The Many Benefits of Foot Soaks for Dogs

Did you know about 50 percent of foot licking and chewing can be alleviated by mechanically removing (rinsing off) allergens and other irritants collected on your dog’s paws?

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.

Dogs are naked. They don’t wear clothes, or shoes and socks. They don’t shower every day. Their bodies collect allergens and chemicals in the environment, and it builds up quickly.

Did you know about 50 percent of foot licking and chewing can be alleviated by mechanically removing (rinsing off) allergens and other irritants collected on your dog’s paws?

It’s the ‘How’ and ‘How Often’ That’s Important

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. 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.

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.

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

You only need enough water to cover the pads of your dog’s feet.

My favorite solution for foot soaks is povidone iodine. Povidone iodine is an organic iodine solution. It’s safe, non-toxic, antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-yeast. You can buy it at any pharmacy.

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 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, 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. Put a little povidone iodine in a small container, add water and create 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 or porch 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.

35 thoughts on “The Many Benefits of Foot Soaks for Dogs

  1. The other nice thing about povidone iodine is that it actually is completely over-the-counter – not “behind the counter.” In many states these days, buying actual iodine is regulated, not by the requirement of needing a prescription but many states’ drug enforcement regulations now require that someone buying “regular” iodine provide complete ID and they are entered in that state’s “drug registry.” This is part of drug enforcement actions by many states because “regular” iodine is used in meth manufacture.

    Dr. Becker, how would you counteract the drying effect on skin of daily soaks? When I have used povidone iodine in assorted types of caring for my horses I have noticed a pronounced skin drying problem, to the point where I protect my hands with non-latex exam gloves.

    1. The drying effect I was asking about was for my dog’s paws – I already use exam gloves for skin protection for myself. I just wonder about even diluted Povidone Iodine drying out dog pads and toes and itself causing itching because of dryness.

  2. i do this every day,sometimes more depending on the weather and where the boys have been,not with iodine but each dog gets a good soak,they walk around in the tub some times playing with each other,while i gather towels for them to walk on,then when they are all zoomed out we sit on the couch and rub paws with a small amount of waxy lip balm.

  3. Thanks very much for this informative article. I only heard recently about how allergens etc. can be the cause of much paw licking. I shall be buying some povidone iodine as I also heard recently how it’s useful for other stuff, too 🙂

  4. Thank you so much for this information!!! We have a little guy and the vet tells us its food allergies but we switched his food and everything and he still has itchy paws. I will give this a try!!!

  5. THis is great! So timely. My dog is just finishing up treatment for most likely grass allergies (ear infection, itchy feet) and I was trying to figure out how we were going to deal with it after the inital treatment was over.

  6. “My favorite solution for foot soaks is povidone iodine. Povidone iodine is an organic iodine solution. It’s safe, non-toxic, antifungal, antibacterial, and anti-yeast. You can buy it at any pharmacy.”

    Thank you. I had seen this advised on a Karen Becker video but couldn’t understand what kind of iodine she was talking about. You’ve answered this for me.

  7. What really helps is giving your dog different food- based on potatoes en a different kind of meat like deer or pig meat! Almost 80% of This kind of suffering is due to big food allergy ( grains ) i,am feeding my dog Luposan – and – or – Fish 4 Dogs! This helps!!

  8. Thank you for this posting! I recently took my Westie to the vet and he’s been a serial paw licker since he was a puppy. We’ve been told to give him benadryl and we use the Malaseb spray, but he hates it. We always wipe down his paws after he’s been outside but that seems like it’s never enough. Now we’ve been told to put him on a super strict diet and he’s on protest with his food. If this foot soak is the remedy we will be forever grateful!!!!

    1. We had tried ALL that with our male westie too. We also had done steriods, food elimination diet, you name it. Turns out it was psychological licking (which my husband and I suspected but the vet was skeptical). A few days on “puppy prozac” and the licking all but stopped! I am sure it is a rare case, but our little guy is SO much happier now. And so is his baby sister (also Westie) who has a much livelier playmate!

  9. Beings its been so hot,We haven’t been out as much @our Shp.mix hasn’t had any Hot Spots so far this summer. Have been feeding ground organic flax seed in with kibble each day for past [email protected] Mounds Senior kibble also. Grind our F.Seeds in Coffee grinder AND Our Arab/Paint(5)gets a few scoops(1/4 to1/2 everyday also in Her Grain. Prince had terrible Hot Spots other [email protected] used [email protected] 100% for relief. Hopefully this will all help U-Good Luck. Morgie chews on Her toenails sometime, then I direct Her to do something else! Good Luck!

  10. My yellow lab reacted to the cedar bark mulch that is on some of our local parks. After each walk, I would rinse her feel with fresh water. No more paw licking and sores between her toes.

  11. Could Dr Becker also do an in-depth article about household and lawn chemicals and their short and long term effects on dogs and maybe get someone to contribute information about the “green” alternatives for a “green” lawn. Sadly there are people who are still clueless about this terrible toxic problem but even my landlord who has a toddler and a small schnauzer is pretty much every weekend just going at it with everything chemical on the market.

    I too like flax seed and feed freshly ground organic flax not only to my JRT but also to my own very elderly two Arabian horses one of whom has both types of metabolic disease. My JRT’s coat is actually silky and very soft to the touch from this.

  12. I volunteer with a Great Dane Rescue and tried the iodine soak on my current foster who’s paws were getting raw from pollen allergies aggravated by licking. I’m amazed how quickly they started to improve.

  13. I have a white bulldog & would love to try the iodine/water solution but I am afraid it will stain her paws yellow?? Haven’t seen a comment about this concern?

    1. Iodine will not stain your white bulldog. I too have bulldogs, & their feet are white… staining.

      1. My little Westie was scratching her hind leg to the skin. Crusty spots on her back too. Betadine bath and a 25mg. Benadryl and she is sleeping well. Crusts gone with a still white coat….no residual staining.

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