Paws up if you are a pet parent concerned about the general health and fitness of your dog! Because today, we are going to talk about how to prevent burnt paws on a hot day and the treatment if your dog has burnt paws!
And now the key points are:
- Walking on hot pavement/sand can burn our dog’s paws. 60 seconds is all it needs for skin to burn.
- Daytime temperatures in Singapore may not be conducive for long walks.
- Musher’s Secret Paw Wax can help dogs withstand hot surfaces better for short walks and loo breaks.
- A good pair of Dog boots is not just a fashion accessory. It can protect your dog from burns if you need to be outside on hot surfaces for a few hours.
- Burnt paws can lead to painful infections. Always check with your vet for the proper care necessary for your dog to heal his particular injury.
How Hot is the Asphalt Pavement our dog is walking on?
Have you ever seen these hot asphalt awareness pictures?
Asphalt – a mixture of dark bituminous pitch with sand or gravel, used for surfacing roads, flooring, roofing, etc. – source
They’re almost always in Fahrenheit, but I was interested in what it means in the local context of Singapore.
If you live here or if you’ve been here before, you will know that our weather is stinking hot and humid. And this chart shows that for today – 16 July 2015 – we are expecting temperatures to start climbing from 28°C at 7a.m. to 33°C from 1p.m. onwards. Air temperatures of ten out of our twelve hours of daylight are expected to be warm at 30°C and higher.
And what that means for us is – Tadah!
Cited abstract here. | Donna says get me out of this hot outside and let’s go home!
Our asphalt pavement temperature may be higher than 52°C, and generally may be more than hot enough in the day to burn the skin or fry an egg! No joke. WWF made a video of breakfast being cooked on asphalt pavement here if your interested. :P
So it seems to me like there is perhaps no good time to walk the dog unless it’s between 6am – 8am or after sunset.
In fact, even without this exercise of looking at temperatures, if you’ve walked your dog long enough at different times of the day, you may have discovered the exact same thing from experience, albeit with less specificity.
I certainly did!
It’s too hot and burns my paws to walk, human!
When I first adopted Donna, it was important to me that I walk her more than an hour a day to exhaust her for various reasons. Weight loss was one of them.
We used to visit the shelter after lunch. We took her out to walk down the road and back, so it didn’t seem like a bad thing to walk her despite the heat of the day. I guess subconsciously, we just assumed that a dog’s paw pads are tough because we see the other shelter dogs walking at that time too.
If the surface feels uncomfortably hot to your bare feet, then it is too hot for your dogs paws. – Dr Joanna Paul, Creature Clinic
Both dogs’ and cats’ pads are very sensitive to hot temperatures, but it’s our dogs we really need to look out for….Dogs, on the other hand, are willing to do almost anything we ask them to — even walk over hot coals. In fact, every time we put our dogs on a leash and go for a walk on South Floridian mid-summer (somewhat similar to Singapore) hot pavement, that’s effectively what we’re asking them to do. – Dr Patty Khuly, PetMD.com
But I didn’t know than, did I? Once adopted, I took Donna out early in the mornings, but the long walks could mean we were sometimes trudging back home at a time that is already too hot!
But Donna had a mind of her own so it didn’t take long for her to make that mind known. Like in that picture above where her tail is tucked in and she desperately wanted to go back the way we came (which incidentally is heading away from home. – – ). So all I could do was encourage her along, take breaks along the way and continue to coax her to walk some more.
We were almost home. There was an underpass we needed to go through on the way home. And apparently Donna felt it was nice, sheltered and cool enough to just flop herself suddenly on her side and play dead. – –
I was still a newly-minted dog idiot owner back then and desperate to get home. So I thought what if I just continue walking, surely the pull on her lead will get her back on her feet again.
That action resulted in me dragging the dog a couple of steps, with her sliding along on her side on the floor. OMG!
She absolutely REFUSED to move anymore.
I can her drag along, and she would just lie there to be dragged! Of course, I was horrified, and not only because random passers-by started laughing at us.
Thankfully, we finally got home. And Donna was still fine. She didn’t get heat-stroke or anything, which was lucky because I didn’t know anything about heatstroke back then. But her paws probably hurt her a bit.
