THE BLOG

The Huge Benefits of Foot Soaks for Dogs

07/06/2012 12:22 pm ET | Updated Sep 05, 2012

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.

Dr. Karen Becker is a proactive and integrative wellness veterinarian. You can visit her site at: MercolaHealthyPets.com.

Her goal is to help you create wellness in order to prevent illness in the lives of your pets. This proactive approach seeks to save you and your pet from unnecessary stress and suffering by identifying and removing health obstacles even before disease occurs. Unfortunately, most veterinarians in the United States are trained to be reactive. They wait for symptoms to occur, and often treat those symptoms without addressing the root cause.

By reading Dr. Becker's information, you'll learn how to make impactful, consistent lifestyle choices to improve your pet's quality of life.

For more by Dr. Karen Becker, click here.

For more on pet health, click here.