If you're the type of dog parent who is researching dog paw balms, you understand why this article needed to be written. When I've searched this subject, all I can find is a few review sites and not a lot of concrete information about why this product is better than that product, or how different ingredients can impact the end product.
If you're the type of dog parent who wants to know, then you've come to the right place. We will explain the what, why and how so you can be better informed and make a better decision as a consumer.
In the end, your dog doesn't have a choice in the matter - and that's why you're here...to make sure that you're doing your best to make the right decision for your best friend. We respect that and feel the same way about our dogs too. I hope we can offer some good information to help you along the way.
Dog Paw Balm 101 - Musher's Secret and other common paw balms
Where did Dog Paw Balm Originate?
The first dog paw balm made for purchase by consumers was Musher's Secret. This product has been made since the 1990's and imported into the United States from Canada. The manufacturer describes Musher's Secret as follows:
MUSHER’S SECRET is a blend of 100% pure natural waxes (including White and Yellow Beeswax, Carnauba, and Candelilla Wax) and White & vegetable oils with vitamin E.
Musher's Secret was first developed in very cold regions by "Mushers" - which is defined as "the driver of a dog sled" by Oxford. Mushers used a simple mixture of fats and wax to apply to their dog's paws during the winter.
After application of the fat and wax blend to the paws in the cold weather and snow, the mixture hardens forming a simple, yet effective barrier between the paw pads and the cold snowy conditions. This solution enabled the dog team to pull the sled for longer distances while protecting the paws from frostbite and ice build-up.
What is Dog Paw Balm?
To make things simple, let's clear up one thing now. While some people call them dog paw balms, dog paw waxes, paw wax, musher's wax, dog pad creams - the list goes on and on - for the purpose of this article, they're all the same thing - so if we say "paw wax", it's the same as a "paw balm" or "mushers wax".
In the previous section, we described the concept behind a common dog paw balm - like Musher's Secret. Common paw balms take a fat of some kind - usually soybean oil and blend it together with a melted wax. Once the blend cools, the end product is whipped to make sure its easy to spread and the wax hasn't separated from the fats.
Since Musher's Secret is the original commercially available formula, they get the credit for this process. It's been replicated by dozens of other brands to reproduce the Musher's Secret formula. These common balms have a few things in common:
Common Paw Balms Use Liquid Oils
When looking at the ingredients of a common paw balm, like Musher's Secret, you'll notice that they all list several oils. The labels may indicate that the oil is exotic or has special properties, but by in large, the use of a liquid oil is intended to be a filler and a softener. Liquid oils are cheap, they are easy to heat and easy to blend with melted waxes. That's why they are a common ingredient in common dog paw balms.
What's so bad about liquid oils?
Nothing at all - unless your dog comes inside your house. Liquid oils are perfectly fine for use with sled dog teams. They serve the purpose - they make the wax softer and easier to apply.
What happens when your dog has a liquid oil product on his paws and he jumps on your furniture or walks on your carpet? You guessed it...liquid oils stain fabric.
So if you have a team of sled dogs that stay outside - buying a product with liquid oils as a primary ingredient is perfectly fine. If your dog comes inside for most of his or her life, and if you care about your furniture and carpet - probably a good idea to avoid paw balms that contain liquid oils.
Hardwood flooring is another issue with paw balms that contain liquid oils. Expect to see a lot of waxy paw prints if you decide to purchase a common dog paw balm.
Common Paw Balms Use Blended Waxes (Meaning they contain Paraffin Wax)
Paraffin waxes are by-products of petroleum production. Check out how paraffin waxes are made in this quote from ScienceDirect.com:
Paraffin wax is usually obtained by dewaxing refined lubricating oil stocks. Dewaxing processes usually employ a combination of chilling, filtration, and extraction by suitable solvents such as MEK or MIBK. Soft wax is obtained at the preliminary dewaxing stages and, therefore, contains some residual quantities of oil. Hard wax is obtained by de-oiling the soft wax. In order to ensure color stability and absence of odor, the wax is subjected to a sulfuric acid or an active earth treatment.
It is well-documented that paraffin waxes are a source of chemical contamination, CNN reports:
Researchers at South Carolina State University studied petroleum-based ... candles to determine their emissions. They let candles from different manufacturers burn for up to six hours in a small box (8 inches x 8 inches x 26 inches), and then collected and analyzed substances released into the air.
