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Can I put human lotion on a dog? (Paws, skin)

If your pooch has dry paws or skin, it’s tempting to just reach for your favorite lotion. It’s safe for you, so it should be ok for your dog as well, right? Before you put human lotion on your dog, it’s important to know the risks of doing so. 

Can I put human lotion on a dog’s paws?

Just like us, dogs can get dry feet. You know how uncomfortable you feel when your feet are dry. You certainly don’t want your favorite pooch feeling that way. However, human lotion is made for humans, and it’s not really safe for dogs. 

Toxic Ingredients 

Lotions designed for humans can be toxic for dogs. They are considered safe to put on the skin, although there’s some serious debate over this in the human world. However, they are not safe to ingest. 

When you put lotion on your dog’s paws, you can expect them to lick their paws. This means they will ingest some of whatever you put on them. Ingesting small amounts of lotion might not harm them, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

The potentially toxic ingredients in lotion include:

  • Dimethicone
  • Mineral oil
  • Paraffins
  • Petroleum

In most cases, these ingredients aren’t truly toxic. They can cause stomach upset, however. Some, like paraffin, can build up in your dog’s system, because they don’t break down easily. This means if you frequently apply lotion to your dog, it can build up and become toxic. 

What Happens if a Dog Eats Lotion? 

If your dog eats or licks lotion from their paws, you can expect them to have an upset tummy. Vomiting, diarrhea, and loss of appetite are common. If you notice other symptoms, including fever, lethargy, or bloody stool, contact your vet. The situation may be more serious than simple stomach upset. 

Over Softening

The other concern with putting human lotion on your dog’s paws is that it can soften them too much. I once had a job that required me to work with my hands. I quickly learned that regular hand lotion wasn’t a great idea. 

My hands needed a bit of toughness. The lotion made them too soft. They were more prone to cuts and callouses. When I began using a cream designed for hard working hands, the problem was solved. 

The same is true for your dog’s paws. They need to be moisturized, but they also need to maintain some toughness to protect them from injury. After all, your dog walks on everything from sidewalks to gravel. Their feet must be able to stand up to the friction and pressure of different surfaces. 

Can I put human lotion on a dog’s skin?

It’s tempting to slather your dog down with your favorite body butter, especially if they have dry or itchy skin. However, there are a few reasons why this isn’t  good idea. 

PH Balance 

Your dog’s skin has a ph barrier that protects it from harmful bacteria and contaminants. Your skin, and your dog’s, has its own microbiome. Good bacteria exist on the skin. They help protect the skin and the rest of the body, and keep skin in good condition. 

Ph balance refers to the ph balance of the skin. Without the proper balance, these good bacteria wouldn’t exist. They need an optimal environment to thrive. 

Skin care products, along with shampoos and even cosmetics, are formulated with the human ph in mind. This prevents the products from changing the ph of your skin, and inadvertently killing the good bacteria. 

The problem is that a dog’s ph is different from ours. Human ph is about 5.5, although it can range from 4 to 7.  A dog’s ph is about 7.5. A ph less than 7 is acidic, while a ph over 7 is alkaline. 7 is neutral, and is the ph of water. 

This difference means that products formulated for our ph can disrupt our dog’s ph levels. This can leave their skin vulnerable to bacteria, which can worsen any existing skin conditions. 

Stomach Upset and Toxicity 

Lotion isn’t likely to be seriously toxic, but it can certainly cause major tummy troubles for your pooch if they ingest it. Dogs tend to lick anything that goes onto their skin. This is why flea treatments are applied between the shoulder blades. It’s one of the few places they can’t reach. 

Because your dog will undoubtedly lick whatever cream you apply, you should be sure it’s safe for them to ingest. Human lotion isn’t good for their system, and it can make them ill. 

What lotion can I put on a dog’s paws?

If you can’t use human lotion on your dog, what do you put on their paws? There are a few natural and easily accessible options that are great for you and your pooch. 

When to Moisturize Your Dog’s Paws

You should moisturize your dog’s paws if they feel rough, cracked, or dry. You don’t want to moisturize paw pads that are already soft, because this can make them too soft. 

