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It’s hot out there! Did you know that even with a thick coat of fur, your dog can get burned? We’re not talking about sunburns—though some dogs do need doggy sunscreen. Instead, we’re talking about a lesser-known, scary condition called pad burn. You’ll want to understand how to spot the symptoms, plus easy techniques for avoiding the problem in the first place.
Pad burn in dogs
Your dog’s paw pads are tough, made of specialized skin to absorb pressure and protect your dog’s feet and tendons. Nonetheless, they’re not shoes, and they’re susceptible to injury and overuse. Hot surfaces can damage them, especially over a prolonged period of time.
Pad burns occur on dogs’ paws after they walk on hot pavement or asphalt. Often extremely painful for your dog, they may require immediate medical attention.
Dr. Gary Richter, DVM, of Rover’s Dog People Panel, explains that some dogs aren’t as vulnerable as others to this condition. He notes that dogs who spend a lot of time outside already “tend to have tougher/thicker pads and be more able to deal with some heat. Also, some dogs have fur that grows between their pads [for[ a little extra protection.”
Still, he explains, any dog can be affected, especially as temperatures rise quickly at this time of year. “Dogs want to please us and will frequently do things that can ultimately hurt them (like burned pads). Also, dogs having fun may not realize they are are burning their pads until it is too late. Burns can happen very quickly.”
Our dogs are so eager to be with us, they’re willing to overlook discomfort to do so. Good thing we’re around to help.
Symptoms of pad burns
If you notice these symptoms, consult your vet. Be sure to get off the hot surface as soon as possible.
- Refusing to walk or limping
- Darker than usual or discolored pads
- Excessive licking or biting of feet
- Visible blisters or extreme redness
- Missing parts of the pads
If you’re still outside, keep your dog in a cool grassy area to minimize the pain. Carry your dog over any remaining hot surfaces if necessary.
Treat mild paw pad burns at home by flushing your dog’s feet with cool water for 10-15 minutes. Try covering them with a sock to prevent licking or chewing. As the day progresses, keep a firm eye on the conditions of their pads, as they can easily become infected.
Preventing pad burn
To prevent pad burns, follow these tips.
- Walk your dog on dirt or grass paths
- Walk your dog in the early morning or evening before temperatures climb
- Avoid black asphalt, which can burn the pads instantly
- Try shoes or booties for your dog (see more below)
Dr. Richter says that it’s hard to give a precise temperature at which you should be concerned because it depends on the surface the dog is walking on. Instead of checking the thermometer, check the surface with your bare hand.
“If it’s too hot for a human hand,” Dr. Richter says, “it’s probably too hot to walk the dog.”
Tip: A good test—walk barefoot on the surface yourself! If it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your dog.
Your dog may show you that his feet hurt, too. Look for behaviors like veering off to the grass or pulling back on the leash to stop moving.
Dog booties or shoes
In addition to avoiding trouble spots, you can also use puppy boots to keep your dog’s feet protected. This article has everything you need to know about dog boot options and finding the right fit. Boots are a good fit for dogs who are likely to spend a lot of time outside, especially hiking buddies, and for dogs walked in neighborhoods without much available shade or grassy surfaces.
Keep in mind that boots take some getting used to for most dogs. Be patient and put them on for short intervals. They’ll adjust in no time.
Stay cool out there!
Featured image: Bernie the pit bull was stranded on a hot rooftop in 2011. Read more about his story here.