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Heat Injury/Burns to your Dog's Paws

Updated on July 12, 2012

Mr. Barney, the wolfhound mix

Mr. Barney, the wolfhound mix
Mr. Barney, the wolfhound mix | Source

I have two rescue dogs, one of which is an Irish Wolfhound mix. That dog can run and he can do 35 mph (long story but I've had occasion to clock his speed with my car). He loves to run. It brings him so much joy that it pains me that I have such a small yard and I live on South Beach, a community with strict leash laws. I tell myself that it's a trade-off because he lived on the streets with people abusing him and preventing him from getting food even from the garbage cans before he came to live with me, but he could run as fast and far as he wanted. At my house, my yard is very small, but he has a safe place to be, another dog who adores him as a playmate, all the food he wants and no one hurts him here.

However, every so often something happens and he gets loose. When he does, he runs and runs and runs. But most of the year, the pavement here is very hot. You couldn't stand to walk on it barefoot and so you should understand that the pads on your dog's paws are equally sensitive.

Below is a chart showing the ambient air temperature and the corresponding measured temperature of the asphalt. As you can see, there is a significant difference in the two and it doesn't have to be all that hot outside to raise the temperature of the asphalt to a temperature that would be dangerous for the sensitive pads of your dog's paws.

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The first time the wolfhound got loose he ran 5 times around the island community in which I live. The only reason I could catch him was he suddenly pulled up limping. I helped him into the car and took him home, fearing that he might have a stress fracture on his foot but in getting him out of the car I noticed blood on the seat. He limped gingerly into the house and more or less collapsed in the front hallway. I immediately felt his lower leg and toes to see if there was any sign of a break, and there wasn't. Instead there was blood coming from the pads on 3 of his 4 paws.

I'm blessed to have a friend who is a vet and I called her immediately because all that blood freaked me out and she explained that the heat from the pavement coupled with the rough surface will cause blisters and burns to the pads of a dog's paws and she instructed me to carefully wash his paws with a warm soapy cloth to get all the dirt and debris out of his wounds, dry them well and then put some antibiotic ointment on them. I had Neosporin in the house, which she told me was fine.

So we cleaned his feet carefully and dried them well then applied a liberal coating of the Neosporin.


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However, he was still in so much obvious discomfort that I called her back and she told me that I could give him a baby aspirin (he weighs 75 lbs) and it would make him more comfortable. So I gave him a baby aspirin in a piece of cheese and within 30 minutes it was plain that he was in less pain and so I continued to give him one baby aspirin each night before it was time for bed to make him sleep more comfortably.

Low dose, chewable baby aspirin
Low dose, chewable baby aspirin | Source

It took 3 days before his feet had healed enough for him to run again and he was far less interested in going out of the fence for a while. But it was not the last time. Just this week, while trying to get him in the car, I lost my grip on his leash (it was wet, it was really hot outside, he was excited - totally my fault) and he was off to the races. Even though he spent half the time running in the grass, he still ran on the pavement enough that the heat once more burned the pads on his paws. This time I knew what to do.

Even though we all know that in this unbearable heat blanketing most of the country we should not let our dogs walk, much less run, on the hot pavement, accidents are going to happen, and knowing how to doctor your dog's injury will help him/her recover without lasting damage. If you suspect that your dog may have such an injury, you'll know what to do.

What to look for

What to look for:

1. Your dog is limping, or appears to be walking with great discomfort;

2. You see evidence of blood on the floor where your dog has walked;

3. Your dog is licking his paws and you cannot feel any evidence of a burr, or stone, or anything else lodged in the folds of the toes or between the pads (sometimes if they have picked up a tick, you will see this behavior so check carefully and remove the tick according to the proper procedure to avoid getting bitten by the tick yourself) - but do this carefully because if your dog is in pain, he may bite at you if you press or poke an area that is very painful and keep your face as far away from your dog's mouth as possible or muzzle your dog if you are uncertain.

What to do if you find evidence of blisters/burns on the pads of the paws

1. Wash gently with a warm soapy cloth (baby shampoo is especially helpful here) to remove any dirt, caked on blood and/or debris - do not rub vigorously as this will only hurt your dog;

2. Rinse the paws well to remove the soap, dirt, blood, or debris;

3. Dry the paws completely otherwise the ointment is not going to adhere well;

4. Generously apply an over the counter antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin to the pads of the affected paws.

5. If your dog is experiencing noticeable discomfort after you have cleaned and applied the ointment, check with your vet to see if it is OK to give your dog aspirin and check with your vet as to the dose and frequency - baby aspirin is most likely going to be the proper dosage but you have to know your dog's approximate weight and what dose the vet recommends.. Never give your dog Tylenol or any aspirin substitute as they have chemicals that your dog should not have.

6. If your dog still cannot put pressure on his or her paws within 2-3 days without substantial discomfort, get your dog to the vet.

Knowing a little First Aid is important

Our dogs count on us to use good judgment when it comes to their health and while avoiding a burn injury from the hot pavement is the best way to protect them, knowing how to treat this type of injury is necessary as a pet owner. Hopefully you will never have to face this problem, but if you do, I hope that you can learn from my mistake. Thankfully, Barney has forgiven me for allowing him to injure himself racing around the neighborhood in joyful abandon on the hot pavement. As for me, I still feel guilty.

Great tip for "pilling" your dog

If you have a dog that requires oral medications in the form of pills but who is hard to "pill", try pushing the pill into the middle of a marshmallow, preferably Kraft which tends to stay very dry on the outside but is really sticky on the inside. I had a miniature Schnauzer who required a lot of medications for a bizarre blood disease and she would take whatever you gave her, lick it off of the pill and spit the pill out of her mouth. That is, she would do it until I tried burying the pill inside a marshmallow. The sticky part was so sticky to the pills that she would end up swallowing them without being able to get all the sweet off of the pill to spit it out. Eventually she would beg for the pill if she saw the bag of marshmallows. I have successfully used this trick ever since with my other dogs.

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