Since paraffin wax is an industrial waste product, it is cheap. Since it comes from a manufacturing process (and not from nature), it is consistent. Cheapness and consistency are two characteristics that are highly sought after by manufacturers. They both greatly enhance a product's profitability.
That's why common dog paw balms use "wax blends" - instead of 100% natural beeswax.
Photo of a Paraffin Wax Recovery Factory in China
Beeswax is a fully natural product made by honeybees in their hives. It is hypoallergenic, renewable and contains no toxic chemicals. The expense of 100% pure beeswax makes it less than ideal for mass manufacturers of paw balm products.
To summarize, paraffin wax is an industrial waste product that has been proven to contain contaminants from the industrial processes used to make it. Manufacturers of common paw balms use paraffin wax blended with a small amount of either soy or beeswax to reduce their material costs.
To avoid exposing your dog to industrial waste products and toxic chemicals, use a dog paw balm that contains 100% natural beeswax.
Photo of a Beeswax Factory ;)
Common Paw Balms Are Soft
As a result of using inferior ingredients like liquid oils and paraffin waxes, manufacturers of common paw waxes are able to create a smooth consistency in their product. These paw balms are the consistency of peanut butter and are easy to spread on your dog's paws.
While "easy to spread" and "soft" make things a little easier for you, how does this affect the product and its ability to do its job?
In a word, adversely.
The last thing you want is a soft dog paw balm. In order to truly do its job and provide the best value for your money, you need a dog paw balm that has some structure and "backbone".
Photo of a Low Quality Common Paw Balm
What is Dog Paw Balm Used For?
A well-formulated dog paw balm can be life-changing for your dog. It's really that simple. The benefits of using a high quality, naturally formulated paw balm are many.
Dog Paw Balms Protect the Paws
Depending on the formula - the type of fats used, the type and concentration of wax used and the other ingredients that may (or may not) be present - a high quality dog paw balm will provide a layer of protection for your dog's paws. The type of protection provided depends on the weather conditions and temperature.
Cold Weather & Wintry Conditions
As you can imagine from the opening of this article, paw balms were first invented to help sled dogs manage through winter weather. A good quality paw balm will solidify around your dog's paws when exposed to cold temperatures. This layer of wax encapsulates the paws like a form-fitting boot.
Since the balm will contain both wax and fat, it will help repel water from the paws - keeping them dry. Additionally, since it encapsulates the paws, it helps your dog retain his or her body heat...acting like a layer of insulation. This helps reduce the chances of frostbite.
Finally, a dog paw balm will provide a layer of protection between your dog's paws and dangerous toxic substances found in ice melt and road salt.
Hot Weather & Summer Conditions
Common dog paw balms are not equipped to handle summer weather conditions. Since they are formulated for winter, these products melt immediately when faced with summer heat. They can be particularly dangerous when they are relied upon to provide protection on black pavement.
If you are purchasing a dog paw balm, make sure you buy a properly formulated balm that can provide some protection for your dog in summer weather conditions, in addition to winter weather conditions. The options in this area are very limited, but we know that Baely's Paw Shield provides excellent hot weather protection and far superior cold weather protection.
The importance of using pure, natural beeswax is particularly important in the summer months. Since beeswax has a melting point of around 145 degrees F versus paraffin wax, which often has a melting point of 120 degrees F, top quality dog paw balms (like Baely's Paw Shield) provide much better protection for your dog's paws in hot weather.
The type of fat used in your dog paw balm also has an impact during the summer months. By using a liquid fat or oil, common dog paw balms simply melt away and disappear during the summer. Baely's Paw Shield uses only solid, natural plant butters with high melting points to provide added protection for your dog during the summer weather.
Dog Paw Balms Condition and Hydrate the Paws
A well-formulated premium quality dog paw balm will create a healing environment when applied to your dog's paws that will hydrate, moisturize and improve paw skin elasticity. Since your dog spends every hour of his or her life barefoot, their paws go through a lot of damage.
Imagine walking across your concrete patio on a hot summer day barefoot, or running alongside someone on pavement for a couple of miles...your feet would get raw and painful at first, but then your skin would become tougher and callused over time to prevent re-injury. While your dog's paw skin structure isn't exactly as sensitive as your feet - basic principles still apply.
