vet thinks

Dr. Irish was concerned about reviews that said Paw Soother has tea tree oil as an ingredient. But, after further research, we learned that Natural Dog Company removed tea tree oil in 2018. Tea tree oil can be toxic to dogs when used in high concentrations. Outdated labels were still in circulation as recently as 2022. The company said they have all been destroyed, but if you want to play it extra safe, toss your old Paw Soother for a fresh stick.

Best absorption: Vets Preferred Paw Balm

Pros Cons
✓ Seven oils and waxes nourish and hydrate paws ✕ Formula changed at some point
✓ Doesn’t leave residue
✓ Scented with marjoram and patchouli

Vets Preferred Paw Balm contains dog-friendly ingredients to soothe paws. It’s made with olive oil, organic coconut oil, sweet almond oil, cocoa butter, beeswax, jojoba oil, and vitamin E oil to hydrate your dog’s paws. The balm has a clean, herbal aroma, with subtle hints of marjoram and patchouli. The malleable consistency isn’t too greasy or waxy, soaking right into your dog’s paws without leaving residue.

The only negative is that the formula changed at some point. At the current time, Chewy and Amazon list different active ingredients, and there hasn’t been clarification on which is the updated version.

What our vet thinks

Dr. Irish likes that this balm is made in the USA. She’s also a fan of the ingredients and believes they’re safe and effective.

Our cold weather pick: Musher’s Secret Natural Paw Wax

Pros Cons
✓ Best price per ounce ✕ Might smell slightly waxy since it’s unscented
✓ Nontoxic ingredients
✓ Features beeswax, carnauba, and candelilla wax

Musher’s Secret is a simple, no-nonsense wax that protects dogs’ paws against wintery and dry conditions. Beeswax, carnauba, and candelilla wax form a protective barrier between your dog’s paws and the pavement, which is especially critical during icy weather, while vitamin E acts as a moisturizer.  This fragrance-free formula also has the lowest price per ounce of all the balms on our list. Our writer and vet agree that Musher’s Secret is a must-have for winter.

What our vet thinks

Of all the balms we tested, Musher’s Secret is our vet Dr. Irish’s favorite. She likes the product’s long track record and notes that the wax is a preferred remedy among Canadian sled dog owners.

Our organic pick: Paw Nectar by QualityPet

Pros Cons
✓ Avocado oil fortifies your dog’s paws with healthy fats ✕ Might leave a slight residue on your hands
✓ Fresh, light lavender scent from natural oils
✓ Doesn’t stain fabrics

Made with organic ingredients that are safe for dogs, Paw Nectar hydrates with cocoa butter and shea butter and heals with vitamin E and aloe vera. Unlike most paw balms, this formula uses nourishing avocado oil, which is full of healthy moisturizing fats. Rosemary seed extract and lavender oil give this balm its light, refreshing scent.

Pet Nectar comes in a small tin that’s easy to store. While it leaves a slight residue on your fingers, pet parents note that it doesn’t stain fabrics.

What our vet thinks

Dr. Irish likes the convenient tin and is a fan of QualityPet’s money-back guarantee. She doesn’t like that the balm advertises using this product to avoid a vet visit, though. Paw balms are designed to treat minor cases of dry paws. Keep that in mind when deciding whether your dog needs a paw balm or has a more serious issue.

Our best hypoallergenic option: Dermapaw Skin & Paw Treatment

Pros Cons
✓ Limited ingredients with no common potential allergens ✕ Emu oil raises ethical concerns
✓ Lavender oil gives subtle scent
✓ Nourishing rice bran oil

Dermapaw has a short ingredient list, and each one is safe for dogs. This balm hydrates paw pads with a blend of beeswax, carnauba, and candelilla. Through the rice bran oil, this product also contains vitamin E, an essential ingredient for soothing. Great for dogs with allergies, it doesn’t contain any nut, soy, or flax oils.

While human and animal skin treatments use emu oil, some pet parents might disagree with its inclusion on ethical grounds concerns.

What our vet thinks

Dr. Irish wishes this balm had a more detailed product description on Amazon for pet parents looking for additional information about it.

Easiest to apply on the road: Handy Hound Paw Butter

Pros Cons
✓ Subtle lavender and lemon scent ✕ Thicker formula might be slightly trickier to apply
✓ Organic, vegan ingredients
✓ Twist-up stick is easy to use on the road

Our favorite on-the-go balm, Handy Hound’s Paw Butter is the perfect size to slip into a purse or backpack. The twist-up stick allows for easy application. While this formula has a thick buttery consistency, it absorbs nicely into paws.

Handy Hound’s Paw Butter is made with vegan, dog-safe ingredients, like coconut oil, candelilla wax, and cupuacu butter to hydrate. We like that this balm also contains hemp oil and calendula oil for their antifungal and healing properties. The essential oils give this balm faint hints of lemon and lavender, but the smell isn’t overwhelming.

What our vet thinks

Dr. Irish felt that this balm was safe because of its ingredients and the ease of use for pet owners.

Use for both paws & noses: 4Legger Nose & Paws Healing Balm

Pros Cons
✓ Organic ingredients ✕ Leaves residue on fabric
✓ Unscented ✕ Turns dog paws yellow momentarily
✓ For noses & paws

4Legger hydrates paws and noses with organic shea butter and carnauba wax. The organic all-natural ingredients are safe to lick, too. The balm gets its color from organic hemp oil, which soothes skin, and it’s unscented, making it ideal to use on your dog’s cracked, dry nose.

