What To Do If Your Dog's Paws Get Burned

Posted on: 26 December 2017

Did you know that roads and pavements can get so hot during the summer months that your dog could actually burn his paws on them? Many pet owners don't, but paw burns are a common problem in a country with very warm summers like Australia. Burns can be very painful for your pup and could become infected. Severe burns could even do serious, long-term damage, affecting your pooch's ability to run and play. You can prevent burns by exercising your dog frequently throughout the year (which helps paw pads thicken and become more temperature-resistant) and avoiding hot surfaces, but sometimes it's hard to avoid them completely.

If your dog's paws do get burnt, here's what you need to do.

Assess the Burn

Burns are generally categories into three categories: first, second, and third degree. It's important that assess how burned your dog's paws are before proceeding, as different burns should be treated in different ways. The most common paw burns are first degree burns which only harm the outermost layer of your dog's skin. Dogs with first degree burns will generally have red and sore looking paws and may be limping or whining. If your dog has a second degree burn, this means multiple layers of skin are damaged. They're less common than first degree burns, but still happen often. You can tell your dog has a second degree burn if their paws are blistered. Finally, third degree burns are serious burns which destroy deep layers of skin. Third degree burns are much rarer than the first two types and are almost always caused by actual fire or chemicals, but serious burns could happen on a highly sunny day if your dog is running across a very hot surface. Dogs with third degree burns may be in serious pain (equally, they may be in little to no pain due to nerve damage) or in shock, and their skin will often look charred or be peeling off.

Once you've assessed the burn, here's how to treat it.

Treating First Degree Burns

If your dog has a first degree paw burn, get them away from the hot surface and proceed with simple first aid. Grab a bottle of chilled water from a nearby shop or find a public fountain and rinse your dog's paw under the cold water to provide him with relief. Then soak a compress in some cold water and hold it to the burn for a few minutes. Remember that ice and butter, while common old remedies, can make the burn worse. Also, while aloe may work as a burn relief for humans, it can be toxic to dogs if they lick it off their feet, causing severe diarrhoea or muscle spasms. So, if your dog's discomfort persists, contact your vet about getting a pet-safe painkiller.

Treating Second Degree Burns

If your dog has a second degree paw burn, you should get him to a vet at your earliest convenience. As with a first degree burn, rinse with cool water until the skin feels cool to the touch and your dog is not showing signs of pain (such as whimpering and aggression). Remember to only touch the burn with clean hands and do so gently, as burn blisters can become infected. As such, when rinsing, try to angle the water to clean away any road debris. Try to avoid removing any skin from the paw pad, but don't be alarmed if a small amount peels off. You may also want to bandage the burn loosely with a clean bandage from a pharmacy or a sterile cloth until you can get to a vet. Again, talk to your vet about safe pain relief options at your appointment.

Treating Third Degree Burns

For third degree paw burns, getting your dog to a 24/7 vet immediately is essential. Third degree burns can be serious and even fatal. While waiting for emergency transportation to the vet, get your dog away from the heat source immediately. Unlike with first and second degree burns, you shouldn't rinse your dog's paws under cold water, as he may be in shock and could get hypothermia. Signs of shock include blue gums or lips, shallow breathing, low temperature, muscle weakness, weak pulse, and glazed eyes. Shock can kill if left untreated, so if possible, try to administer basic first aid while waiting to arrive at the clinic. Foil blankets and jackets can help conserve body heat. You may also need to place your dog on his side to keep him breathing and place his rear end on a folded jacket to help with his pulse. Remember that you should bring your dog indoors to do this as the road or surface he was on may still be hot enough to burn him.