I know we’ve all seen Vaseline or Bag Balm recommended in bulldog groups, particularly for use on the nose and paw pads to keep them soft. But is it really safe? Is there any scientific evidence that it is actually moisturizing? Why do we not recommend it for our rescue?
So first of all, why do our bulldogs’ noses and paws get so cracked and crusty? It’s called Nasodigital Hyperkeratosis and can occur on the nose (nasal hyperkeratosis) or the paws (footpad hyperkeratosis). And it’s not just a cosmetic issue. Hyperkeratosis can occur as a symptom of a few underlying issues, such as Pemphigus. But certain dog breeds simply have a genetic predisposition to developing hyperkeratosis. The fibrous protein keratin is the main component of skin, hair, feathers, horns, claws and beaks in most animals. Hyperkeratosis is a skin condition in which keratin is overproduced causing an increase in the thickness of the stratum corneum. The clinical signs involve rough, thickened and dry skin which can crack. It can be incredibly uncomfortable and painful, and also lead to bacterial and/or fungal infections. Nasal hyperkeratosis prevents your dog from fully using their most valuable sense- smell. If your dog’s nose is dry and crusty it no longer functions the same way. Footpad hyperkeratosis causes tenderness and soreness, making walking more difficult or painful.
What IS Vaseline? In the mid-1800s, a substance called “rod wax” would coat and foul oil rigs. In 1859, Robert Cheesburg took this rod wax and through a process of distillation and filtration, created a product and “Vaseline”. According to dermatologist Dr. Alan Dattner, the founder of HolisticDermatology.com, the components of oil removed during the making of petroleum jelly can be cancer causing in some cases. The name brand Vaseline is reported to be highly refined and purified and thus classified as non–carcinogenic. But since there are varying degrees of purity, you don't always know how non-toxic your petroleum jelly-based products really are. A study by a German watchdog group in 2015 found high levels of Mineral Oil Aromatic Hydrocarbons (MOHAs) in cosmetics that contained mineral oil, with Vaseline containing the highest levels of MOHA of all products tested. The European Commission lists MOHAs as potentially genotoxic and carcinogenic.
Most statements regarding safety of Vaseline use for dogs claim that it’s not toxic when used topically. But we all know our dogs lick everything! Ingesting Vaseline could lead to upset tummies and diarrhea… and honestly do you really want your dog consuming petroleum jelly, a derivative of oil refining?! I don’t. But does it really even have any benefits? Petroleum Jelly is water-repellant and not water-soluble, meaning it merely seals the barrier so that moisture does not leave the skin. Petroleum jelly provides an occlusive barrier that will seal in moisture already in the skin, but * adds no moisture * and ** it does not allow moisture or oxygen to be absorbed from the atmosphere, essentially making skin drier over time.** When applied to your dog’s paw pads or nose, it does not allow the skin to breathe. This can actually prevent healing and encourage an environment that encourages the growth of harmful fungi. Not to mention that thick oily texture makes it difficult to cleanse from the skin. It essentially seals in the dirt.
So bottom line - do we recommend Vaseline , Bag Balm, etc?
Listen we have tried tons of products in the past. We don’t even bother with anything else now. Snout Soother is the best. Their ingredients are organic and plant-based. In addition to nourishing your pup’s sensitive sniffer, this balm heals cracked or broken skin, treats skin overgrowth/hyperkeratosis, alleviate pain, and protect their adorable snout.
If your dog has severe Hyperkeratosis, you can apply the balm at least 2-3 times daily at first. Reduce frequency as your dog’s nose improves, using less often to maintain a beautiful, healthy snout. We recommend continuing to use it at least weekly. Just like you continue to moisturize your own hands/lips/etc, you need to continue to moisturize your pup’s snout. If your dog is prone to Hyperkeratosis, the condition will return when you stop using it. It doesn’t mean the product isn’t working.
But my dog rubs it or licks it off? That’s ok. It soaks in quickly. Natural Dog Company recommends applying the balm before bed, as that is ideal due to the peak of healing and regeneration that occurs in dogs while they sleep. However, if your dog isn’t used to having something applied to his nose, we recommend putting it on right before meals so they’re distracted :)
Kukui Nut Oil | Natural sun protectant and moisturizer to help penetrate oil deep into the skin
Grapeseed Oil | Healing polyphenols with super moisturizing properties
According to Natural Dog Company, Despite common misconceptions, dog paws are not meant to be dry and rough. Healthy paws should be hydrated, flexible, and spongy. This allows dogs to get a better grip while walking and running in addition to protecting them against injury.
Paw Soother relieve redness and inflammation; heals cuts, cracks, and wounds; and moisturizes, soothes, and heals your pup's paws to keep them nourished and healthy. Applying before bedtime is ideal, as that is when your dog is at rest and the body goes into regeneration mode