We all love our dogs, but it’s OK to admit that the language barrier can sometimes be a little frustrating and awkward. Dogs love routine, and your canine companion will no doubt approach you every day expecting their walk at a particular time. What do you do when the sun is at it’s highest during the hottest periods of the year, and the asphalt is too hot for a dog’s paws to handle?
This is a problem that needs to be taken very seriously, as a dog could do some serious damage to their paw pads by strolling through the streets when the pavement is sizzling. This guide will discuss all the options available to you in the event of a heat wave, from avoidance of unwelcome incidents to treatment for a burnt paw pad.
Table of Contents:
Is the Asphalt Too Hot for Dog Paws?
Dog paw heat tolerance can be measured simply – and we don’t just mean checking the temperature with a thermometer. Pop the back of your hand on the ground, and hold it there for seven seconds.
If you find yourself pulling your hand away and yelping in pain before that time limit elapses, it’s too hot for your dog to walk. Use some discretion here, too – if you have any doubts at all, head for home and wait for the sun to go down.
If you do prefer a more scientific approach, however, consider the following temperatures to be at the upper limit of your pet’s tolerance:
- 60O is typically still fine for most dogs, but if your particular pooch struggles with exercise – may be due to their weight, a pre-existing medical condition or breathing difficulties in flat-faced breeds – tread carefully in these temperatures.
- 70O starts to get a little sketchy, especially if your dog isn’t in tip-top physical condition. Be aware of the risk of damage to your dog if they are older, unwell or prone to breathing difficulties when it gets this hot, and reduce their exercise regimen accordingly.
- 75O is dangerous to most dog breeds, especially puppies and senior canines. Any large breed that’s prone to working up a sweat will also struggle with this temperature. It’s best to avoid taking your dog out until it cools off a little.
- 80O or over is to be avoided at all costs. Keep your dog home while these temperatures soar, especially if they are particularly young, old or sick, and try to keep them cool with a fan or air conditioning.
None of this is an exact science, and you will need to pay attention to the needs and reactions of your particular dog to ensure that they are not placed in any danger during the hot months. As always, if in doubt, consult a vet for professional advice.
Does a Dog Know When They Are Too Hot?
You can usually rely on your dog to understand when the sun is growing dangerous to them, and they’ll go scurrying towards some shade to pant away their discomfort. The exception comes when sunbathing though, and this is something that you’ll need to keep an eye on.
Have you ever noticed that your pet loves to lay on his or her back, belly and paws exposed, in direct sunlight – either by a window or outside? This isn’t just your dog being a lazy sun worshipper, but they’re absorbing Vitamin D through the rays of the sun. A deficiency of this essential vitamin can be hugely harmful to Fido, so sunbathing is to be encouraged in short, controlled bursts.
Dogs expose their tummies and paws to the sun in such a circumstance as the absence of fur means that they gain the benefits considerably faster. However, also be aware that no fur also means no protection, which could leave your dog in danger.
Can Dogs Get Sunburn?
Yes, dogs are also vulnerable to sunburn when the heat is at it’s worst. This is particularly like to be a problem with their paws and belly, as the condition is usually a result of the sun bouncing from the pavement – or a pooch laying on their back and soaking up all that lovely Vitamin D that the sun has to offer.
If the temperatures outside are extremely high, you should try to avoid taking Fido out for walkies until it calms down, no matter how much he cries and begs. However, if you must take a stroll, you should liberally apply sunscreen to every exposed inch of your pet’s skin. Try to get them into a shaded area roughly every 20 minutes or so – limiting your dog’s entire exercise to this length of time if possible.
The same lotion that you use is fine, but obviously, it won’t be ideal for ingestion so deter your dog from licking it off. Stick with the non-furry areas, such as paw pads and their underbelly, and avoid the temptation to take your dog somewhere that they can take a dip in the water to cool off as this will wash off their protective layer of lotion.
You could also look into the possibility of a protective sun suit if your dog agrees to wear it, but that won’t be for every pooch as many dogs hate wearing clothing, especially garments that go over their head. If you can tempt your dog into wearing a sun suit, it’s also not a free reign to leave them outside for hours at a time.
Stick with the 20-minute rule, allowing your pooch to get their exercise in and then bringing them back to the safety of home. Skin cancer is also a real concern for dogs that spend too much time exposed to the sun, so don’t take any chances with your pet’s health.
