If you follow me on Instagram, you’ll know I love dogs. I am that person who will always ask if I can pet a puppy I see at the park, and I’ve fallen in love with many the puppy in an instant. I also do a bit of dog walking here in Calgary, and if a pooch has longer fur that comes out between the pads of their paws, I’ll usually have to give them a bit of a pedicure when we get home. Ice balls tend to clump up on the fur and accumulate between the pads on their feet, and that can’t be comfortable. Add to that the salt and sand we use for traction, and the general coldness of winter, and being a bare-pawed dog on a winter walk can be uncomfortable. That’s where this Protective Pooch Paw Wax comes in.
My friends Jane and Kevin have a very lovely Golden named Mitzi, and a few weeks ago Kevin tagged me in one of those Facebook DIY videos on how to make a paw wax and asked if I could make some for Mitzi. The idea of the wax was basically a water-repellent layer to protect the paws from the assorted unpleasantness bare paws encounter in the winter. I took a look at the video and I liked the idea, but it was all in tablespoons and other volume measurements, so I thought I’d improve on it by creating a weight-based version using some of my favourite ingredients.
I’ve heard from some dog owners that they use Bag Balm on their pup’s paws—I gave some a poke, and it’s quite tacky and ointmenty, which got me thinking about cera bellina. Cera bellina is a modified beeswax that creates oil gels that are delightfully ointment-y and really different from balms made with regular beeswax. Because this waxy balm is meant to protect paws and help soothe and heal any pre-existing irritation, I also included lanolin (which is amazing at creating a water-repelling barrier), calendula, and olive oil. I intentionally did not include any essential oils as there’s a very good chance this balm will be licked off by pooches, and I’m concerned about the poisoning risk.
Consistency-wise, I aimed for a softish salve/balm rather than a firm one. When I was testing this on Tobyn, my parent’s Bernese Mountain Dog, I really appreciated the softer consistency; it was easier to get a scoop on my fingers and work it into his paws quickly (a bonus if your dog doesn’t love having their feet man-handled). The softer texture also made it easier to get it properly spread around. You could increase the amount of beeswax if you find the final product is too soft for your tastes, but I would recommend making it this wax first, and adjusting later as needed.
Once you’ve got all your ingredients, this comes together pretty darn quickly; there’s a bit of an infusion period for the calendula if you don’t already have some infused oil on hand, but once that’s done you’re just melting everything through and pouring the mixture into a tin to set up. I’d recommend something wide and shallow so you can dip/swipe the dog’s paw across the surface of the tin and then rub that in for speedy application.
Protective Pooch Paw Wax
Prepare a water bath by bringing about 3cm/1″ of water to a bare simmer over low to medium-low heat in a small saucepan.
Once everything has melted through, remove the measuring cup from the heat and stir to combine. Continue stirring occasionally as the mixture cools to ensure an even consistency.
When the paw wax has cooled to a semi-solid, transfer it to a tin. I recommend something relatively wide and shallow for easy application. Rap the tin on the counter to help the paw wax settle down, and leave it to finish cooling. That’s it!
To use, use your fingers to apply it to the pads of your dog’s paws before a walk.
Because this salve is 100% oil based, it does not require a broad-spectrum preservative (broad spectrum preservatives ward off microbial growth, and microbes require water to live—no water, no microbes!). Kept reasonably cool and dry, it should last at least a year before any of the oils go rancid. If you notice it starts to smell like old nuts or crayons, that’s a sign that the oils have begun to oxidize; chuck it out and make a fresh batch if that happens.
If you don’t have cera bellina, you can use an equal amount of beeswax (USA / Canada) instead, but that will obviously result in an end product with a different consistency (it won’t be ointmenty/gel-like). Check out this experiment for more information.
If your calendula infused olive oil has been infusing for ages and is really strong, I’d recommend using half infused olive oil, and half regular olive oil.