Dog paw bandaged

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High summer temperatures can lead to all sorts of risks for your dog, from heat exhaustion to dehydration and more. However, if you are like many pet parents, you might be inadvertently overlooking a big risk to your pets during the hottest of summer days: dog paw burns.

This unpleasant injury can occur easier than you might imagine and is a painful condition for your pet. Thankfully, by knowing how dog paw burns occur and the risks associated with summer heat and sidewalk, you can reduce your dog’s risk of ever having to experience this unpleasant situation.

Paw Pads

Paw pads, as you might have guessed, are the skin on the bottom of your dog’s foot. They are necessary to provide the distribution of pressure when a dog jumps, runs, or walks. They also give your dog a barrier of protection against the elements on the ground.

However, while they are beneficial to your dog overall, they are susceptible to wear and tear. This is even more true when you are walking in extreme weather such as high heat or on certain terrain like pavement.

Dog paw burn symptoms

Dog Paw Burn Symptoms

Paw burns may affect your dog’s feet in a number of ways and can be painful, particularly if left untreated. Some signs of paw burns include:1

  • Dog holding their paws oddly or abnormally.
  • Limping to avoid putting pressure on a certain paw.
  • Vocalizing when they use the affected leg or paw.
  • Licking the paw more often than normal.
  • Visible blood, redness, or an ulcer on the paw pad.

What Causes Dog Paws to Burn?

Although we’ve been focusing mostly on paw pad burns due to extremely high surface temperatures on walkways, dogs can get paw pad burns in other ways as well.

However, the most common way your dog is likely to experience this uncomfortable condition that can limit their mobility, is by walking on hot surfaces when the temperatures are too high.

Often, this burn occurs when the dog walks on hot pavement or concrete. This burns their pads and causes blisters to form. This will then often fill with fluid and rupture a few days later. You might also notice a dog’s protective layer falling off, which exposes a sore, irritated, or raw area underneath. In general, temperatures that are 90 degrees or more will cause walking surfaces to become unsafe for your dog. Of course, this can vary based on the surface type and the amount of direct sun the area receives.

In addition, hot sand and even the back of a hot truck bed can be the cause of a paw pad burn. Therefore, any surface, not just those like pavement, should be assessed during extreme temperatures to ensure that it will not burn your dog’s feet. If you aren’t sure if a surface is safe or not, place the back of your hand on the ground for between 7 and 10 seconds. If it is uncomfortably hot or painful for your hand, it’s also likely too hot for your dog’s paw pads.

Dog Paw Burn Treatment & Prevention

If you feel your dog has been exposed to a surface that is too hot and you suspect they might be experiencing a pad burn, rinse their paws off immediately or let them stand in cool water for between 10 and 15 minutes. This will help cool the skin and could prevent a worsening burn. How you go about treating a paw burn on your dog after this immediate intervention will depend on various factors.

If you suspect your dog’s paws are burned, they likely need to be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible for individualized care. In addition, since the paw pads are the point of contact between your dog and the world around them, namely unclean surfaces, when a burn occurs in this area that exposes the skin underneath, vets will often prescribe antibiotics as well to prevent infection. This can include the use of topical or oral antibiotics depending on what works best for the dog's burned paws and the severity of the wound.

Generally, if your dog is experiencing this condition, you will want to restrict its exercise. In addition, if the wounds are not bandaged, you will want to examine the area several times every day to look for signs of infection or worsening of the issue. While it might be challenging to get them to leave the area alone, you will also want to ensure that your dog doesn’t chew or lick their paw or the bandage that is on their wound. For this reason, many pet parents find the use of an Elizabethan collar a must during this time of healing.

Be patient with the healing process, as this isn’t necessarily a quick injury to heal from due to the fact that the paws are highly mobile and likely to be exposed to dirt. If the burn is severe enough and the dog is fighting back against restrictions, then you might even have to utilize a splint to keep the wound immobile.

