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Don't give your dog a hot foot

Original Publication Date: July 6, 2015
By C. Sue Furman, Ph.D.

Warm summer weather allows you the opportunity to spend quality time with your dog. Many outdoor activities permit pets so it is easy to take your dog along.

A trip to the farmer's market, craft fair or sandy beach can be great fun for you, and comments about your cute well-behaved dog are always nice to hear. However, your enjoyable day can be one of agony for your dog.

Many outdoor events are held on parking lots or beaches where your dog must walk on hot asphalt, concrete or sand. The ambient temperature of the air might seem comfortable, but the surface temperature underfoot is probably hot enough to give your dog very toasty toes. Summer heat can turn pavement into a frying pan that can severely burn your dog's feet.

Summer temperatures are already way past warm and will get higher before the season ends. An air temperature of 77 degrees is rather pleasant, but the asphalt underfoot is 125 degrees. That is hot enough to burn paws and destroy skin in 60 seconds. An air temperature of 86 degrees still seems rather comfortable, but the asphalt your dog is walking on is 135 degrees. You can fry an egg on the pavement in 5 minutes at 131 degrees.

That same pavement can literally fry your dog's pads.

The skin on a dog's pads may seem rough and tough compared to the skin on the rest of his body, and it is to a degree. The epidermis is thick and highly keratinized. The underlying dermis contains sweat glands and a layer of fat that cushions the foot. Paw pads are tough, but they are not indestructible.

A dog that starts limping, refusing to walk or licking and chewing at their feet is telling you their foot pads are burning. Take a look. The pads may appear darker in color than usual or they may even be raw, red or blistered. These changes require immediate veterinary attention.

Special care should be taken to keep your dog safe in the summer heat. Be aware of the temperature of any surface where your dog will walk. A simple test will tell you if the pavement is too hot. Press the back of your hand against the surface for seven seconds. Asphalt, concrete or sand that is too hot for your hand, is too hot for your dog's paws. If you are still skeptical, take your shoes off and stroll around a bit. A surface that burns your feet will also burn your dog's pads.

Think twice before taking your dog to an outdoor event this summer. Your fun outing may make for a miserable dog with very hot or burned feet. With proper veterinary attention, his paws can heal, but it is a long process that is painful for your pet.


Sue Furman, Ph.D, has published two books and a DVD on canine massage and teaches classes in pet massage, acupressure, first aid and CPR. See her schedule and submit questions at HolisticTouchTherapy.com.