In this short video, Dr. Karen Becker explains why you should give your dog regular foot baths and demonstrates several different ways to get the job done.
By Dr. Becker
Today I'm going to demonstrate a foot soak.
Many of you know I often stress the importance of removing pesticides, herbicides, ragweed, grasses, pollens, molds, dust mites and other pollutants from your dog's feet on a regular basis.
This is because dogs are naked. They don't wear clothes, or shoes and socks. They don't shower every day. In other words, their bodies collect a lot of allergens and chemicals in the environment, and it builds up quickly.
Your dog's feet can gather a pretty heavy toxin load in addition to allergens, and this can become extremely irritating to his paws.
Common sense seems to dictate we need to remove all that stuff, yet in veterinary medicine, it's rare to hear anyone recommend it to pet owners. I certainly didn't learn about foot soaks in vet school. But I learned after becoming a vet that 50 percent of foot licking and chewing can be alleviated by mechanically removing allergens and other irritants collected on a dog's paws.
'Mechanically removing' simply means rinsing them off.
It's the 'How' and How Often That's Important
Believe it or not, a washcloth isn't nearly as efficient at cleaning your dog's feet as dunking them is. So when I say foot 'soaks' or 'rinses,' I mean exactly that.
You don't need to do the soak in a big tub like the one I'm about to use. For instance, if your dog is a big guy, you can use a bucket and soak one foot at a time.
If you have a little dog, you can use your kitchen or bathroom sink.
So it doesn't matter where you do it or whether you rinse all four paws at once or one paw at a time. What's important is to soak those paws at the end of any day when your pet has been in contact with allergens, lawn chemicals, or anything in the environment with the potential to irritate her feet.
Keep in mind the only places dogs sweat from are their noses and the pads of their feet. So those damp little pads can collect a really heavy load of irritants.
A soak at the end of the day will reduce the chemical burden on your dog, as well as the potential for irritation.
Doing the Soak
I've put a couple inches of water in my tub here. You need enough water to cover the pads of your dog's feet.
Rosco's a little man, so he only needs a couple inches of water for his soak.
My favorite solution for foot soaks is povidone iodine. (Sidney the umbrella cockatoo, who is here in the room with Rosco and me, apparently has a few comments he'd like to make about povidone iodine as well!) Povidone iodine is an organic iodine solution. It's safe, non-toxic, antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-yeast.
Obviously at an animal hospital we have the stuff in gallon jugs, but you can buy it at any pharmacy in smaller quantities. You want to dilute the povidone iodine with water to the color of iced tea, using just your eyes – no scientific formula is involved! If it comes up too light, just add a bit more of the iodine. If it's a bit dark, add more water.
I'm just swishing this around now in the tub while Rosco stands in it. I recommend you let your dog stand in the solution for from two to five minutes.
You don't have to do anything to the feet or toes -- the solution will do the work for you. So you can just stand and sing to your dog while he soaks, or talk to him and tell him how handsome and well behaved he is.
If your dog is nervous about being in water, you can offer treats. Treats always help pass the time for Rosco. So having some snacks handy is a good idea.
If your dog is truly fearful of water, rather than plunk her in the tub or sink, you can do a little mini-soak like I've also got here. I've put a little povidone iodine in a small blue tub, added water, and created a little mini foot soak. You can just plop each little foot in the mini-soak one at a time, making sure each entire pad surface is covered with the mixture, and it shouldn't be nearly as scary for your dog as being put in the bathtub.
Remember, the key is to get the feet submerged in the solution, which will wash away any type of yeast that might be growing, as well as mild bacterial infections, allergens, and other contaminants.
Pat Dry and Go!
After you've soaked each foot for two to five minutes, there's no need to rinse the solution off your dog's feet. This is another great feature of povidone iodine.
Just lift your dog out of the bath or remove that last foot and pat the paws dry. Done!
If you're short on space or time, you can re-use a container of foot soak for two or three days. Some people leave a pail of the mixture on their deck and make a fresh batch every few days.
Others keep a garden hose handy and fill up a bucket, a small plastic tub or even a coffee can and mix in the iodine solution, dumping after each use.
I wouldn't go more than two or three days using the same foot soak solution.
And keep in mind you don't have to use a lot of water or povidone iodine – just enough to fully cover your dog's foot pads with a solution the color of iced tea. This saves both water and iodine, and if your dog has a water phobia, it will also reduce her anxiety to use only the amount of water necessary to get the job done.