Nowadays, I limit her long walks to night time. I have said that I hate night time walks because it’s dark and sometimes I can’t see her poo to pick it up properly. But the plus point is it really is cooler not just for the dog, but for the human too! (You can check out some of the ways we make our night walks fun here.)
AND, I can really see the difference in Donna. In the daytime, she would be active on a walk for perhaps 15min to half hour, then you will see her tail flagging and she would seek out the nearest shade… and refuse to move…
This video was taken during a poo break at noon because we had a Pet Cruise scheduled at 2.30pm.
But in the coolness of the night, this dog starts out at a fast trot like she really enjoys it. And I can’t help but run along with her. :) And if I let her, she can probably go for more than an hour, maybe two and still not be tired and want to go home.
I have to say we still do short loo breaks at various times in the daytime because she doesn’t do it at home, so having the knowledge and products to protect her paws is still necessary.
Ways to Protect Your Dog’s Paws from Being Burnt
So in the last 2.5 years of having Donna in the family, I did what everyone else did. Take her out for daily walks, go home, wipe her down. There were ample opportunities to care for her paws in the process.
A) Before the walk
Once a week before we head out for our walk, I apply a thin layer of Musher’s Secret paw wax on Donna’s paws.
What’s Musher’s Secret?
Musher’s Secret is “a dense, barrier wax that forms a breathable bond with your dog’s paws”. There are several reasons why I preferred it over some of the other brands in the market.
1. Developed for use with sledding dogs
It was specifically “developed in Canada for use with sledding dogs (and so), it provides tenacious protection even in the most extreme conditions“. So I know Donna will be getting the best protection out of this product.
2. Good word of mouth for hot weather performance
Even though it’s developed for extreme snow conditions, it has pretty good word of mouth with regards it’s performance in hot weather from active dog owners like running with Sam and the OC backyard. They use it in the summer time too.
In fact, I first heard about Musher’s Secret from running with Sam, who of course writes about running with her German Shorthair Pointer, Sam. :P (I read her to motivate me to run with Donna. HAHAHAHA! :P)
3. Musher’s Secret is food grade and non-toxic
Being the anxious dog owner, I of course wanted to know if this product is food-grade because I know Donna will spend time licking her paws. :P
According to the manufacturer, Musher’s Secret paw wax is made from “a blend of several food-grade waxes, then refined according to our our own special formulations. Musher’s Secret is the safe, non-toxic way to protect your dog’s paws.” The waxes are 100% natural according to the Musher’s Secret website here.
B) During the walk on a hot day
1) Walk on grass. Minimise contact with asphalt, concrete, stones, sand and hot surfaces.
As much as possible, we keep to grassy areas for Donna. It’s pretty lucky for us that Singapore pavements and sidewalks are typically lined with a grassy border with shady trees, before it hits the road, so that’s not too difficult on short walks.
And if you’re worried about grass allergies, it’s interesting to note this reply that I got from a Musher’s Secret representative via email.
The (Musher’s Secret) product …forms a semi-permeable layer to allow the pads to breath while preventing the absorption of lawn chemicals and pesticides as well as grass allergies.
Donna doesn’t have grass allergies, but they spray and fog our neighbourhood precincts during dengue season so this function of Musher’s Secret seems pretty cool.
2) Carry the dog or Use a stroller, dog carrier or a basket when crossing hot surfaces.
This option is great for small dogs, for example if you live in a more concrete jungle type of urban area, or if you need to across the road or carpark, etc to get to a nearby park with grass.
But it’s typically more difficult for bigger dogs like Donna, unless you get a tricycle like this:
Tricycle rented at Jomando Adventure and Recreations, Punggol Settlement.
3) Wear dog boots
But no worries, because all dogs also have the option of dog boots.
Even if it’s before noon or closer to late afternoon/evening, the roads and pavements can still be baked and the weather in general just too hot to be comfortable for dogs to walk for long.
And while I only take Donna out for short loo breaks when it’s hot, sometimes we still go out to longer events in the daytime. Recently, we brought Donna to the DBS Marina Regatta and to a couple of doggie birthday parties where she spent much of the time on hot concrete or sand.
I have learnt that in cases like this where the dog will be out for prolonged periods and in contact with hot surfaces, dog boots may also be more useful than a mere decorative accessory. But I also read that dogs only sweat through their paws and so I asked Dr Jo of Creature Clinic, if dog boots could be more of a hindrance than not to a hot dog.
