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Home > Dogs > How to Clean Dog Paws: 8 Vet-Reviewed Steps (With Infographic)

How to Clean Dog Paws: 8 Vet-Reviewed Steps (With Infographic)

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Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Lorna Whittemore

Veterinarian, MRCVS

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Part of taking care of a dog means going for regular walks. Going for regular walks means coming home with a dog that likely has mucky feet, which means they need regular cleaning.

In some cases, cleaning your dog’s paws is essential for your dog’s health—not only to remove potential hazards like salt or foreign bodies but also to check for any issues with their pads.

Here, we cover the best ways to clean your dog’s paws and why you need to clean them to begin with.

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Why Is Cleaning a Dog’s Paws Important?

The pads on a dog’s paws are vital parts of your dog’s anatomy. These thick, cushion-like pads provide support and act like shock absorbers that help protect the joints and bones.

They enable your dog to walk on all kinds of terrain and help protect their feet from extreme weather, such as hot pavement and icy snow. They also provide a certain amount of traction.

Without functional paws, a dog wouldn’t be able to walk properly and would have to endure a great deal of pain. Keeping your dog’s paws clean gives you the opportunity to closely inspect them, remove anything that could injure the feet, and deal with any issues before they become more serious problems.

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Top 8 Ways to Clean Dog Paws

1. Use Paw Wipes

For minor messy paws, you can try out wipes specifically designed for a dog’s paws. These particularly come in handy when you’re on the go since you can just slip them into your bag.

Avoid using wipes made for people because these typically contain ingredients that aren’t good for dogs. Dogs love a good foot gnaw every now and then, and you don’t want your pup to ingest such ingredients.

Another option is to simply use a washcloth or paper towel soaked in warm water. You can add a little dog-friendly shampoo to the washcloth if your dog’s feet are too dirty for just water.

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2. Do a Full-On Bath

poodle dog bathing
Image By: David Herraez Calzada, Shutterstock

Sometimes nothing but a bath will do. If your dog has seriously muddy paws, you might have to put them in the bathtub or sink and give their feet a good cleaning. If their paws have dirt embedded between the toes or they stepped in something sticky, they will typically need a good and thorough washing.

With small dogs, you can leave a bowl of water next to the door before your walk if it’s particularly mucky out. Using dog shampoo and a sprayer can prove quite helpful, particularly for large dogs. There are also small portable paw cleaners that you can try out.

Once the paws are clean, be sure to towel them dry thoroughly before going outside again.

3. Don’t Forget the Toes

When cleaning your dog’s paws, be sure to gently clean between the toes and the nails. Dirt, debris, and salt can become lodged in these spaces, so it’s good to focus on such areas rather than doing a quick, cursory clean.

When cleaning the paws, gently part the toes to clean in between, and check for any debris.

4. Towel Those Paws Dry

Jack Russell terrier puppy with towel on its head
Image By: Reddogs, Shutterstock

Drying the paws after cleaning them is important. If your pup’s feet are wet after a walk but aren’t particularly dirty, you can focus on just toweling them dry.

If their feet are soaking wet, though, you can start by gently squeezing the excess water from their paws and then focus on using a clean towel to take care of the rest. You can use a regular towel or invest in a microfiber grooming towel.

5. Consider Booties

One way to keep your dog’s feet clean and safe is to put those feet into adorable dog booties. These will keep your dog’s feet warm and help keep salt, ice, and snow from hurting your dog’s pads.

It might take time for your dog to get used to them, so just treat the booties like any training session. Patience, encouragement, positive reinforcement, and treats can all help your dog become accustomed to them.

Be sure to take the booties off as soon as you get home. You might still need to towel dry their paws if the snow or rain puddles were particularly deep.

6. Have the Foot Hair Trimmed

dog grooming
Image By: Olena Yakobchuk, Shutterstock

This is more important for longhaired breeds, but it can help keep your dog’s feet clear of debris if the hair is shorter around their pads. This is usually best done by a professional groomer because the areas around the pads can be quite delicate, and it can be easy to accidentally cut the foot.

You should be able to cut the hair along the legs and around the sides of the feet but around the pads should be for professionals only. Keep in mind that hair should not be closely shaved around the pads, as it can also provide protection from debris and salt.

7. Check for Wounds and Foreign Objects

While bathing your dog or just after a walk, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of checking your dog’s paws for any wounds or debris that should be removed. Look for splinters, broken glass, and pebbles, and carefully remove these items with tweezers.

If you find any minor cuts or abrasions, you can treat these at home but please take your dog to the vet if it looks serious. Cracks or cuts in the pads need to be cleaned, or they could become infected.

Start by gently cleaning the paw and carefully drying it thoroughly. Follow this with an antiseptic or antibacterial spray, and wrap the paw with a light bandage. You shouldn’t bandage a wet or damp foot.

8. Moisturize Them

applying balm on dog paw
Image By: Miriam Doerr Martin Frommherz, Shutterstock

While this isn’t precisely cleaning, it’s an important part of ensuring your dog’s paw health. You’ll want to use moisturizers that are meant for a dog’s foot pads. Just massage it into your dog’s feet. You might find this to be a lovely bonding experience.

No matter how organic and natural your own personal moisturizer might be, it’s not a good idea to use it on your dog. That kind of cream might soften your dog’s pads too much, which could lead to an injury.



Taking care of your dog’s paws is just one part of looking after a dog. But it’s an essential one. You can potentially clean your pup’s feet every day, particularly if you live in a climate that’s on the damp side.

Remember that cleaning the paws also means checking the paws for any potential problems. If your dog has healthy and clean paws, this will make both of your lives easier.

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Featured Image Credit: ADVTP, Shutterstock

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