Help your pup strut his stuff this summer and beyond by protecting his paw pads from hot pavement, beach sand, and potential burns.
Like little pillows protecting your pup's feet, dog paw pads provide the support your pooch needs to get from Point A to Point B, even across tough terrain. Throw in a few beaming sun rays on a toasty day, though, and your dog's precious paw pads can burn on hot pavement. Burned paws prevent your good boy from living his best life, but thankfully, dog paw burns from pavement can be treated if owners are prepared for emergency situations and ready to consult with their dog's veterinarian if needed.
Unfortunately, warm weather isn't the only thing to be wary of when it comes to your four-legged friend's feet. Cold temperatures present their own dangers, especially if ice is on the ground. Frostbite can occur, and cracked paw pads are possible during temperatures of either extreme. Chemicals not labeled for pet use, including those protecting you from a nasty spill on the ice, may also lead to burned paw pads.
Fido may not come right out and say he's in pain, but veterinarians say that your dog's behavior is a major tell that something's wrong.
"Often, a pet owner's first clue is that the dog begins licking at her feet or may limp after a walk outside," says Erin Katribe, DVM, MS, medical director at Best Friends Animal Society. "When the paw pad is examined, this may look like discoloration, or you may see lighter, pinker tissue exposed from underneath the outer layer."
If a burn is visible on your dog's paws, or he licks his paws more than normal after a particularly sunny stroll, there are immediate actions to take ensuring your pup can still put his best foot forward.
Similar to when you sting your finger on a hot stove, soaking burned paws in cool water may soothe the injury initially, Katribe says. Some burns may be minor and heal within a week without too much worry on your part, but severe burns can take several weeks to heal and likely require vet attention.
"For minor burns or abrasions, pet owners can simply keep the area clean by wiping with a wet rag and keeping the area clean from debris, especially after walks outside," Katribe says. "For deeper wounds or if any signs of infection develop—colored discharge, swelling, significant pain—or if the area doesn't seem to be healing, seek veterinary care. Antibiotics, pain medication, or additional wound care may be needed."
As tempting as it is to avoid a trip to the vet and tend to your dog at home, some cases simply call for a professional. Any dog paw balms or topical medications applied to the burned paw pads are liable to be licked off immediately by your dog, as most owners of ornery dogs can attest to, so bandaging the wound as an additional barrier is often best.
"If the wound is that concerning that you think a bandage may be needed, other medications may also be warranted," Katribe says. "It's best to consult a vet in those cases, and then an appropriate treatment plan can be developed."
But don't fret too much—with a little vigilance, burned paw pads are preventable altogether.
To avoid chemical burns, try sticking to products labeled pet-safe around the house. Otherwise, keep your pup from poking around any place treated with chemicals until affected areas have dried.
Prevent dog paw burns on sizzling hot or icy cold pavement by using your best judgement during outdoor activity. Try walking in the morning or night when temperatures are cooler, or stick to soft, grassy surfaces rather than cement. Or, if you have a penchant for playing doggie dress up, a pair of socks or booties can provide an extra layer of protection outdoors. The best way to determine the safety of your dog's paws? Use your own!
"One easy way to determine if it's OK to walk or not is to simply place your hand on the ground," Katribe says. "If the surface is too warm or cold for you to comfortably place and keep your hand there, then it's too extreme to walk your dog."
In other words, take a moment to pause and reflect—your pup's own paws will thank you.