Photo Credit: Dogtime and Hobart and Channel Highway Animal Hospitals
While we bask in the sun’s warm rays, knowing that summertime weather may only last until September and not return until May, our pets don’t typically seek the heat. Not only do their all-season coats and limited ability to regulate body temperature by panting and sweating keep them toasty, but unprotected body parts like ear tips, noses, upturned bellies, and especially tender paws take the brunt of the sun’s damage. And while humans think to bundle themselves and their pets up against the cold winter temperatures, we often forget to protect dogs in the summer.
How to Protect Dogs Paws
One of the best ways to protect your pet in the summer is to avoid the sun during the peak temperatures of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. If you’re going to play ball, frisbee, or even swim, try to do it during the cooler mornings and evenings when the heat is less intense. Even if you are enjoying your stroll at dusk and not in the sun’s direct light, don’t forget about the asphalt, which may retain most of the day’s heat and damage dogs paws.
If the outside temperature is a comfortable 77 degrees, driveways and roads can still reach 125 degrees Fahrenheit. At 87 degrees air temperature, a blazing 143 degree can be reached on the asphalt’s surface.
Beware the Hot Pavement
Keep in mind an egg can fry at 131 degrees in just 5 minutes! A good rule of thumb to follow is the 7-second rule: if you can press the back of your hand against the ground for 7 seconds, it’s safe for your dog to walk upon. Artificial turf, running tracks, sand, and even brick and concrete may be dangerous to your dogs paws during the hot summer months.
We recommend walking your dog early in the morning or late in the evening when temperatures and grounds are cooler.
Besides staying on natural grass, what else can you do to protect your dog’s paws? Invest in some fitted dog booties to help provide a barrier from hot surfaces, especially when pets have to go outside to potty. Many times, these same booties can be used in the winter to eliminate the risk of irritation from salt and ice. It can be a trial and error process to find the set your dog likes best.
Dog Paw Balms
Some are made of a stretchy latex material like PAWZ, and others of fabric with velcro straps and even reflective material. Have your dog practice wearing their gear inside and with plenty of treats. It can take some time to get used to wearing shoes when you’ve always been footloose and fancy-free!
Another option to provide a temporary barrier between the sensitive paw pads and the elements is a paw balm or wax. Paw waxes are especially effective in the winter months but can be used on dry, cracked pads ravaged by the rough pavement. Some dogs don’t know when to call it quits; my golden retriever will fetch a ball to the detriment of her own feet. I apply a paw balm both before and after vigorous outside play, especially if we are on a rough surface.
Musher’s Secret is an especially popular non-toxic wax. Other DIY dog paw balm recipes can be found online and often involve a combination of beeswax, shea butter or coconut oil. Above all else, perform a visual inspection of your dog’s feet and pads after any outside activity when temperatures may be either very warm or very cold.
Sunburn looks like erosion or ulceration of the skin and must be treated by your vet immediately. Foreign bodies like burs or pests like fleas and ticks may be detected before they cause further damage. Keep furry toes neatly trimmed and nails clipped weekly to avoid splitting or cracking and accumulation of dirt and debris. Keep enjoying the dog days of summer!