When is the Pavement too Hot for My Dog’s Feet? Preventing and Treating Pad Burn

Golden Retriever on hot pavement

With the summer months upon us, we may want to bask in the summer sun. And, as a dog owner, nothing sounds better than enjoying the weather with our canine companions, right? Well, it certainly is possible, but before you and your dog hit the streets, it is necessary to take precautions to ensure that the hot asphalt pavement is not damaging to your dog’s paws. 

To protect your dog, it is imperative to understand how to prevent and manage burns on your companions’ critical appendages. We may not be able to interpret adjustments to heat or the pain our furry friends are in, and so it is crucial that we educate ourselves on the potential dangers of bringing our dogs in the summer heat. It is then that we can enjoy the refreshing ease of the summer season with our dogs. 

Dog Foot Anatomy 

Your dog’s paws serve many critical functions. Like human feet, they are made for walking, as well as running, stretching, and “high-fiving.”  Unlike human feet, the appendages also help regulate a dog’s temperature, as sweat glands and adipose fat tissue layers maintain canine homeostasis. Their regulatory function makes it all the more important to protect your dog’s paw pads from the damage they are vulnerable to during the sweltering summer heat. The sensitive and vital paw pads can toughen with use, like a callous on a human hand, but even the toughest paw may not be able to withstand pavement temperature. 

How Hot is it Really? 

The outside air temperature is not the same as the temperature of the pavement. Enjoying a summer stroll with your canine companion may seem harmless; however, asphalt temperatures can be up to 60 degrees hotter than the air temperature. For perspective, asphalt that’s 135 degrees can fry an egg in five minutes. Pavement temperatures are influenced by air temperature and various parameters like surface material, cloud cover, wind, time of day, and humidity. As a general rule, asphalt temperatures vary with air temperature, as shown below: 

Air Temperature Asphalt Temperature 

Burns Can Happen Fast: 

It only takes 60 seconds on pavement that is 125℉ for a dog’s pads to burn. This means that the pavement could be potentially dangerous when the air temperature is 77℉. A good way to test if the pavement is safe for your dog is the “seven-second rule:” Place the back of your hand on the pavement. If you cannot hold it there for at least seven seconds, then the surface is too warm for your dog! 

Dog running on pavement

6 Ways to Prevent Pad Burn:  

  1. Walk Your Dog When it Is Cool – Try to walk your dog early in the morning (before 10 a.m.) or later at night (after 7 p.m.), when the pavement may be cooler. Avoid walking your dog in the afternoon or early evening when it’s hot outside. 
  1. Stay on the Grass – While many surfaces can conduct and retain heat, it is essential to minimize contact with asphalt, concrete, stones, sand, and hot surfaces. 
  1. Check their Paws Frequently – Check for blisters, cuts, cracks, sores, or foreign objects that cause abrasions. And make sure to routinely check the asphalt using the seven-second rule and the back of your hand.  
  1. Use Paw Wax – Special wax can be applied to a dog’s paw pads before walking and dries in seconds to provide a protective barrier. 
  1. Dog Shoes – Your dog may be initially averse to wearing booties; however, they can be a solution for extreme weather conditions and are sure to protect your dog from hot pavement. It is crucial to get the right size and purchase shoes with rubber or neoprene soles, as they are most protective against damaging surfaces. These boots, however, should not be worn for great lengths of time, as the sweat glands in your dog’s paws allow body temperature regulation.
  1. The Best Prevention for Overheating [tag overheating blog?] – On warm, uncomfortable days, even the toughest of paw pads are vulnerable to the searing heat of the asphalt, and on these days, keep your pets inside as much as possible. 

Is My Dog Suffering from Pad Burn? 

  • Refusing to walk or limping 
  • Darker than usual or discolored pads 
  • Excessive licking or biting of feet 
  • Visible blisters or extreme redness 
  • Missing part of pads 

How to Treat Pad Burn 

If your dog has paw pad burns, talk to your vet – your veterinarian can determine the severity of the burns and an appropriate action plan for treatment, which will likely include antibiotics and bandaging the paws given high risk of infection. 

Here’s what you can do at home: 

  • Flush your dog’s feet with cool water for 10-15 minutes 
  • Rest. This may require some patience, given the paw pads are your dog’s motion areas, but essential so they don’t further injure their paws. 
  • Gently Clean Your Dog’s Paws. Wash gently with water and anti-bacterial soap to eliminate any debris 
  • Bandage the Paw. This can prevent excessive licking and serve as a protective barrier for the damaged tissue. Applying antibiotic ointment and daily bandage changes are essential to ensure your dog heals. 

It may be hard to know precisely when the pavement is safe for a dog to walk on, but if the air temperature is 75 degrees or cooler, and you successfully deployed the “seven-second rule” to check the pavement then it is likely you needn’t worry. If you suspect pad burns, take your dog to the vet – as pad damage can be painful, cause discomfort, and make it more difficult for your dog to regulate temperature. Once you understand how high temperatures affect your dog, it is safe to enjoy the summer with your canine companion.

The ElleVet Team
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