There’s a lot to love about the summer months, especially for our pups who enjoy swimming or simply basking in the sun. But the summer heat can pose serious risks to our pets, particularly when it comes to their delicate paws. Just as we take precautions to protect ourselves, it’s equally important to provide adequate paw protection for our dogs.
“If we don’t help dogs take care of their paws, then their summer fun could be limited—and so would ours,” says Kait Hembree, Head of Training at GoodPup. But injuries to paw pads don’t just halt summer fun, she adds; they can lead to more severe orthopedic issues and can be difficult to treat.
Here are six ways to protect your dog’s paws this summer.
- If the asphalt is too hot for us to walk on without shoes, it’s too hot for our pups.
- During the summer, opt for morning or evening strolls, so you are outside when temperatures are cooler.
- Your pup may benefit from booties or a paw balm to help keep their paws protected.
Be Wary of Hot Asphalt
If the asphalt is too hot for us to walk on without shoes, it’s too hot for our pooches, too. “A recommended test is to lay the palm of your hand or sole of your foot firmly on the surface for seven seconds,” says Dr. Primrose Moss, VetMB, MRCVS, a UK-based small-animal veterinarian. “Even at air temperatures of 86 F, the temperature of road surfaces may be as high as 135 F.”
Hot pavement can crack, burn, and blister paw pads. If you’re planning to take your pup for a dip in the pool, then for a walk, remember that water softens paw pads, increasing the risk of injury, Hembree adds.
Stick to Cool Walks
Instead of venturing out with your dog during the hottest times of the day, opt for morning or evening strolls when it’s cooler. If you need to go out in the afternoon, walk on the grass or in shady spots.
Use Paw Protection
Who says seasonal footwear is just for humans? “There are several styles of dog boots on the market for both hot and cool surfaces that can be used to lower the risk of injury to a dog’s paw pads,” Hembree says.
When considering summer shoes for dogs, she says to choose ones made with breathable fabric, since dogs sweat through their paws. Other features to look for in dog boots:
- Easy to get on and off
- Adjustable and come in a wide variety of sizes to ensure a snug, comfortable fit
- Made from durable, waterproof, breathable materials
- Easy to clean
But shoes for dogs in the summer aren’t enjoyable for all pups. Some might tolerate paw protection wax better. However, Moss says paw wax may not protect dogs from thermal burns on the hottest days.
Examine Paws After Walks
Don’t let cracked, blistered, or burned paws go unchecked. Injured paws and paw pads can quickly become infected.
Closely examine your dog’s paw pads after long walks or in hot weather. In fact, it’s good practice to regularly check your dog's paws throughout the year, regardless of the season.
Look for small red swollen spots, darker coloration than usual, or even missing pieces of the pad itself, Hembree says. Watch how your dog acts, too. If they don’t want to walk, or if they limp or excessively lick or chew their feet, they might have a paw problem.
Monitor for Itchy Paws
In addition to burns, seasonal allergies are common causes of summertime paw problems. A pup with allergies can typically be spotted excessively licking or chewing on their itchy paws, causing staining in the fur around the paws.
“Allergies commonly affect the skin between your dog’s pads rather than the pads themselves,” Moss explains. “We typically see overly pink or even red skin between dogs’ toes.”
Moss’s go-to solution: Rinse your dog’s paws after every walk. This helps remove pollen from the skin potentially causing an allergic response, she explains. Plain water will do, or opt for an oatmeal-based shampoo made especially for dogs with irritated skin. Once their paws are clean, keep the skin hydrated with a dog-safe conditioner.
“If the symptoms are severe or persistent, it’s worth seeing a vet to discuss further treatments and rule out other conditions,” she says.
Keep Their Nails Trimmed and Paw Hair Groomed
Not all dogs require nail trims, because walking on rough surfaces wears them down. However, if your dog’s nails overgrow, they can alter your pup’s gait and cause orthopedic issues, Hembree says. Moss adds that overgrown nails can even curl into the paw pad, causing discomfort and potential infections.
“Getting your dog used to regular nail trims is a good way to prevent this,” Moss says. “If they won’t tolerate them, it may be worth looking into other methods, like training them to scrape their nails on a rough pad.” Ask your vet for help if you’re struggling, since many dogs are sensitive about their paws.
Check for excessive hair on their paws while clipping your dog's nails, particularly dog breeds with curly coats. Moss says furry paws are prone to collecting burrs and grass seeds—catching these irritants before they work their way in can save your dog a lot of pain and vet visits.
Featured image: iStock.com/krblokhin
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