Can Dogs Feel Heat on Their Paws?

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Introduction

A relaxing summertime stroll with your dog is one of life's simplest and most rewarding pleasures. However, for pooches trotting along hot asphalt or sidewalks, it can often be quite a painful experience.

If you've ever taken a barefoot stroll down the street in the height of summer, you'll be well aware of just how much heat some surfaces can accumulate. And if you can feel it in your feet, chances are your dog can feel it on their paws, too.

Dogs can feel heat in their paws and suffer pain, discomfort, and injury from walking on surfaces that are simply too hot. But by following a few simple safety tips, you can help protect your pet's paws whenever the mercury rises.

Signs the Pavement is Too Hot for Pooch Paws

The sun is out, the birds are singing, and you've got your best-furry-friend by your side. You don't have a care in the world, but make sure you keep a close eye on your pet for any clues that they're struggling to cope with the temperature of the asphalt, sidewalk, or even sand. 

Some dogs are remarkably adept at concealing the fact that they're in pain, but keen-eyed owners should be able to detect the warning signs. Take a close look at how your dog is walking — are they ambling along happily and freely, or are they stepping gingerly, tentatively taking each step as if it's painful to put their foot down?

In some situations, you might find that this graduates into a reluctance or even outright refusal to take another step. Other pets will even let you know they're in pain by whimpering or whining, and by doing whatever they can to stay off the hot surface.

Of course, if you're wearing shoes, you might be blithely unaware of just how hot the ground actually is. As a general rule, if you place your hand or foot on the ground and you can't keep it there for 10 seconds, it's too hot for your dog's paws.

Body Language

Watch your dog's body language for any clues that the heat is too much for their paws to withstand, such as:
  • Whining
  • Dropped Ears
  • Whimpering
  • Paw raised

Other Signs

Other signs to look out for include:
  • Lethargy
  • Refusal to walk
  • Licking or chewing feet
  • Raised paws
  • Any signs of pain or distress

The Science of Dog Paws on Hot Surfaces

While canine paws aren't as sensitive as your own hands, they're definitely not immune to feeling heat and cold. And if you're taking a walk on asphalt, concrete, metal or sandy surfaces in the hot summer sun, you could be exposing your pet's paws to temperatures of up to 145 degrees.

Not only can coming into contact with hot surfaces cause intense discomfort and pain for your dog, it can also cause their footpads to burn. This can have particularly gruesome results and make it very difficult for your pooch to get around until their paws have healed.

You may also notice that different dogs have different levels of tolerance to hot surfaces. For example, dogs who spend most of their time indoors may struggle to walk on hot pavements that other dogs can manage to tackle.

Interestingly, some dogs seem capable of standing and walking on snow and ice for long periods without freezing their paws, and without showing any signs of discomfort. To find out why, researchers at Tokyo's Yamazaki Gakuen University used a scanning electron microscope to discover that canine paws actually have specialized circulation systems.

Veins and arteries in the paws are unusually close together to enable the transfer of heat, ensuring that blood is heated before passing through the rest of the body from the paws, and also ensuring that the temperatures of the paws themselves stay within reasonable limits.

Protecting Your Pet's Paws

There's plenty you can do to help protect your dog's paws from the hot surface, so keep these tips in mind whenever the temperature starts to rise:
  • Don't walk in the hottest part of the day: This is an obvious point but one that's worth remembering. Walking your dog early in the morning and late in the afternoon should help you avoid hot surfaces. However, remember that some surfaces can retain heat for hours, especially on those stinking hot days.
  • Check the surface first: If there's any risk that the ground could be too hot for your pet, check it with your own hands or feet first. And if you can't hold your bare skin on the surface for at least 10 seconds, don't expect your pet to walk on it.
  • Head for the grass: If you're worried about the heat on man-made surfaces like concrete and asphalt, walk your dog on the grass, which will stay much cooler in the summer sun.
  • Consider some canine footwear: There are specially designed booties and socks that can protect doggy paw pads from hot surfaces. If your pooch is happy wearing them, they can provide a much-needed layer of protection.
  • Inbuilt protection: Walking your dog on asphalt and concrete in the cooler weather will help build up calluses on the paws, making the skin thicker and less likely to burn.
  • If you suspect injury: If you're worried that your dog's paws have been burned, get them inside right away. Carry them if necessary and apply cold water or a cold compress. Seek veterinary attention as soon as possible.

If you're wearing shoes, it can sometimes be easy to forget just how hot the ground can actually get during the summer months. But if you always remember to spare a thought for your furry friend and their four paws, you'll be able to ensure that they're always protected against the pain of burnt paw pads.

How to Treat Burnt Paws:

  • All four feet can be potentially affected, so walking may be difficult for your dog until they recover. If you're worried your dog has burnt paw pads, get them off the hot surface immediately and seek veterinary help as soon as you can.
  • Your vet will thoroughly examine your pet's paw pads and recommend the best course of action, advising you on treatment and what you can do to ensure a speedy recovery.
  • Treatment may include antibiotics to fight off infection, pain medication to improve your dog's comfort, and bandages to protect affected areas and encourage healing.