If your dog has dry, cracking or rough paws, a high quality dog paw balm is the answer. The wax helps to hold the fats in direct contact with the skin which allows your dog's paws to absorb much needed nutrients.
Why is Paw Hydration Important?
According to Pets.WebMD, it is one of their Top Ten Dog Paw Care Tips to prevent injury. Hydration is also especially important when it comes to preventing your dog from slipping and sliding around on your hardwood or tile flooring. We covered this in The Ultimate Guide to Caring for Your Dog's Paws, but here's an excerpt from the article:
Think of a basketball that is hard and full of air sitting on your hardwood floor. Very little of the basketball is actually in direct contact with the floor, right?
Now image pressing down with all of your weight on the same hard ball; because the ball is so hard and full of air – very little of the ball will spread out to increase the ball’s “footprint” where it is in contact with the floor. The basketball represents your dog’s paw callus. It keeps the skin from spreading out and gripping the floor.
Now imagine the same ball, but we let some air out. The ball isn’t as rigid. Now if we apply weight, more of the ball spreads out to increase the contact area, or “footprint”. This represents a well-hydrated paw pad. It is soft and supple to allow the paw to spread out and grip the floor.
So if you have noticed that your dog tends to slip on hard surfaces, it's time to start hydrating those paws. If you dog hasn't started sliding, it's still a good idea to start applying a high quality dog paw balm with hydration-enriched ingredients a couple of times a week so that the problem doesn't develop. This will really help later in your dog's senior years and could help prevent some very expensive vet bills.
How to Apply Dog Paw Balm
The amount of paw balm to be applied really depends on what you want your dog paw balm to do. Some situations will require a heavier coating of paw wax than others. This video submission from a Baely's Paw Shield user is a great application demonstration.
Moisturizing & Hydrating Your Dog's Paws
To moisturize and hydrate the paws, a regularly applied thin coating of a premium quality dog paw balm, like Baely's Paw Shield or Baely's Paw Shield Rescue Stick, will work wonders. The quantity of the application is not as important as the regularity. In order to restore your dog's rough, dry, cracked or callused paws, regular application is required.
In the beginning, apply Baely's Paw Shield every night as your dog winds down for bed. This will ensure that the product has the maximum affect by prolonging its contact time with the skin. Once you see an improvement in your dog's paws, you can adjust the application frequency to a couple of times per week to maintain the paws.
Winter Paw Protection
During the winter, your dog's paws experience some of their toughest challenges - including the potential for frostbite and dangerous toxins in road salt. We have written about these dangers in previous articles. This detailed information can be found by following these links:
In order to provide the most protection from these hazards during the winter months, you will need to apply a generous layer of balm to fully encapsulate your dog's paws. Make sure to apply Baely's Paw Shield on the paw pads, between the toes and even some on the fur of your dog's feet.
Since the ingredients of Baely's Paw Shield are hydrophobic (they don't like water), applying the product on the fur will keep them from getting wet and creating ice crystals which can accumulate into "snow paws" - which can quickly lead to canine frostbite.
In cold, snowy conditions a thick application of Baely's Paw Shield can last for several days. Since the product retains its hardness in the cold, only friction wears it away. Sled dog team owners have experienced 48-72 hours of mushing on a single thick application. That's the difference in using the best quality ingredients - the application retains its hardness and protection longer.
Summer Paw Protection
Depending on where you live, summer can be extremely dangerous for your dog's paws due to black pavement and its ability to attract and retain heat. We covered this in The Ultimate Guide to Caring for Your Dog's Paws:
When it comes to summer time paw care, it is very important that we make one thing clear. Black pavement can be dangerous for any exposed skin.
The color black absorbs heat. Pavement has a very high mass to volume ratio and retains heat very well. The combination of these two factors during the most intense part of the day in the summer can be painfully dangerous for any creature with exposed skin – including you and your dog.
At 5pm on a sunny 90 degree (F) day, the temperature of black pavement exceeds 145 degrees (F). Direct contact will cause burns. Unless your dog is one of the very few that will wear rubber-soled boots, do not walk or run with your dog on black pavement during the hottest part of a summer day.
