When summer temperatures soar, pet parents must pay closer attention to their pet’s needs. In addition to ensuring they stay hydrated and are kept cool, it’s essential to look out for paw pad burns on your dog or cat whenever your pet goes outside.
While your dog still needs his daily walk in the summertime, these trips should be kept short, particularly when it is hot, not only to ensure that he doesn’t get overheated, but to avoid painful burns to his paw pads.
What Are Paw Pads?
Paw pads are specialized skin on the bottom of the foot. They allow adequate pressure distribution for walking, jumping, and running while creating a strong protective barrier against the ground. Footpads are susceptible to wear and tear, especially in extreme weather and new or different terrain conditions.
What Causes Paw Pad Burns?
While some animals, unfortunately, suffer from paw pad burns due to being in a fire or chemical irritants, other dogs can get burnt paw pads from walking or running too hard on hot pavement or flat surfaces like tennis courts.
Recognizing a Paw Pad Burn
Signs of an injured paw pad include showing signs of discomfort, such as:
- Licking a paw
- Holding a paw abnormally
- Has a red, ulcerated, or bleeding pad
- Vocalizing when using the leg
While many things can cause these symptoms, a burn can be easy to see with the naked eye. Even black pigmented pads can turn red and ulcerated when burned. Commonly, hot concrete or pavement causes blisters on the pads that can fill with fluid and rupture a few days after the exposure. In addition, the pad's skin and protective surface layer can fall off, exposing an irritated, raw, and sore area underneath. This happens not only on hot surfaces but in dogs who are not accustomed to running on concrete.
Physical burns can occur when surfaces are too hot, but dogs can also have a burn or blister from running on surfaces they are not accustomed to, like concrete.
Treating Paw Pad Burns in Dogs
Treatment depends on the extent of the burn on the dog. If a burn is severe, the pet should be taken to the veterinarian immediately for care.
Often, the paws require a bandage. Because paws are dirty—they are the first point of contact with the ground—most veterinarians will prescribe antibiotics. Paw pad burns can become infected quickly. This may be oral or topical antibiotics, depending on the wound severity and the dog's disposition.
Dogs with burns should have their exercise restricted, and wounds should be monitored multiple times a day, if not in a bandage. Hot pavement and rough surfaces or terrain should be avoided, especially when healing. Dogs should not be allowed to lick or chew the paw or bandage. An Elizabethan collar may be necessary to prevent additional self-trauma.
Healing this area can be difficult, due to the high mobility and dirty nature of the wound. Some dogs may require a splint to further decrease mobility and allow the wound to heal.
The length of time a paw pad burn will last depends on the dog and the extent of their injuries. Mild injuries may heal within 7-10 days, while severe burns and pad sloughing may require weeks to completely heal.
Fortunately, as long as your dog has plenty of time to recover, there are usually no long-term side effects or complications of paw pad burns.
Preventing Paw Pad Burns in Dogs
Paw pad burns can be prevented by avoiding extreme weather conditions. Check surface temperatures before walking your dog. Hot pavement should be avoided, as well as severe ice, snow, or areas with salt to melt ice. Keep outside walks to a minimum during extreme weather.
Make sure to consistently exercise your dog on similar surfaces. When introducing a new terrain, gradually build up their endurance and tolerance for that surface.
IVASHstudio via Shutterstock
Help us make PetMD better
Was this article helpful?