By Aly Semigran
As summer temperatures continue to soar, pet parents must pay even closer attention to their pet’s needs. In addition to making sure they are staying hydrated and being kept cool, it’s essential to look out for paw pad burns on your dog or cat whenever your pet is let outside.
While your dog still needs his daily walk in the summertime, these trips should be kept short, particularly when it is hot, not only to ensure that he doesn’t get overheated, but to avoid painful burns to his paw pads.
What Are Paw Pads?
“[Paw pads] are a pretty specialized type of skin that’s on the foot pad,” said Dr. Mark Gibson, DVM, of Animal Kind Veterinary Hospital in Brooklyn, NY. “[They’re] made, of course, to be able to take pressure.” Though they’re made to withstand pressure, just like our own feet and shoes, an animals paw pads are very susceptible to wear and tear.
What Causes Paw Pad Burns?
While some animals, unfortunately, suffer from paw pad burns due to being in a fire or chemical irritants, other dogs can get burnt paw pads from walking or running too hard on hot pavement or flat surfaces like tennis courts.
How Can a Pet Parent Tell That Their Dog’s Paw Pad is Burned?
Dr. Bruce Bogoslavsky of the Animal Veterinary Hospital of Orlando, FL, said that your pet will be showing signs of discomfort, holding up a foot, limping, or vocalizing when walking if his paw pad is burnt. He added that the burns will be visible to the naked eye. Gibson said that, in severe cases, a black paw pad can turn red when it is burned.
“There is actually a physical burn when the paw pads are burned when the concrete is too hot,” said Dr. M. Duffy Jones, DVM, of Peachtree Hills Animal Hospital in Atlanta, GA. “These manifest themselves as blisters that rupture over the course of a few days after the burn. There might not be many clinical signs except pain expressed by the pet when it happens but, just as in people with burns, you can see blisters that can rupture and the pet might be acting painful and licking at their feet.”
Another sign of a severe burn is the paw pad actually coming off of the dog’s paw. “This normally occurs when pets are not used to running on concrete and they run very hard and fast,” Jones said. This issue normally presents right away, Jones said, with the the top, protective layer of the foot pad separating from the paw.
How Are Paw Pad Burns Treated?
Treatment depends on the extent of the burn on the dog. If a burn is severe, the pet should be taken to the veterinarian for care.
“Many times, we will bandage the feet and start antibiotics,” Jones said. “[Paw pad burns] can get infected quickly and make things much worse. Sometimes we can suture the pad back on if there is some left.”
Dogs need to rest and avoid hot pavements as they heal, and Jones added that it is of the utmost importance that pet parents keep an eye on their dogs and do not allow them to lick the injured area, which will make it it much worse over time.
While healing can be difficult for the dog because, “the feet are a high motion area,” according to Jones, it’ll just take some time and patience to get them back up and moving. While your dog’s paw pads heal, walking should be limited (and on grassy surfaces) and he should be kept inside as much as possible.
In addition to recovery and the ointments and antibiotics that may be prescribed to injured dogs, Bogoslavsky, suggested putting soft booties or children's socks on your dog’s paws when walking to protect the damaged tissue and give him more comfort when using them.
The length of time a paw pad burn will last depends on the dog and the extent of their injuries. The most severe cases can see the effects of a burn for a few weeks, as “you are basically waiting on the body to regrow several layers of tissue,” Bogoslovsky said.
Fortunately, as long as you give your dog time time he needs to heal, there are no long-term side effects of paw pad burns, Jones said.
How Can Paw Pad Burns Be Avoided?
To avoid paw pad burns in the summer, your dog should be getting them stronger throughout the entire year.
“Walk [your dog] through the year on concrete,” Jones said. “Just like you develop thicker skin on your feet in the summer when going barefoot, the best prevention is making sure you get those foot pads nice and tough. Try to avoid not walking them in the winter and then taking them out for a five-mile jog [when the weather is warm]. Their foot pads are not ready for that type of exercise.”
During the summer months, it’s advised to keep dog walks to a minimum when it’s too hot outside to avoid burning and for dogs with pre-existing burns to be walked on a non-concrete surface.
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