If your dog has a wound or cut on their paw pad, use a cream for wounds, instead of a moisturizer. 

Paw Wax 

Paw wax is often used in cold weather, particularly snow. However, it can also be useful during the summer months, or anytime you want to protect your pooch’s paws. 

Paw wax contains a wax, like beeswax, along with other moisturizing ingredients. This creates a breathable barrier between your dog’s paws and the environment. It also helps to moisturize their paws, without over softening. 

Musher’s Secret is the best known paw wax, but there are many brands available today. They are non-toxic, so it’s perfectly fine for your pooch to sneak a lick or two. 


You’ve probably got a tub of Vaseline lurking around your house somewhere. It can seem like a great way to moisturize your pooch’s paws. Similar to paw wax, it creates a barrier which seals in moisture and provides some protection from the elements. 

However, it’s a petroleum-based product, which means it’s not great for your dog to ingest. It can also contain carcinogenic compounds if it’s not properly refined. The Vaseline brand claims to have a strict refining process that removes these impurities, but other brands may not be so rigorous. 

Just like lotion, the best reason to avoid Vaseline is because there are better options. 

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil can be used for a wide variety of things. Treating diaper rash, moisturizing dry skin, and cooking are just a few ways you can use coconut oil. Coconut oil makes a great moisturizer, and it has antibacterial and antifungal properties. 

Another great thing about coconut oil is that it’s healthy for your dog in small amounts. Many owners supplement their dog’s diet with a few spoons of coconut oil, and find that it contributes to a healthier skin and coat. 

This means you don’t have to worry about your dog licking it off their paws. It’s not only safe, but good for them. 

Shea Butter

Shea butter is another edible option. In some countries, it’s widely used as a cooking oil. Experts don’t recommend allowing your pooch to chow down on it, but small amounts will not cause them any harm. 

Shea butter is an excellent moisturizer, particularly for rough or cracked areas. It’s high in Vitamin E and fatty acids. This helps to strengthen the skin’s natural protection. 


Beeswax is one of the main ingredients in paw wax for good reason. It’s a natural exfoliator, so it removes dry dead skin cells. It draws in moisture while helping your pooch’s paws to retain the existing moisture. It also provides a protective barrier, which can be beneficial when exposed to the elements. 

How to moisturize a dog’s skin?

If your dog has dry skin, there are some simple home remedies that can provide them with relief. 

Dog Safe Moisturizers 

Today, there are a dizzying array of moisturizers that are designed especially for dogs. If you want a simple solution, choosing one of these options is your best bet. 

Pantry Moisturizers 

There are a surprising amount of moisturizers that you can find in your kitchen. These include coconut oil, olive oil, and oatmeal.

To use coconut or olive oil, rub a small amount onto your hands and smooth it over your dog’s skin and coat. A little goes a long way. 

To moisturize their skin with oatmeal, you can give them an oatmeal bath. Oatmeal baby cereal works great for this, because the flakes dissolve in the water. Just add 1/2 cup to your dog’s bath, and pour the water over them. 

You can also use regular oats. Just boil them in a pot for 10 minutes. Allow them to cool. Then apply the water to your dog’s skin with a sponge or wash cloth. 

Omega 3s 

Omega 3s can moisturize your pooch’s skin from the inside out. They contain fatty acids, which help keep your dog’s skin and coat healthy. They are also anti-inflammatory, which makes them helpful for treating arthritis as well. 

The most common omega 3 supplement is fish oil. You can also feed your pooch omega 3s by adding sardines, tuna, and flaxseed. 

Bath Time

Giving your pooch a bath too often, or not often enough, can cause skin problems. How often you should bathe your dog depends on their coat and their lifestyle. However, you shouldn’t bathe them more than once every 1 to 2 weeks. You should bathe them at cleat once every 3 months. 

Bathing them with a dog shampoo is also important. Human shampoos are too harsh, and can upset your dog’s ph, leading to more skin problems. Dog shampoos with oatmeal or aloe can help them retain moisture after their bath.