In most cases, paw pad burns will heal nicely within 7 to 10 days if there are no additional complications. The long-term diagnosis is good as well as most cases resolve themselves completely with adequate treatment, and there are generally no long-term side effects or other complications associated with paw burns.1

Preventing burned dog paws

Preventing Burned Dog Paws

Now that you have looked at what to do if your dog experiences the effects of a paw pad burn and know how to treat dog paw burns, it’s important to consider how to prevent the issue from occurring in the first place. After all, as a pet parent, your goal is to prevent any unnecessary pain possible. Thankfully, there are some steps you can take, even in extreme temperatures, to keep your dog’s paw pads protected:

  • Avoid pavement. Simply don’t walk them on pavement or concrete when it’s hot out. Instead, find some grass trails or dirt trails (still making sure the area isn’t too hot.)
  • Measure the pavement before walking. Let’s assume that you simply cannot avoid walking on the pavement for whatever reason, at least measure the temperature of the pavement before walking your dog. Avoid the pavement during times when it is uncomfortably hot to the touch.2
  • Use booties. This is another way to protect your dog’s paw pads while still enjoying being outside, even in the heat.
  • Exercise your dog only during the cooler parts of the day, such as the mornings or late evenings when the sun is setting.
  • Walk in the shade. We all know the difference shade can make in how hot an area feels. This is especially true when it comes to a hard walking surface, the shadier the better to prevent dog paw burns.
  • Keep heat safety in mind. This means when it’s hot outside, be aware of the dangers for your dog, other than a paw pad burn. Heat stress is life-threatening not only for humans but for your dog as well. Generally, note that when it feels hot for you, it’s even hotter for your dog.3

FAQs

Is it too hot for my dog to walk on the pavement?

Place the back of your hand on the pavement and note how it feels. If it is too hot for your hand, then it’s too hot for your pet’s paws. Generally, an outside temperature of 90 degrees will mean an unsafe hard surface temperature for your dog.2

How can I soothe my dog’s burnt paws?

Contact your veterinarian and get your pet any ointment or oral treatment they need to prevent an infection. In the meantime, you can also soak your pet’s paws in cool water or use cold compresses. Change them around every thirty minutes if you do this. Pat the paws dry and bandage or cover the paws to prevent your dog from messing with them.

How long does it take for burnt dog paws to heal?

The healing process depends on the severity of the paw burn and if there are any infections due to the condition. Generally, a mild burn on a paw pad will heal in between 7 and 10 days when you treat dog paw burns. However, severe burns can take longer and might not heal completely for weeks. This is why patience is needed when dealing with this condition, especially if it’s considered severe.

Young Black woman smiling into camera while laying in the grass with her French bulldog

Final Notes

In most cases, by taking a few extra steps like altering your exercise schedule or using preventive methods like protecting your dog’s feet with booties or balm, you can prevent many cases of paw burns. However, even with your best effort, you might not be able to prevent the heat from doing a number on your best friend’s feet. Thankfully, even if the worst happens and you realize that your dog has experienced a burn, there are steps you can take to get them back on their feet in no time.

Contact Dutch, where you can access expert treatments such as antibiotics, to prevent infection in your dog’s paw pad burn.

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References

  1. “How to Protect Your Dogs from Warm Weather Risks.” Mississippi State University Extension Service, https://extension.msstate.edu/blog/how-protect-your-dogs-warm-weather-risks. Accessed 1 Aug. 2023

  2. DVM, Michelle Wisecup. “Dogs and Heat Safety: The Do’s and Don’ts.” Ohio State Health and Discovery, 28 June 2022, https://health.osu.edu/health/animal-health/dogs-and-heat-safety.

  3. “How to Protect Your Dogs from Warm Weather Risks.” Mississippi State University Extension Service, https://extension.msstate.edu/blog/how-protect-your-dogs-warm-weather-risks. Accessed 1 Aug. 2023

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