Vet Explains How Your Dog's Paws Could Cause Parasites in Your Home
Jun 07, 2023
Most pet parents try to keep their dogs clean, giving them a good bath every now and again, but as much as your dog's face and fur may look, fresh, clean and shiny, there are four little places that are usually dirtier than the rest—and as you've probably guessed, it's their paws!
Dogs, regardless of their breed and size, are on their paws all day, running outside, playing in the garden, digging in the dirt to make holes, and walking in all sorts of muck, and that's why there's always some kind of dirt on their paws. But how much of a risk does this pose?
Newsweek spoke to a veterinarian to examine the risks of not washing your dog's paws regularly, and to ask about the best and easiest way to clean them after coming home from a walk.
Dr. Christian Broadhurst, senior staff veterinarian at Clay Humane in Florida, says cleaning your dog's paws after going for a walk is not only a good way to keep your pet and their environment clean, but that it also helps them protect them from any allergens they may encounter.
He told Newsweek: "As dogs walk through the environment, they often come into contact with plants that they are allergic to, like grasses or weeds. These cause the paws to become irritated, making them lick their paws clean.
"This leaves the paws moist, which can result in further dermatitis, and at the same time, the dog is ingesting the allergens they were reacting to, generating a generalized allergic reaction. Wiping the paws after a walk will minimize this problem."
Because their paws are in direct contact with the ground all day, dogs are often exposed to bacteria and parasites that they can bring home with them, and it's not really ideal, especially if they're allowed on your bed or the couch, or if you hug and play all day!
However, a Dutch study from 2021 found that even though they walk barefoot all day, most dogs' paws are actually way cleaner than their owners' shoe soles! It's also true that you probably take your shoes off when you're at home, while your dog can't, so even though leaving their paws dirty probably won't harm anyone, cleaning them after every walk is good practice to keep your home a safe environment for both of you.
Occasionally, parasite eggs like those from roundworms and hookworms can stick to paws, and when this happens, they can cause nasty infections in both pets and people, so on top of cleaning their paws, you should always make sure to protect your pup with monthly or periodic de-wormers. It is also good practice to have their fecal samples checked for intestinal parasites one to two times a year to make sure they're always healthy.
Besides keeping your pup and your home clean, wiping your dog's paws after a walk, also allows you to inspect them for injury or paw pad burns, which according to Dr. Broadhurst are common in the summertime.
Surprisingly, dogs' paws can be just as sensitive as our feet, and just as likely to get burned by walking on a hot surface. Moreover, their paws are not at risk of burns only on extremely hot summer days, but also on days that humans wouldn't necessarily consider searingly hot.
That's because pavements soak up the heat all day and then retain that heat, so even when outside is 77 F and humidity is low, asphalt and tarmac can reach 125 F, and at this temperature, skin destruction can occur in just one minute.
Dr. Broadhurst suggests wiping your dog's paws with baby wipes, moist paper towels, pet wipes, or damp hand towels, which make the job fast and easy, and are also convenient to carry in a bag if you're traveling. He also warns dog owners against using harsh cleaners or products that aren't approved for skin contact.
If you're just going home, you can also clean them in the tub. You don't need to soak your dog completely, you can just wash their paws in the tub with a detachable showerhead, rinsing them through to make sure you remove all the dirt and potentially harmful substances found outside.
It's very important to make sure you dry the paws thoroughly before letting your dog back outside, to avoid anything getting stuck on them.