We can't over-emphasize the importance of avoiding black pavement in the summer heat. Please do not expose your dog to black pavement when the temperature has exceeded 90 degrees (F) for more than a couple of hours. Even after sunset, black pavement will retain its heat for quite some time and remains a danger until well after 10pm.
Application of a high quality dog paw balm, like Baely's Paw Shield, can offer some degree of protection during the summer in the case of incidental contact with black pavement. It will provide a barrier between the paws and the surface - until the product wears away due to friction.
Photo of a Dog With Severely Burned Paws
What is the Best Dog Paw Balm?
Now that we've explained all of the important factors that make a high quality dog paw balm, let's examine why Baely's Paw Shield is so highly rated by customers and what makes this product so different from common paw waxes on the market today.
Baely's Paw Shield is Made in America by Us
There's a dirty little secret in the pet care business that no one wants to talk about. It's called "White Labeling". White Labeling is where a manufacturer offers a product for sale and lets anyone who wants put their name on the can.
You can buy the exact same formula, but under different names from different companies sometimes even at different prices...but in the end, it's exactly the same stuff in the can. That's why common paw balms look the same, feel the same, smell the same and act the same...they are all the same stuff from the same manufacturer.
That's where Baely's Paw Shield is different. We actually make our own product. We developed the formula a couple of summers ago after our rescue dog, Baely came inside after playing fetch all day. Her paws were scraped, raw and bloody. That's when we noticed that every single paw balm out there was exactly the same. So we made our own.
Baely's Paw Shield Uses Ingredients from Suppliers in the USA
A huge benefit of making our own product means that we buy our own ingredients. We know exactly what's going into our product. We purchase our ingredients from suppliers located inside the USA. All of these suppliers are FDA Registered companies.
Is it more expensive? Yes. It absolutely costs more money to buy our ingredients in the United States. That's why we sell our product in a 4 ounce container - because our ingredients are so much more expensive than the common paw balms - we can't sell a 2 ounce container (like most others) for the same price as they do, but we can sell 4 ounces for the same price per ounce as theirs.
You get a much better quality product that is guaranteed to be safe for your dog at the same price per ounce. Additionally, since our product is made from the highest quality ingredients - you will use much less and it will last a lot longer.
Baely's Paw Shield is Completely Safe to Lick
Since we buy our ingredients domestically from FDA Registered Suppliers, we insist on purchasing Food Grade ingredients - to be technical about it, we purchase ingredients that are guaranteed to be safe for Human Consumption. This is a higher standard of quality and safety than safe for animal consumption.
Why do we go through this expense for something that will just be on a dog's paws? Simple...your dog will almost definitely lick his paws at some point. We want to be assured that our paw balm is 100% safe to lick.
Baely's Paw Shield is Thick
If you compare Baely's Paw Shield to Mushers Secret or any of the other common paw wax products on the market, you will immediately notice that our product is thicker. Why? Because we designed it to be thicker.
We are in Atlanta, Georgia. It gets hot in the summer. We needed a dog paw balm that could with stand the Georgia heat. Every other product we tried just didn't have enough "backbone" for our needs.
Since our product has a different formulation, it simply protects better. We use only 100% Natural Beeswax - no paraffin waxes. This makes Baely's Paw Shield have a higher melting point than products that contain paraffin wax. That means it can withstand higher temperatures without melting.
In addition to the 100% Natural Beeswax, we only use Natural Plant Butters (like Shea Butter and Kokum Butter) that are solid at room temperature. We don't use vegetable oils in our formula. This adds to the "backbone" of Baely's Paw Shield as well.
Since we made our product to be the best in summer conditions, it truly outperforms in the winter as well. Our use of 100% Natural Beeswax and Natural Solid Plant Butters makes Baely's Paw Shield more durable and better protecting during the harsh winter weather than common paw balms.
The thickness of Baely's Paw Shield has another positive effect. It lasts longer. While common paw balms need to be replaced monthly, or even more frequently, Baely's Paw Shield will last most dog parents for as long as 6 months. Our product is the best value for your money.
Baely's Paw Shield has Hundreds of Verified Customer Reviews
Since we make Baely's Paw Shield, of course we think it's the best product on the market. So don't take our word for it. Read the reviews from our Verified Customers at TrustSpot and Amazon. We have links that you can follow to research our reviews before you make your final purchase decision.
Baely's is a participant in the Amazon Services, LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.