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How to protect your dog's paws from hot surfaces during warm weather

Hot asphalt and concrete can burn your dog's paws, but that doesn't mean you have to avoid taking them for walks altogether.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The dog days of summer don't technically begin until late July, but West Michigan has had its fair share of heat lately, and those hot temperatures can put your dog's paws at risk.

According to the 13 ON YOUR SIDE weather team, when the air temperature reaches 85 degrees, the surface temperature of concrete is 105 degrees and asphalt is 130 degrees. Those numbers can vary slightly based on other factors like cloud cover and rainfall.

Dr. Susan Schoen from the Grand Rapids Vet Clinic on Fuller Avenue NE says she has seen clients bring their dogs in with burns to their paws from hot surfaces before.

"There are several different reasons we'll see that. One of them actually isn't running on hot asphalt. It's running around a pool. It's running around in circles, because they will run and run until they abrade their paws," she said.

Abrade means to scrape or wear away by friction. In this case, that friction happens when dogs run and when they stop running abruptly, sliding their paws across whatever hot surface they're on.

"We'll also see it when they're on beaches and running on the rocks and a lot of sand, and skidding to stop. That will abrade that paw down to nothing," Dr. Schoen said. 

Hot temperatures don't necessarily mean you have to confine your dog to the grass, though. Dr. Schoen recommends conditioning your dogs paws to get them used to those hot surfaces.

"When you first go on hot asphalt, don't go jogging with them. Take them for a walk across a little parking lot, and then do that a few times. It'll gradually get that pad tougher. If you want to go to the beach with your dog, go for a short time at first and gradually work up to a longer time when you see their pads are getting thicker. That will help a lot," she said.

"That's why a hunting dog can run and run and run and not hurt their feet, if they're conditioned and if you don't overdo it."

There are certain activities you want to avoid on hard surfaces when temperatures are this hot.

"Stopping suddenly. Skidding around trying to get a Frisbee. You don't want to do that on asphalt, or really on a beach. You want to do that on a nice, grassy plane where everything's kind of soft," Dr. Schoen said.

If your dog does injure its paws, Dr. Schoen says treatment will likely include a special, medicated cream and bandages, if your dog will tolerate them.

Dr. Schoen says this time of year, she's actually more concerned about pets suffering from heat stroke. If you see your dog doing some heavy panting, get them inside or to the shade and give them some water.

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