Can Dogs Get Heat Stroke?
Yes, dogs are just at risk of heat stroke (aka hyperthermia) as humans. In fact, we might say that dogs are more likely to experience this condition, as the impact becomes life-threatening much faster than it does with us.
Older and younger dogs, obese canines and those that struggle with their heart or lungs, are at particular risk of heat stroke and need to be handled with care during the hottest months of the year. Whatever their age or physical condition, however, it’s hugely important to get a dog out of the sun at the first sign of any heat stroke. This means that you’ll also need to recognize the symptoms.
These include the following:
- Excessive panting, drooling or slobbering.
- Struggling to breathe.
- Strange and irregular heartbeats – either too fast, or very slow.
- Seizures and fits.
- Lack of coordination, including bumping into furniture and losing control of limbs.
- Struggling to pee.
- Vomiting blood, or finding traces of blood in the stool.
- Uncharacteristic behavior, such as aggression or lethargy.
In the event of any of these symptoms, seek the advice of a vet ASAP. However, you’ll also need to take some steps to administer first aid in an attempt at staving off the worst possible result. Check out our guide on things you must do when your dog is dehydrated in such a circumstance.
How to Exercise a Dog When it’s Too Hot Outside
This advice is all well and good, but summer can last a long time in some territories and wrapping your dog in cotton wool and avoiding any exposure to the elements isn’t always possible. If the sun is showing no signs of calming down and you’re wondering how to get your dog a fix of exercise, consider some of the following steps.
- Walk your dog first thing in the morning, or later at night. Sure, that might eat into your sleep schedule, but that’s a sacrifice you may need to make for your dog’s safety. Keep out of the way of the sun as much as possible.
- Avoid walking on the pavement. If it’s an option that’s open to you, get your dog straight from your home to the car (having first aired the vehicle by opening the doors and windows!), and taking them straight to a green area for their walk. The woods are perfect for this, as the trees and foliage will provide natural shade – if there’s a river for them to take a dip in, so much the better. It’s best to avoid the sun completely, but if you must go out during the hottest times of the day, then grass is always better on your dog’s paws than concrete or asphalt.
- Don’t walk multiple dogs at once. This could be awkward if you have more than one dog, especially if they are large breeds that need plenty of exercise, as there are only so many hours in a day. However, if you walk dogs as a pack, they’re more likely to want to play together and stay out longer. If you can try to walk your dogs one at a time, they’re more likely to do what they need to do and get home again as quickly as possible.
- Exercise your dog indoors. You might be surprised at how easy it can be to get your dog the appropriate mix of physical and mental stimulation. You could pick up some puzzle toys that encourage your dog to track down treats using their intelligence, and you could run them up and down the stairs many times. Also, most dogs love squeaky toys (the noises appeal to their hunting instincts as they mimic prey animals) and games of tug of war with rope toys (this is a fine line. Don’t let Fido win every time or he’ll grow bored of the lack of challenge, but equally, don’t prevent him from ever tasting victory or he’ll assume there is no point in playing and wander off). You could even introduce a friend’s dog for an indoor play date if you have space, and allow the canines to amuse each other while you get on with your day.
- Make sure of your outdoor space. If you’re lucky enough to have a backyard, you can move all of the above activities outside – in addition to making all kinds of obstacle courses from household items, and even installing a paddling pool. Do what you can to create a shaded area for the dogs to run into though, and leave the back door open so they can come back inside and take shelter from the sun as soon as they start to feel uncomfortable.
If you must walk your dog outside in the sunshine, you should ensure that you do the previously profiled hand test at regular intervals. In addition to this, perhaps the most crucial step of all is regularly checking on your dog and making sure they are not in any distress due to the heat.
If your canine companion is keen to run into shade, then allow them to do so, and keep plenty of water handy. A collapsible bowl will come in very useful here, so you can offer constant hydration as you walk.
Treating Burned Dog Paws
If your dog has burned their paws on hot pavement, you’ll need to take immediate action. Not only will your pooch be in a great deal of pain at the moment, but there could also be the risk of permanent damage if you ignore the issue and hope it does away of its own accord.
Firstly, learn to recognize the symptoms of a dog with burned paw pads:
- Limping and reluctance to walk.
- Constant licking and chewing, despite no sign of an embedded foreign object in the paw.
- Red paw pads, or darker than usual shades.
