Caitlin UltimoHealth / Pet Safety & Injury Prevention

How to Protect Your Pet’s Paws in the Heat

We may love summer and all the good times that come with it, but some aspects require us to step up our pet-care protocol. Dangerously hot paws is one of the many issues to watch out for.

Unbeknownst to many, summer can be brutal to your pet’s paws. Pavement, blacktop and even beach sand can burn unprotected paws. The temperature of asphalt can rise fast, and become much hotter than the air temperature. You may not realize it, of course, since you probably don’t go very far in bare feet, but your pup can easily get ouchies from hot paws.

That doesn’t mean your dog has to miss out on all the summer fun. “It’s best to stay away from cement pathways as much as possible,” says Aly DelaCoeur, an animal behaviorist and veterinary assistant in Seattle. “But avoiding the cement doesn’t have to mean shying away from exercise,” she agrees. Instead, take simple precautions to make sure that afternoon at the park or day at the beach is, well, a day at the beach for both of you!

Assess the situation. Place the back side of your hand on the concrete prior to taking your pet on a walk. “If it’s too hot for you to comfortably keep your hand there for five seconds, it’s too hot for your pet,” warns Ashley DiPrete, a Registered Veterinary Technician at VCA Bay Area Veterinary Specialists and Emergency Hospital in San Leandro, CA.

Find an alternative pathway. Drive to a park with a path, go to a school with a running track (if they allow the public on it), or find grassy areas along your walking route to have your dog use as an alternative to hot surfaces, advises DelaCoeur. “Yes, this takes extra time, but your dog will thank you for it,” she says. And, if you have one, a grassy backyard is always an option as a playplace.

Watch the time. If possible, take your dog out for playtime early or late. This is generally earlier than 8 a.m. or later than 7 p.m. Outdoor surfaces are cooler then, notes DiPrete, and dog paw burns are much less likely to happen.

Utilize your home. If it’s a sweltering, humid day, it’s not a great idea for your dog (or you, for that matter) to exercise outside. Aside from dog paw concerns, your pet could suffer heat exhaustion. Your dog can get just as much of a workout from training in the house, insists DelaCoeur. “Mental stimulation can work your dog and tire him out,” she explains. Games like “Rover Come Over,” where two or more people call a dog back and forth between them, will get your dog running and practicing his commands, while also building a stronger bond with his family.

Invest in booties. In many urban and suburban areas, hot pavement can’t easily be avoided. In that case, pick up a pair of dog booties, or replace worn ones. If you live in the city, you’ve probably seen more than a few dogs with shoes on! If footwear is a first for your pooch, “Practice with the booties so your dog does not feel uncomfortable when he must wear them outside,” suggests DelaCoeur. Show him the booties, then give a treat. Next, touch his feet with the booties, then give a treat. If you’re looking for a new training treat to try, you can check out Zuke’s Super Yummy Beta Blend Dog Treats, which contain beta-carotene rich superfoods to keep your dog going.

“By slowly increasing how long the booties are on his feet, your dog will have no problem when it comes time to wear them,” advises DelaCoeur. DiPrete urges the use of booties in winter as well (rock, salt and ice are hard on paws, too), adding that in all seasons, “ensure they are high quality and fit your pet’s feet well.” Bonus: Dogs with shoes are pretty darn cute! Ethical Pet Extreme All Weather Boots are great for all seasons. If, however, your dog will simply have nothing to do with booties, another option is to shield his paws with a protective wax. One to consider is Musher’s Secret Paw Protection Natural Dog Wax.

Do a foot check when you’re back home. After any hot-weather outing, check your dog’s paws. Not only should you look for burns, but “check for cuts, thorns or debris in between his foot pads. If you see anything that might be an injury, or your dog seems reluctant to walk, call your vet,” advises DiPrete. Even if your dog’s paws aren’t burned or cut, hanging around outside can cause dry, cracked feet (and elbows) as the season progresses. You can combat that with a good canine cream for this purpose, such as NaturVet Tender Foot, Foot Pad & Elbow Dog Cream. If your dog is a working or hunting dog, try Tomlyn Protecta-Pad Deep Moisturizing Pad Cream for Dogs, which is formulated specifically for those breeds.

Don’t forget your hot cat! Cat feet can be burned as easily as dog paws, especially if being outside is an infrequent occurrence. If your feline friend takes only occasional jaunts onto the patio, or is walked on a leash only once in a while, her paws may be even more sensitive to heat than your dog’s, which have had a chance to toughen up on his regular walks. In that case, says DelaCoeur, all of the same precautions and care should be taken for kitty paws. “If the cat is primarily an outdoor cat, though, then she has learned what surfaces get hot and not to walk on them,” says DelaCoeur. If your cat’s paws do get burned, a non-toxic first-aid cream, such as Dr. Harvey’s Organic Healing Cream, is critical. A hot, sunny afternoon is not the time to nudge a house cat into visiting the great outdoors for the first time. Cats can get heat exhaustion, too.

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