Pet 411: Summer heat can be bad news for your dog’s paws

ST Meeks Blog Logo Image 2016 01 28It’s summer and the temperatures are scorching. As difficult as these hot, muggy days can be for us, they can be even more troublesome for our four-legged friends – specifically, their paws.

That was the focus of an email I received from a reader last month. She said she knew all about the damage snow and salt can cause to her dog’s paws in the winter, but what about the summer? Could the hot concrete pose a danger?

The answer to her question is a resounding yes. Concrete and asphalt can get very hot and burn your dog’s paws. A good test? Put the back of your hand on the pavement. If you can’t keep it there for between 5-10 seconds, it’s too hot for your pup’s feet.

You’d be surprised how many people just aren’t aware of how the heat might affect their dog. One of the worst cases I’ve seen involved a person who went rollerblading with his dog in the middle of the day here in blazing hot Florida, where I’m based. The dog’s paws were so badly burned that the skin had sloughed off his pads, putting him at risk for infection. He was also suffering from severe dehydration. This is not uncommon, because the heat isn’t something that a lot of people stop to think about. Remember – most dogs want nothing more than to please their owners, so they’ll run until they collapse. You have to be the one who is mindful about their well-being.

So, what can be done to prevent this?  Don’t walk your dog during the heat of the day. If you live in a particularly warm climate, such as Florida or Arizona, try to walk at dawn and dusk. If for some reason this isn’t an option, there are booties you can buy that will protect your dog’s paws. But be aware – many dogs don’t like the feeling of booties on their paws and won’t tolerate them.

Other things to be aware of when you’re walking your dog during the hot summer months: Overweight or obese dogs are more at-risk for heat-related illnesses, as are short-nosed breeds, such as bulldogs and pugs. There’s great information about heat stroke and how to prevent it in this article, which features my colleague Dr. Miryam Reems, who is board-certified in emergency and critical care medicine.

Be safe and hang in there. Autumn will be here before you know it!

Have a question about your pet that you’d like answered? Write to Dr. Cathy Meeks at She’d love to hear from you, and your letter may be picked for an upcoming Pet 411 column.