Upon arriving at home and observing a burn on your dog’s paws, take the following action:
- Run a bath of cool water and encourage your dog to stand in it. This will ease the pain that your dog is experiencing, and as a result, they are more likely to allow you to take further action.
- Get antiseptic on the area. Don’t use any hot water, but dab some antiseptic on the affected area once your dog has cooled off sufficiently.
- Use oil to soothe the discomfort. Coconut oil, shea butter or almond oil could all help here; they’re dog safe, will ease the burning sensation, and will taste good enough to take your dog’s mind off the fact they’re in pain when they invariably lick the oil from their paws!
- Check for blisters. If you find a heat blister on your dog’s paw pads, take a look at the guide to treatment below.
If your dog’s paws are red and blistered, it’s hugely important that you take action straight away.
Dog Paw Pad Blister Treatment
If your dog is suffering from a heat blister on their paw pad, they are in danger of the problem escalating. Not only will a blister be very painful, but it will also potentially leave your dog with a piece of skin hanging loose. You can either choose to leave this until it falls off naturally or take your dog to a vet and ask them to do the honors, but it’s not advisable to tackle it by yourself lest you do more harm than good.
What you can do, however, is to minimize the risk of infection. This means giving the affected area a thorough wash with cool water and an antibacterial ointment. You should then wrap the area up very tightly with a good quality, clean bandage to prevent anything from gaining access to the wound. Allow us to stress, however, that this is just first aid – you should seek professional help from a vet or other animal healthcare professional.
How to Protect Dog Paws
If you want to ensure that your dog’s paws remain in good condition all year round, you can undertake many maintenance checks and apply protective measures.
- Dog Paw Protection Wax. Do you rub creams and wax on the soles of your feet during the summer sandal season to keep the skin soft? Then why would you not do the same for your dog, who walks on their precious paw pads all year around? You’ll be able to pick up protective paw wax from any pet store that is safe for your dog to consume when they inevitably start licking at their feet, or you could make a homemade equivalent. Vaseline will also do in a pinch, but licking up too much of this will give your dog stomach problems.
- Dog Shoes for Summer. You may struggle to convince your dog to wear shoes. Until the canine equivalent of Manolo Blahnik’s and Sex and the City become a thing, dogs prefer to remain barefoot in the park. If you can get your dog to wear shoes or booties, though – or even baby socks held on with an elastic band – their paws will be protected from any temperature of extreme weather. You’ll be able to pick these up online or from most reputable pet stores.
- Regularly Check Your Dog’s Paws. Keep an eye on your dog’s paws after every walk, ensuring they don’t have any splinters, shards of glass or other foreign objects embedded in them. These can quickly escalate into a more permanent issue if ignored – remove anything that shouldn’t be there, and follow the appropriate treatment protocols.
A little wear and tear on a dog’s paws is inevitable and unavoidable over the years, but if you follow these steps, you will keep your pooch walking tall and content well into their senior years.
Can Cold Weather Affect Dog Paws?
We have discussed extreme heat a great deal in this article, but it would be remiss to ignore the other end of the spectrum. Ice and snow can be just as dangerous to a dog’s paws.
Many dogs generally won’t struggle with colder temperatures quite as much, and often won’t be deterred from their walkies just because it’s a bit chilly outside. Rainfall might be a different story though, so we have some tips elsewhere on how to get your dog to go out in the rain.
Just be aware that, should temperatures drop below 40O your dog may be at risk. This generally means ice and snow, which could be cold and uncomfortable for your dog to walk on – especially if they are a smaller breed, with a belly that drags uncomfortably close to that cold ground.
In addition to this, you’ll also have to be careful of any salt or grit that may be tracked across the roads. Your dog will be stepping through this, and canines tend to lick their paws. Ingesting any of these substances could be extremely dangerous, so be vigilant about washing your dog’s paws in warm water every time they get home – which will also prevent snow and ice from affixing themselves to your dog’s paws and causing further discomfort.
Walking dogs in extreme weather conditions, regardless of whether it’s particularly hot or cold, can sometimes feel like a real tightrope. It’s essential that you take your pet’s age and physical condition into consideration during the height of summer and depths of winter rather than blindly following a familiar routine, or they could end up in a great deal of paw-centric pain. Follow the advice laid out in this guide, however, and you should avoid any concerns or unpleasantness.