Dog's paws

Walking your dog early in the day before the sun is out is one way to help its paws.

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How do you protect your dog's paws in the summer?

By Dr Hester Mulhall MA, VetMB, MRCVS Veterinarian

Updated on the

Hot weather can affect a dog in so many ways, from overheating to burnt paws, but with these top tips you'll keep your dog cool all summer long.

It’s not just the sun’s rays that can cause summer burns for your dog. Many people do not realise how hot the ground can become during the course of the day. In fact, road and pavement surfaces such as concrete, asphalt or tarmac can absorb and retain a significant amount of heat on a warm day and feel hot to the touch even once the air temperature has cooled later that evening. Artificial grassy surfaces can also become burning hot, and anyone who has walked on a hot beach will be aware that sand can really hold the heat as well.

Your dog’s paw pads have thicker skin than most of their body, but are still susceptible to burning on hot ground. Follow the guidance in this article to avoid this painful predicament, and if in doubt seek veterinary advice.

How can I avoid my dog getting paw burns?

The best advice is to walk your dog early in the morning before the ground has warmed up for the day. If you’re going to walk your dog later in the day, make sure you test the ground temperature first. You can place the back of your hand on the pavement and test whether you are able to leave it there for around 10 seconds. If this is too uncomfortable, then it is too hot to walk your dog. The ground can be surprisingly hot even on days that are in the low- to mid-20ºC range. Avoid artificial surfaces where possible on hot days too, sticking to natural grassy surfaces instead as these tend to be cooler.

What can you put on dogs’ paws to walk on a hot pavement?

There are dog booties and pad protectors available, but these should be used with caution as they can lead to rubbing on the pads and lower leg. These are more commonly used in countries where the ground stays hot overnight, or in colder climates to protect the foot from snow. Most UK dogs will not require these, and it is best to follow advice around walking your dog when the ground is cooler. If you are trying these out, remember that your dog is still at risk from other sun-related issues such as heat stroke and sunburn, so stay out of the midday sun.

What happens if your dog does get a burned paw?

This will depend on the severity of the burn. Your pet may look uncomfortable when they walk, with a change in gait or a limp of one or more limbs. Dogs will often chew or lick at their feet if they are sore and you might notice a change in colour, with possible blistering.

For mild burns, you can try the first aid. But if this does not resolve symptoms, your dog will need a vet appointment. The vet will check for other causes of any symptoms – such as grass seeds, broken claws or other injuries to the pad. If your pet has burnt their paws, they will probably need pain medication, and you should follow any advice to prevent the pads from becoming infected.

What first aid is there for burnt dog paws?

If you think your dog’s paws may be burnt, try to avoid further damage where possible and do not continue with a walk if you are already out on one. Examine your dog’s pads and if you can see any blistering, reddening in colour or broken skin, you should seek veterinary advice. If you notice a minor change in colour and think the pads may have a mild burn, you can try home first aid initially.

Keep in mind that many dogs are sensitive about having their feet examined, and may be particularly reluctant if they are sore. Try to prevent your dog from licking their feet as this can cause further damage to the skin, and increase the risk of infection. You can try a cold compress on the affected paw pads, making sure to wrap any ice packs in a clean towel before applying them. Alternatively, you could use cold, running water from a hose or tap. Just, make sure that the force of this is on a low setting and never use a power hose.

If there is no improvement after 15 minutes, it is likely that your pet will need a vet appointment for pain relief. Be wary of home remedies, and never apply a medicated ointment to your pet’s pads unless it has been prescribed for them by a vet.

What other treatment is there for dogs with summer burns?

If first aid is not sufficient or your pet has burns elsewhere on their skin, you should seek veterinary advice. The skin barrier of burnt skin will be damaged, leaving it at risk of infection. Burns can also be very painful and your dog may need to be prescribed medication.

When should I talk to a vet?

If you think that your pet has paw pad burns and they do not improve after 15 minutes of a cold compress, then contact a vet. You might also want to ask about general advice on keeping your dog safe during the summer months.

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