Yesterday afternoon’s patient was limping. His owner was convinced he’d sprained his leg after playing in the park for an hour all morning. But he was wrong. One look at the pads of his feet told the story: That patchy white blistering at the centers? Pad burns. 

“Walking on the asphalt much?” I asked. 

All the way home, apparently. And the owner had never heard this kind of injury was possible. He assumed that such was the purpose of pads––to prevent the potential traumas posed by everyday surfaces. 

Sure, that’s what pads are good for. But that doesn’t mean the scalding hot sidewalk you could fry a proverbial egg on can’t hurt your pets. At some point, streets become too hot for long walks––pads or no pads. 

That’s why this six month-old shepherd mix will now be spending his next two to four weeks in bandages. Going forward, he’ll be wearing booties on the asphalt––a simple concession  to the heat most dogs will accept (eventually, anyway). 

Hot as it’s been here lately, this got me to wondering about some of my other patients: 

The white cat with the skin cancer on her eartip, the American bulldog with painful sunburn on her belly, the chronically sunbathed boxer with “field cancerization” of his prepuce (the sheath the penis lives in) thanks to hemangiosarcoma, the bright red head of a recently-clipped Cocker spaniel (the owner thought she had a fever). 

What do all of them have in common? The fact that their sun exposure leads them to acquire injuries or diseases that most owners don’t properly understand to be the consequence of sun and heat...until it’s too late. 

The worst thing about all these problems? Aside from their ability to induce suffering, it’s the fact that they’re all preventable. 

Hot street-walked dogs can be made to wear booties (or preferably, made to wait to a cooler time of day). Chronic sunbathers can be kept indoors at the time the sun’s rays are their most powerful. And all white or light colored pets exposed (at all) to ultraviolet light should receive a dose of sunscreen (now made just for pets) before hanging out in the sunshine.

Your pets don’t have to live in Miami (as mine do) to suffer the sting of the sun. Plenty of other places are hotter and more UV light-ridden. But each and every pet owner needs to understand the reality of these conditions before they expect their pets to do without––even as they slather on the sunscreen, don their thick-soled shoes and head out nto the bright light of day fully clothed.

Makes sense, right?


Dr. Patty Khuly