Pavement heats up quickly and gets even hotter than the air surrounding it so when it is hot outside, the ground can potentially cause burns to paw pads. Knowing when it's too hot to walk a dog or how to prevent its paws from burning is crucial in preventing burns and discomfort in your pet.
Dog Foot Anatomy
Dogs have paws that may be partially covered with fur, but they also have paw pads that lack this furry covering. Paw pads are great for protecting the feet from rough surfaces, providing shock absorption, and traction but they aren't immune to burns. Dogs have five paw pads on each foot that contact the ground as well as 2 additional pads on the front limbs that do not usually make contact with the ground. Each paw pad is made up of thick skin, fat, and connective tissue.
Pavement and Air Temperatures
Any hard road or street surface can be considered pavement and while black asphalt pavement is especially concerning when it comes to heating up, even concrete surfaces can get too hot for a dog to walk on. Despite what one might think, the temperature of the air is not the same as the temperature of the pavement. This means that as it gets warmer outside the ground can approach scalding temperatures that are unsafe for paw pads.
Asphalt temperatures can be much hotter than the air temperature (when in direct sunlight with no wind and low humidity) so it's important to be aware of the difference between pavement and air temperatures.
|Air Temperature Vs. Pavement Temperature|
|77 degrees F||125 degrees F|
|86 degrees F||135 degrees F|
|87 degrees F||143 degrees F|
When Does a Burn Occur?
Many factors influence when and how a burn occurs but at temperatures above 130 degrees Fahrenheit, skin will show signs of thermal injury within just 60 seconds. This means that if the air temperature is above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, the pavement could potentially be hot enough to burn a dog's feet if it stands on it for long enough.
Alternatives to Walking on Pavement
Dogs need exercise so if it's too hot to walk on the pavement then you might wonder how else you can provide the necessary energy exertion for your dog. The most simple alternative to walking on pavement would be to walk on grass or soil. These surfaces do not heat up as much as the hard pavement and are typically safer to walk on. If there is no grass to walk on, consider swimming in a pond or lake, going on a "walk" inside the house, playing in a grassy yard, going to a dog park, or spending some time at doggie daycare. It is important to remember that in hot weather, physical exertion can bring risks of heat stroke, so take your dog's individual health concerns and the temperature into account before exercising on a warm day.
Preventing Burns on Pavement
If walking on the pavement is unavoidable, consider options to protect your dog's paws from burns. Dog shoes, socks, and booties may seem silly at first but are simple and effective ways to protect dog paw pads from injury. A variety of styles and sizes exist with some being bulkier than others. If your dog is not used to wearing shoes, socks, or booties than you'll want to allow it time to adjust to them before going outside on a walk. Put the foot coverings on your dog while in the house and let it figure out how to walk comfortably.
Paw wax is another alternative to a dog wearing shoes or boots. Special wax is easily applied to a dog's paw pads before walking and dries in seconds to provide a protective barrier. Most paw waxes only need to be applied every few days or weekly and are non-toxic in case your dog licks its feet.
Finally, walking your dog earlier in the day before the pavement has had a chance to heat up or later in the day after the pavement cools off may be necessary to prevent injury. Sometimes simply changing your walk schedule is all you need to do to keep your dog safe. Additionally, try to avoid activities where your dog runs and then stops short frequently on the hot pavement (as in playing fetch or chase). The likelihood of paw injuries goes up when there is repeated scratching of the paws against the hot ground.
When is it Safe to Walk a Dog on Pavement?
It may be hard to know exactly when the pavement is safe for a dog to walk on but if the air temperature is 76 degrees F or cooler than you needn't worry. If it is above this temperature a laser temperature gun can be aimed at the pavement to check if it is too hot to walk on. Another simple way to tell whether or not the pavement is too hot for your dog to walk on is to put your bare hand on it and try to hold it there for 10 seconds. If it is too hot for you to keep your hand on for 10 seconds or less then it is too hot for your dog to walk on.