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Person rubbing ointment on a dry cracked dog paw

The essentials

  • Daily wear and tear is a common cause of paw dryness — Seasonal allergies, environmental conditions, and allergic reactions can cause dry and cracked paws.
  • Check paw pads daily — Your dog may step on irritants that harm their paws.
  • Skin condition paw pad hyperkeratosis can lead to infections — Your vet can help.

Just like humans get chapped hands, our pups can also have dry, cracked paw pads. There are a variety of reasons why dogs’ paw pads get rough and dry, including environment, allergies, or more serious medical concerns. Whatever the reason, this condition can be very uncomfortable or even painful to your furry friend.

5 reasons why dogs have dry paws

It would be great if our canine friends could let us know why their paws are irritating them. While we may be a few years out from dog-to-human translation technology, fortunately, experts have studied the common reasons for dryness in dog paws. Dog parents can evaluate the cause of their pup’s rough and cracked paw pads based on these common reasons:

  • Summertime heat and wintertime weather – Any kind of extreme weather can have an effect on our dog’s paw pads. Dry, arid weather mixed with summer heat can be tough on a pup’s paws, especially when they walk on hot pavement. On the flip side, cold weather is also rough on a dog’s feet. Ice and snow in winter months as well as salt on the roads and sidewalks can cause irritated and dry dog paws.
  • Rough terrain – Taking your dogs on long walks or runs on rough surfaces such as  hard pavement, gravel, or rocky terrain will take a toll on your pooch’s paw pads.
  • Active lifestyles – It’s great (and necessary!) for pups to get plenty of exercise and daily activity. Of course, the harder our dogs play, the more their paws can take a beating. Dogs who hike, participate in agility sports, or work as service dogs typically need some extra TLC to keep their paws healthy.
  • Allergies and chemical contact – Pups also have allergies just like humans. Pollen on the ground may be an irritant to your dog’s paws. Food allergies might also be a cause for your dog’s skin and paws to become itchy and dry. There are also harmful chemicals all around us that can cause severe damage to your dog’s paws, such as lawn fertilizer we use in the summer or salt that’s put on roadways in icy conditions.
  • Hyperkeratosis – Also known as “hairy paw syndrome,” hyperkeratosis is a condition that causes crusty, horn-like spikes all over your dog’s paw pads. This is caused by an overproduction of keratin in your dog’s body. If the keratin gets too long, it can become very painful for your dog to walk. A dog with hyperkeratosis can’t be treated with home remedies and will need to see a veterinarian.

How to protect your dog’s feet

Avoid extreme weather when possible. On hot summer days, it’s a good idea to walk early in the morning or later in the evening to avoid high heat when the ground is cooler. During winter, take shorter walks and wipe your dog’s paws with water before drying them with a towel. If your dog will tolerate it, put booties on their paws to protect them from extreme temperatures.

At-home grooming like washing your dog’s feet, grooming their nails, and cutting their fur can help protect paws from irritants and prevent bacteria from forming. Dog booties are also a great option — like these anti-slip booties with reflective straps.

These at-home, natural remedies can help cracked dog paws

Prevention is key to protecting your dog’s feet, but sometimes, we don’t know until the problem’s right in front of us. If your dog comes down with dry or cracked paws, you might be tempted to reach for lotions or balms in your medicine cabinet. Resist this temptation! Not all human products can be used safely on animals. You will want to buy pet-safe balms with natural ingredients.

Avoid products with artificial fragrances or chemical ingredients, as they may sting or irritate your dog’s paw pads. Essential oils would also be included in products to avoid, as the fragrance may cause skin irritation. A few key things to look out for in a paw balm:

  1. Shea Butter. Rubbing this into paw pads can soothe, smooth, and hydrate skin. It’s naturally moisturizing, as Shea Butter is a fat made from African shea tree seeds.
  2. Vitamin E. This may already be a part of your dog’s diet, but it’s also available as a cream. This natural nutrient helps heal blisters, cracks, and dry spots on your dog’s feet. If your pet is fond of baths, try adding Vitamin E oil to the tub. Just make sure your dog doesn’t lick it off or drink the water!
  3. Beeswax. Nature’s solution for healing chapped skin, blisters, and dry spots is an eco-friendly option. Beeswax is a common skincare ingredient because it locks in moisture. This natural remedy is antibacterial and anti-inflammatory — and perfectly safe for dogs to eat.
  4. All-natural paw balms. Products like these do a great job at sticking to your dog’s feet while they’re walking around. A daily application of paw balm (also called paw butter) is a great way to prevent cracked paws.
  5. Argan oil.  Using a few drops of argan oil by itself or mixing it with beeswax or a paw balm has anti-inflammatory and hydrating benefits for dogs. However, dog parents should discontinue use if their pet tries to lick it off their paws. Not enough research exists to determine that argan oil is safe for pups to ingest.
  6. CBD oil. There haven’t been any scientific studies on the effectiveness of using CBD oil on a dog’s paws. However, one study found promising results for using CBD as an anti-inflammatory for dogs. Putting a few drops of CBD oil on your dog’s paws isn’t harmful to them, and could help soothe their skin or provide pain relief.

