Walking your dog year-round is a must to keep them healthy and happy, but scorching pavement in the summer months can serve as a danger. Pets' paw pads are made up of sensitive tissue that can easily become burnt on hot surfaces, even when the temperature outside isn't really high.
Fortunately, there's a way to test the ground temperature to see if it's too hot for your pup. You can also use booties, protective balms, and other methods to protect your dog's paws from hot pavement this summer.
When Is it Too Hot to Walk Dogs on Pavement?
On a hot summer day, heat stroke isn't the only danger you should be aware of; the possibility of hot pavement burning your dog's paw pads is great even when the air temperature isn't terribly high. Surfaces like pavement, asphalt, and concrete quickly absorb heat; in some cases, the ground temperature can be as much as 60 degrees hotter than the ambient temperature.
Experts report that in air temperature of 77 degrees Fahrenheit, the temperature of asphalt can rise to upwards of 125 degrees Fahrenheit. When the air rises just 10 degrees warmer to 87, the asphalt temperature jumps up to a scorching 143 degrees. These temperatures damage tissue in less than two minutes, so if your dog stands in place for just a few moments, they can sustain full-thickness burns.
Even dirt and lawns can get too hot for your dog. In an unshaded, dry spot with bare ground, temperatures can get so hot they can burn your dog's paws.
How to Protect Your Dog's Paws from Hot Pavement
Your dog still needs exercise during those hot summer days, so use these preventive measures to keep your furry friend safe.
1. Test the Ground Before Walking
The "seven-second test" as a first line of defense in determining whether the ground is too hot for your pup (spoiler alert: it's the same thing veterinarians do to see if it's safe to walk their own dog!)
To perform this quick test, place the back of your hand on the pavement for seven seconds (the back of your hand is more sensitive to heat compared to the palm). If it's too hot for your hand within that short time, it's too hot for your dog's paw pads.
If the ground doesn't pass the "seven-second test," it doesn't mean you have to skip your walk. Instead, take precautions to protect your pup's delicate pads while you stroll.
2. Stick to Cooler Surfaces
One way to keep your dog's paws cool is by avoiding hot ground entirely. Don't walk on concrete, pavement, and asphalt when it's over 77 degrees, and stick to cooler terrain.
Grass is the best surface for your dog's feet because it doesn't retain heat. It also provides a nice cushion that can help alleviate the impact on their joints while running and playing. Other living ground covers, like moss and clover, are equally safe.
If you don't have access to a grassy area, other options - such as bare dirt, mulch, or wet sand - may be safe options, but they absorb heat, so test the surface beforehand with the "seven-second test."
3. Avoid Midday Walks
As the sun rises throughout the day, the ground temperature also rises. For your dog's safety, it's best to avoid peak sun hours during the summer, which are between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Aim to take any long walks with your dog early in the morning when it's coolest.
Doing so can also reduce their risk of getting a sunburn or heat stroke. If you're not an early bird, the late evening may be a safe time. However, you should still use caution as the ground can remain hot from the sun.
4. Use Dog Booties
Dog shoes and socks don't just make a fashion statement; they can protect your dog from paw pad burns, too. Choose booties that are designed for use on hot pavement to ensure the material won't melt at high temperatures. The best dog shoe choice is breathable, durable, and comfortable.
If your dog isn't a fan of booties right away, don't worry. It'll probably take them some time to get used to wearing shoes. Gradually introduce them to the sensation of wearing booties while indoors before hitting the hot pavement.
5. Apply Protective Wax Balms
Protective balms that you massage into your dog's paw pads, such as Musher's Secret, can be a good option for dogs that won't tolerate booties. These products create a protective barrier shielding the pad tissue from extreme temperatures while still allowing the skin to breathe.
However, some experts warn that waxy balms may not be safe in extreme heat because they can melt, so only use products designed for use in heat. Also, make sure you choose a product manufactured specifically for dogs, because there's always a possibility your dog will try to lick the balm off their feet.
What to Do for Burned Paw Pads
If you're worried that your dog may have burned their paws on hot pavement, you should see your veterinarian. Burns can be extremely uncomfortable, so pain medication is typically warranted, and the open skin can easily become infected.
Severe burns need more extensive treatment, including specialized bandages. While waiting for your appointment, you can keep your dog comfortable by following these steps:
- Rinse the paw pads with tepid water to remove any debris.
- Gently dry the paw, then place a breathable sock or loose wrap on the foot to protect the damaged pads.
- Use a dog cone to prevent them from licking or chewing the area, which can traumatize the tissues even further.
- Keep your dog off their feet by carrying them outside for potty breaks until your vet gives you further instructions.
Dangers of Hot Pavement and Concrete
Hot pavement is an often-overlooked summertime danger that can significantly impact your dog's quality of life along with your summertime plans. Burned paw pads are uncomfortable and can lead to harmful skin infections. Prevent burned paws by walking your dog during the early part of the day, suiting them up with protective dog booties, or sticking to only grassy areas. Your pup's feet will thank you!