Dog's feet and pads are tough, right? Most people are aware that foot pads can be injured by stepping on something sharp, but what about something hot? Dangerously hot pavement and metal surfaces are commonplace in the heat of summer. And unlike the obvious wounds, such as lacerations, foot infections (fungal, bacterial), or foreign bodies (like cheatgrass), burned pads may not be apparent to the eye, at least initially.
Signs of Burned Pads
Look for common symptoms or behaviors that may indicate burned or painful pads if your dog has been outdoors in hot weather recently. What may appear to be a reaction to a leg or foot injury might be burned pads.
- Limping or refusing to walk
- Licking or chewing at the feet
- Pads darker in color
- Missing part of pad
- Blisters or redness
Swimming and Hot Pavement
A colleague and I presented at a wilderness first aid talk for people who love to be in the outdoors with their dogs. One of the audience members shared a story of what had happened to their dog, which brought up a good point about foot pad health.
They had been swimming and floating in a river for about an hour and a half. When it was time to go, they walked along a paved road, but then their Labrador retriever refused to go on. They assumed that the dog was just exhausted from the swim. As it turned out, his foot pads were bleeding, and he was in pain. The time in the water has softened his pads up quite a bit and the hot road asphalt severely burned the pads.
Burned Pad First Aid
If your dog suffers from burned pads, it is important to keep the foot area cool and clean. As soon as you notice the problem (such as limping or other symptoms), flush the feet with cool water or apply a cool compress, if available. Get the dog to a grassy area or, if possible, carry them.
At first chance, your vet should examine your dog for signs of deeper burns, blisters, and possibility of infection. Your vet will determine if antibiotics or pain medication is needed.
Washing the feet with a gentle cleanser and keeping them clean is important. While bandaging can be difficult to apply and maintain (it must be monitored and changed often), licking must be kept to a minimum. Some dogs will tolerate a sock, which helps to keep the area clean but doesn't use socks if your dog is likely to chew and ingest a sock. Lick deterrents (bitter sprays) may be a more effective solution to minimize the damage caused by licking.
Prevention is Best
The best way to prevent burned feet on your dog is to be mindful of hot surfaces, especially asphalt and metal, including boat docks and car or truck surfaces. Try to walk your dog on the cool side of the street or in the grass, whenever possible. When a relatively cool surface or grassy area is not available, you can lay down a wet towel for your dog to stand on. This is a good way to keep your dog's feet cool while you're loading up your car on hot pavement.