How and when to apply products to your dog’s feet

Applying balms or oils to a dog’s paw pads before bedtime is ideal because your pooch is relaxed and calm. It can also help to put socks or booties on your dog’s feet to prevent them from licking the product off.

You can also apply balm after a long walk to soothe your canine companion’s weary and dry paw pads.

How to identify dry or cracked paws

It might sound simple, but the best way to discover if your dog’s paws are cracked or dry is to touch them. Your pet’s paws should be tough, but not too rough. Paws should not be too soft, either, as they have to work as shoes while walking.

Check for any cracks, cuts, and bleeding daily. Dog owners should inspect their dog’s paws after every outdoor adventure in case glass, sticks, or rocks punctured them. Sometimes dogs will even step on a bee stinger, so check both in a paw and in between their toes.

Watch your dog’s behaviors. If they’re excessively licking or chewing their paws, it can be a sign something’s wrong. If your dog is favoring one paw, not putting weight on a paw, or avoiding walking, it can be a sign of an injury or dry paw.

How to touch your pooch’s paws without causing panic

Some pups loathe having their sensitive paws touched. If your pooch is fighting your touch, try easing them into a regular paw care process. We have a few tips for you:

Keep your canine companion comfortable — Dogs will feel more relaxed in a familiar environment.

Give your dog an at-home spa day with a paw massage — Start gently massaging balm into the paw pads. Massaging paw pads helps to get dogs used to having their paws touched while circulating blood flow.

Pet the top of their paws gently — Get your pup used to your touch when they are laying down or sitting. The fur on top is less sensitive.

Give frequent praise — Rewarding your dog with treats and compliments for good behavior reinforces that paw massages are a good time.

Be patient and let your dog adjust — Some dogs may take weeks to get comfortable having their paws touched, while other dogs may never enjoy the experience.

Rubbing paw balm into their pads a few times a week helps dogs’ paws stay conditioned and healthy and helps prevent cracked dog paws in the first place. It can even create a tighter bond between humans and dogs!

When to consider a trip to the vet

Dog owners should take their canine companion to the vet any time they notice signs of pain or discomfort. Veterinarians can often determine the severity of your dog’s condition and make a diagnosis. Vets will determine if dogs need medical treatment and how to treat your dog’s feet and paw pads.

👉 If your dog’s paws are bleeding, it’s time for a trip to the veterinarian.

Frequently asked questions

How do I treat my dog’s cracked paws?

Depending on the severity of your dog’s paws, you can use a dog balm or wax and then protect their paws with socks or dog booties. For less severe dry, cracked dog paws, simply using the balm or wax often and limiting exposure should help.

Is it normal for dogs’ paws to crack?

Wear and tear on a dog’s paws are normal but persistent cracked dog paws can be concerning. Look for other signs of something being off, like a change in behavior, limping, or excessive licking. If your dog’s paws remain rough after applying balms and waxes, and any other symptoms are present, a vet visit is in order.

Is vaseline poisonous to dogs?

Technically vaseline isn’t toxic for dogs, but it isn’t good for them when they ingest it, and it isn’t the best option. Shea butter, beeswax, and vitamin e are all good choices for this, along with dog balms and waxes. And our veterinarian expert Dr. Irish reminds you, “All pet owners should STOP trying to touch the paws if the dog is not willing to be touched. This is the best way for everyone to avoid injuries.”

What is paw pad hyperkeratosis?

Paw pad hyperkeratosis is a skin condition that causes thickened or extra skin growth on a dog’s paw pads. The skin sometimes cracks, which can lead to secondary infections or ‘hairy feet,’ since the cracked paw pads typically look like hair.

Dogs may develop canine hyperkeratosis because of genetics, age, or health conditions like canine distemper, or pemphigus foliaceus. Some breeds are more prone to hyperkeratosis, like Labradors or English cream golden retrievers.

Dog owners can take one simple step to decrease the severity of canine hyperkeratosis: apply a moisturizing balm or ointment daily. A paw balm, salve, and other at-home remedies for rough dog paws can go a long way towards helping the skin heal.