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Paw burn in the summer
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Paw burn in the summer

Dogs

We all long for sunny days and long leisurely walks with our dogs. However, our canine friends are not as well adapted to heat as us and there are many known hazards that the weather brings for our dogs. The risk of heatstroke in dogs is high as their ability to regulate their temperature is not as good as their human counterparts. Many of us are used to avoiding exercise in hot weather and keeping our dogs cool, but do we think enough about their paws? Pavements, roads, and sand heat up quickly in hot weather and retain their heat for longer posing a risk to your four-legged friend’s feet.

Prevention is always better than cure and avoiding hot surfaces to protect your dog’s footpads is best. But if your dog does suffer from burnt paws whilst he is strutting his stuff this summer then it is important to know how to provide emergency care at home and when to seek veterinary advice. Let’s find out more!

Which dogs are more likely to get paw burn?

All dogs can be susceptible to paw burn when walking on a hot surface! The pads on your dog’s paws act as shock absorbers when they walk and help them to navigate slippery or uneven surfaces. They have a thick layer of fatty tissue and a hard, outer skin layer made of keratin (the compound that makes nails and hair hard). This doesn’t mean that your pooch can’t sustain an injury from walking on a surface that’s too hot or too cold though. Dogs that are outside a lot and exposed to rough surfaces have thicker, rougher skin on their pads, whereas young dogs and those that stay indoors more or walk on smooth surfaces have softer pads. Soft pads and pink foot pads are more likely to get burnt on hot surfaces and extra care should be taken for these dogs.

The colour of your dog’s footpads is determined by their genes. Pink or light-coloured, foot pads are more likely to occur in dogs with a white coat such as the Bishon Frise, Shih Tzus, or West Highland White Terrier. These breeds may be more prone to paw burn. Puppies and young dogs are especially susceptible and extra care should be taken in warm weather to keep their paws safe.

Signs of Burnt paw pads in dogs

Dogs find it hard to communicate pain and discomfort to their human carers. Burns often develop over time so may not be immediately apparent when they have walked on a hot surface and the signs of paw injury may only be noticed hours later when your pet returns home. These are the common signs of paw burn to look out for:

-         Limping or refusing to walk

-         Blisters or redness on the paw pads

-         Skin sloughing or peeling from the paw pads

-         Licking or chewing at the paws

Treatment of burnt paw pads at home

Mild burns that are affecting less than 10% of the footpad surface and are not full thickness i.e., not exposing the underlying fleshy tissue beneath the skin on the footpads, can be treated at home. If the burns are deep or affect a large area of the footpads, then seeking emergency veterinary advice is advised.

If your dog is showing signs of burnt paw pads, then immediately soak their paws in cold water. Submerge the paw in cold water for at least 10 minutes. Easy ways to do this are by getting your dog to stand in a shallow bath of water or holding a soaked cloth over the paw.

Following this, wash your dog’s paws with soap and water to clean out any impurities that could lead to infection. Trim any long hair between the pads that could irritate the wounds or get stuck in the burn. Dry the paws well using a soft towel being careful not to rub at sensitive or painful burns.

Prevent your dog from licking burnt paws! Their natural reaction is to lick at wounds as this helps soothe the area, distract themselves from the discomfort and draw attention to others that they are injured. Despite it being a natural response for dogs to do this, it is not helpful, and they will quickly introduce infection to broken skin and could delay healing of the burn injury. If your dog is persistently licking at the burns, then use an Elizabethan collar or a loose covering (such as a sock) to cover the area. Typically, bandaging is not recommended for superficial burns as it can limit airflow around the injury and delay healing.

Various dog paw balms are available that help to moisturise the skin on the footpads and soothe the burnt area. These can be helpful for mild burns but may encourage your dog to lick their paws which should be avoided.

When to seek veterinary care for burnt paw pads

For deeper burns or burns that affect a large area of the footpads then veterinary care is advised. Antibiotics, pain medication, bandaging, or additional wound care may be needed. If your dog is in pain or limping, then emergency veterinary care should be sought.

Small, superficial burns that are being treated at home should be monitored closely for signs of infection such as discharge, swelling, or pain. If you are concerned that the injury doesn’t seem to be healing or the wounds look infected, then consult with your veterinary surgeon.

How to prevent burnt paw pads in dogs

In the spring and summer months, dog owners should be vigilant about the temperature of the surface their four-legged friend’s feet are in contact with. As a rule, if the pavement is hot to touch and too hot for you to walk on it comfortably barefoot, then it is too hot for your dog! Walking your dog in the early morning and evening when temperatures are cooler is advised. Avoiding walks on hot pavements or roads and sticking to grass or shady wooded areas is preferable in warm weather. Avoid putting booties on your dog to protect their pads – if the surface they are walking on is too hot and risks burns, then it is too hot for a walk!

Dr. Katherine Baldwin - The Veterinary Content Company

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