When the sun is shining overhead and the temperature is balmy, you may be itching to get out and take your pup for a walk. But while we wear shoes to protect our feet, we must be mindful that our dogs don’t get the same luxury.
In the heat of summer, asphalt and pavement can rise to extreme temperatures and put your dog’s paw pads at risk. It’s very important to be mindful of how warm the ground can be before taking your dog out and take the necessary precautions to prevent burns, as well as be able to identify burns if they do happen accidentally.
Hot pavement and your pup’s paws
We often do not realize how hot asphalt and pavement can get in the summer because we typically wear shoes outside that protect us from extreme temperatures.
Your dog’s paw pads are tough and are able to withstand significant pressure, but they are able to get burned or injured. The heat from the pavement can dry out the paw pad, causing cracking, and even burn the skin of the pad like a traditional burn.
A quick rule of thumb is to check the pavement’s heat with your hand. If it’s too hot to touch, it’s definitely too hot for your dog to walk on safely, and you should find another place to walk or head inside until the pavement cools off.
Identifying and treating paw pad burns
If your dog has experienced a burn on one or more of its paws, it will typically show signs of discomfort while walking. It may even refuse to walk or play because of the pain on its paws.
Other symptoms may include limping, crying or whining while walking and holding up a particular foot. Your dog may also lick its paw repeatedly.
If you notice these signs, inspect the bottom of your dog’s paw. Burns will usually be visible, looking rough or inflamed and potentially even causing the normally black paw pad to look red. The pad may also have blisters, which can rupture after a few days.
Once a paw pad burn has been detected, you’ll want to get it treated to protect your dog’s foot and make it more comfortable. Soak your dog’s paw in slightly cool water to help ease the pain and rinse away any dirt or debris. Minor burns can potentially be treated at home using gauze and antibacterial ointment, but more severe burns should be examined by a veterinarian.
Burns on the feet can easily get infected, so many dogs will need to be monitored and potentially put on antibiotics. Regardless of the severity of the burn, your dog will need to rest and stay off its feet as much as possible—and avoid walking on hot pavement, in particular. The tissue on the affected paw pad will need to heal and/or regrow, which can take a while depending on how severe the burn was.
Fortunately, there are many ways you can help your dog protect its paws and stay comfortable while also enjoying the outdoors this summer.
- Use dog booties: Get your dog booties or socks for its paws that put a layer of protection between its feet and the pavement. It may take some time for your dog to get used to booties, but with patience and practice, it should tolerate them eventually. Booties are not only great for summer, but also in winter and on more rugged terrain.
- Walk when it’s cooler: Try to take walks earlier in the day or later in the evening when the sun hasn’t been shining directly on the ground. You should still test the heat of the pavement before walking, but it is more likely to be cooler at these times than at midday.
- Walk on different terrain: If you do walk when it’s been sunny, take walks in grassy areas like parks instead of on pavement, asphalt or brick. Shaded areas might be a little cooler, as well.
- Keep walks shorter: The sun holds many dangers for your pup, including pavement burns, sunburn and heatstroke. Taking shorter walks, even multiple times a day, can prevent prolonged exposure to these dangers and keep your pup safe.
Remember that heat can affect our dogs differently than it affects us, so just because we aren’t hot or exhausted, it doesn’t mean they aren’t. Be mindful of your dog’s paws and check them after summer walks to prevent and identify painful burns.