By Kim Gilliam
Hot summer days bring scorching temperatures that affect not only us but also our four-legged companions. Your dog’s paws may be able to take on the toughest terrains, but they’re surprisingly vulnerable to burns, particularly in the summer months when asphalt and concrete sidewalks become overheated.
Last month, the National Weather Service office in Sioux Falls, South Dakota did an experiment looking at temperatures of different surfaces throughout the day as the high crept above 90 degrees. At 9 a.m. temperatures were around 90 degrees on all surfaces, but by noon, the blacktop had reached 123, and at 3
p.m., it was a whopping 135. It only takes 60 seconds for paws to burn on pavement at 125 degrees. That means that soon after 9 a.m. that day, it would have been too hot to walk your pup.
But how can you know for sure without an infrared thermometer in hand? Dr. Jerry Klein, DVM, Chief Veterinary Officer for the American Kennel Club said owners need to make sure the coast is clear for their pets.
“To find out if the ground is too hot for your dog to walk on, place your hand comfort- ably on the pavement for ten seconds. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws,” Klein said.
Best to take your pup on longer walks in the early morning hours when the ground is cooler or late in the evening when temps are coming down a bit. Carefully consider what surfaces you choose for your walk. Blacktop absorbs and retains heat intensely, so can reach scorching temperatures that can cause burns and blisters on a dog’s paws.
Cement can also become uncomfortably warm and potentially injure a dog’s paws. In contrast, sticking to shaded areas and grass provides a cooler surface, offering your dog a reprieve from the heat.
If a dog stumbles or limps when walking, is reluctant to walk or let you touch its feet, licks its paws or has blisters, redness, peeling or a darker tone on their pads, it could have burned its paws. If you suspect this, there are a few things you can do for immediate treatment before taking your dog to the vet:
1. Run the pads under cool water for around 10 minutes. This is the best way to cool the area. Never use ice or iced water. Do not apply any ointments or creams yourself.
2. Place plastic wrap loosely over the affected paws. Be very gentle. You can keep this in place with a loose bandage or sock. Avoid letting your dog walk as much as possible.v
3. Bring your pup to the vet so that they can assess the wounds, determine the necessary prescriptions and apply specialist dressings. Burns are very painful, so your dog will need prescribed pain relief. Burns are also prone to infection, so your vet may give antibiotics if needed. They may then ask you to apply creams or change dressings at home and will give your instructions on how to do so.
Remember, we wear shoes and don’t notice how hot different walking surfaces get in the summer. It is our job as loving dog owners to make smart decisions that protect them in the heat.