MEDICAL LAKE, Wash. - Love taking your dog for walks? In the summer, that could be far more dangerous than most pet owners realize.
Medical Lake Veterinary Hospital in Medical Lake, Washington, issued a warning to dog owners about the dangers of hot pavement after treating a case of severely burned paw pads on a dog named Olaf.
Burned paw pads are a problem that veterinarians see every summer, but what many pet owners may not realize is that dogs' paw pads, though seemingly more rough and rugged, are quite sensitive, like human feet and hands. They are designed to withstand significant pressure, but not extreme temperatures.
Veterinarians suggest testing pavement before taking your dog out for a walk by either standing barefoot or holding the back of your hand on the pavement for seven seconds. If you feel pained or like you can't hold your foot or hand in place, the pavement is definitely too hot for your canine companion.
It's not just the most sweltering hot days that demand extra caution from pet owners — on a day when the outside temperature is 77 degrees Fahrenheit with low humidity, pavement can reach 125 degrees. If the outside temperature is just 10 degrees warmer (87 degrees Fahrenheit), pavement temperatures can climb to 143 degrees.
At these temperatures, a dog's paws would burn severely in only a matter of minutes.
Pavement isn't the only surface that can burn your pup's paws in summer heat. VetsNow warns that artificial grass can also get dangerously hot because it contains black crumb rubber from recycled tires. Other artificial surfaces like running tracks and tennis courts can also reach scalding temperatures in the summer sun.
Keep an eye out for signs of discomfort like your dog holding up its feet, limping, or vocalizing or panting heavily during walks, as well as licking or chewing the feet after going on a walk. If you notice any of these symptoms, it's important to get your dog onto grass or another cooler surface and to flush the injured paws with water as quickly as possible.
"There might not be many clinical signs except pain expressed by the pet when it happens but, just as in people with burns, you can see blisters that can rupture and the pet might be acting painful and licking at their feet," Dr. M. Duffy Jones, DVM, of Peachtree Hills Animal Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, said.
Treatment for paw pad burns can be long and arduous, usually requiring bandages on the feet and administration of antibiotics to prevent infection from occurring while you wait for several layers of tissue to regrow. Many dogs with burned paws benefit from wearing booties during the healing process to protect the delicate tissue.
To avoid this painful injury happening to your dog, veterinarians suggest going for walks early in the morning (before 8 a.m.) or late at night (after 8 p.m.) when pavement is coolest or simply avoiding artificial surfaces altogether by walking on dirt trails or real grass.
"Walk [your dog] through the year on concrete," Jones offers as additional advice, "Just like you develop thicker skin on your feet in the summer when going barefoot, the best prevention is making sure you get those foot pads nice and tough. Try to avoid not walking them in the winter and then taking them out for a five-mile jog [in the summer]. Their foot pads are not ready for that type of exercise."