I wouldn’t be concerned about boots in terms of sweating and heat loss. Panting is much more important, and if the environmental conditions are too hot for panting to be adequate, you’re dog shouldn’t be out there exercising, they should be somewhere shady with plenty of fresh water to drink. – Dr Joanna Paul, Creature Clinic
It’s really hot out here, says Cookie. Dogs with long fur like Cookie may start feeling the heat soon than short hair dogs like Donna. That long tongue is a sign that he needs to hydrate and cool down in the shade. :)
Right. So boots are perhaps actually necessary, in addition to Musher’s Secret, if you are going to be outside in hot weather for a few hours. And of course, lots of water and time off in the shade.
Sometimes, even without dog boots and with just Musher’s Secret on her paw pads, I’m happy to report that Donna has not suffered any blisters, cracks or visible tear on her paw pads that made me worried.
The (Musher’s Secret) product is absorbed into the pads to condition them to better withstand both heat and cold… It will certainly increase the comfort level on hot sand and pavement, of course not as well as booties. – Musher’s Secret representative via email
C) After the walk on a hot day
The post-walk wipe down is always a great time to examine her paw pads and make sure they are fine.
Small pebbly bits of dirt, broken glass and other debris can easily become lodged in your dog’s paw pads. There are also times I found ants crawling in between her toes. Even giant red ants who have bitten her and just seem to be hanging on for the ride. – –
So if necessary, wash the feet free of the debris before checking them over for cuts, cracks, blisters that may need attention. Remove any other hidden debris/dirt in between toes that you find and wash clean with warm soapy water and pat dry.
If you find some redness, and obvious lesion or damage to the dog’s foot pad or nails, that makes you think your dog’s pads are burnt or hurt, it’s probably time to make a call with your vet for care instructions or whether it’s necessary to bring your dog in for further consultation. :)
If a dog does experience burnt paws, I would usually expect to see some signs, such as lameness (limping) or licking/chewing at the area, but if a dog has been at risk, regardless of whether they are showing any signs or not, their feet should be carefully checked, and if in doubt, see your veterinarian.
Burns are potentially very painful, and are predisposed to becoming infected, so appropriate dressing +/- antibiotics may be required.
If you suspect a burn, it’s not worth the risk of ending up with a painful infection. – Dr Joanna Paul, Creature Clinic
For dogs whose paws are hurt or tender, check with your vet what made-for-dog products can be used to make them feel better.
Do not apply hand moisturizers for humans as it could soften the dog’s pads and lead to unwarranted injury. – aspca.org
Guess it makes sense that dogs’ paws are not like human hands and we should not expect them to be tender and soft like a baby’s. :P
Be in control of your dog’s activities
Finally, it makes sense to just always be mindful of what is ok and what may be not so good for dog as you go through the day’s activities with them.
If you and your dog are avid beach or pool lovers, Leesburg Vet Blog tells us to be aware that water can soften your dogs paws and make them weaker to harsh concrete in and around pools and extra sensitive to hot sand.
The weather is warm and sand… is hot, human, says Donna.
It’s always fun to see the dogs having a great time playing at the beach or with their other friends in various social situations. But it’s also a good idea to give them a time out when they get over-excited, and not just so they calm down.
I would absolutely recommend that you think for your dog, because they may be so excited about playing that they don’t realise or focus on damage that is occurring to their paws. It’s like some dogs will chase a ball in hot weather until they collapse if their owners don’t make the decision to stop. – Dr Joanna Paul, Creature Clinic.
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Thanks to Dr. Jo of creatureclinic.com for helping with my questions for this post! :) She doesn’t see many cases of burnt pads in her clinic, but worked for an animal shelter during the black Saturday fires in Victoria, Australia. They managed countless burnt paws. Sadly they were caused by running through fire and much, much more serious. :(
- The Post-Workout Cool Down for your Dog – PetMD.com
- If you can’t stand the heat… on burnt pad denial in dogs – PetMD.com
- Swollen paws in dogs – PetMD.com
- Pet preparedness all summer long – Leesberg Vet Blog
- Top 10 paw care tips for dogs – ASPCA
- Thermal Contact Burns from Streets and Highways – The Journal of the Amercian Medical Association