A word of caution: pet parents noted that it temporarily turned their paws yellow for a few minutes after application. You’ll also want to make sure that the solution absorbs completely before letting your dog on fabric surfaces since the formula might stain.

What our vet thinks

Dr. Irish likes the effective ingredients in this balm but believes the USDA-certified label is a little misleading. The USDA certifies organic ingredients, but the FDA approves the use of products for pets.

Best original blend: Petsmont Organic Touch & Heal Dog Paw Balm

Pros Cons
✓ Safe for paws, noses, and skin ✕ A little expensive
✓ Organic ingredients like coconut oil and aloe vera
✓ Unscented
✓ Plant-based collagen supports damaged skin

Amongst all the excellent ingredients that this rockstar organic formula offers, like soothing aloe vera and coconut oil, the plant-based collagen stands out as the most unique feature. Petsmont is the only product on our list that uses plant-based collagen, which promotes skin healing. This solution comes in a 2-ounce jar and is easy to apply.

Since Petsmont is unscented and contains all-natural ingredients, it’s safe to apply to your dog’s nose and won’t hurt them if they lick it off. While it costs a little more than most solutions, pet parents often find that it’s worth their investment.

What our vet thinks

Dr. Alleyne appreciated how the product uses all natural, nontoxic ingredients. He says, “the plant-based collagen listed as an ingredient is also appealing because this can be truly beneficial when it comes to skin healing.”

How we chose and reviewed the best dog balms

We scoured the internet for the most popular paw balms for dogs. We skipped over any product that contained highly debated ingredients (synthetic fragrances, silicones, PUFAs, formaldehyde releasers, etc.) and chose six criteria to test against: ingredients, smell, lickability, application, staining, and packaging.

After researching and writing about the products, we consulted our vets for their expert knowledge. They gave us honest feedback about what they did and didn’t like about the products, which we incorporated into the reviews.

What to look for in the best dog paw balms

The best balm depends on what your dog needs — some balms are best for snow, while others are designed for very dry paws — and your top priority as a consumer (smell, vegan, organic, USA-made, etc). After thorough research, we believe all these balms are safe and effective, and we like and dislike elements of each one.

While choosing a dog paw balm, here are some things to take into consideration:

  • Protection against daily wear and tear — Dogs’ paws weren’t meant to run on concrete. If you and your canine have an active lifestyle, balms will help keep your pet’s paws healthy and strong.
  • Help against cold weather and chemical irritants — Nothing dries out skin like cold weather. Plus, chemicals used to deice roads and sidewalks can irritate your dog’s paws. Balms help protect against both by trapping moisture inside the paws and keeping chemicals out.
  • Soothe irritation and damage — Thanks to all-natural healing ingredients, paw balms are perfect for treating blisters, cracks, hot spots, cuts, burns, and irritation due to allergies.

👉All dog balms, lotions, and waxes work much the same with a base mixture of water and oil that creates an occlusive layer on the skin.

How to apply dog paw balms

Apply a balm a couple of times throughout the day and, most importantly, every night before bed. Balms and waxes are a great way to help moisturize and heal cracked or irritated spots in your dog’s paw. However, if the crack or irritated spot is large or worsens after several weeks of treating it, call your veterinarian.

👉 Want to make a paw balm at home? Here’s how to make a DIY dog paw balm.

Testing paw balms on fabric

Testing Handy Hound on fabric

Popular alternatives to dog paw balms

Whether due to allergy considerations or personal preference, there are some popular alternatives to products like the dog paw balms and waxes that we’ve listed here.

Booties are another great way to protect your dog’s paw pads.It might take a while for your pet to get used to them, but booties work incredibly well. These fleece boots from Ethical Pet are a sub-$10 option (at the time of publishing) that are great for casual walks, or if you just want your dog to practice wearing boots before investing in tougher booties.

Wanting to upgrade to a sturdier option? Check out something like the XSY&G Dog Boots if your dog is extra active or frequents rough terrain.

Frequently asked questions

Can I use vaseline on my dog’s paws?

Vaseline is technically nontoxic for dogs, but we don’t recommend it because of its reputation for causing tummy aches.

If my dog licks paw balm off, will it make them sick?

This depends on the type of balm you use. Ingesting a little all-natural paw balm or wax is no big deal. Those products are designed for dogs. If your dog eats Vaseline or some other human product, there’s a good chance your pup’s in for a stomach ache. That’s why we recommend sticking with certified organic balms with all-natural ingredients. It’s a fact: Dogs are going to eat some of what you put on their body.

When should I talk to my vet about my dog’s nose or paw condition?

Unless the problem poses a severe risk of infection, such as an open sore, you can try to treat cracked paws at home for up to a couple weeks. However, if it doesn’t appear to get better—or becomes worse—consult your veterinarian.

Can I use human products on my dog’s paws?

No. Balms and moisturizers designed for humans often contain chemicals that are toxic to dogs, which your pup will ingest when they lick their paws. Also, human skin and dog skin have different pH levels — among other things. Don’t use human products on your pup without checking with a vet first.

How often do I need to reapply paw balm?

Natural paw balms are safe to use multiple times a day. If you’re going for a short walk in cold weather, you’re probably fine to just apply it once before leaving home. If you’re worried, take the balm with you in case it wears off. You can also apply a balm after a walk to soothe your pup’s tired feet.