The dog days of summer have nothing to do with canines per se. The term comes from ancient Greek and Roman astrology, when Sirius, the dog star, rises along with the sun. The ancients believed the dog days brought heat, lethargy, thunderstorms, and mad dogs.With the exception of the latter – meaning rabid dogs – we experience the same events.
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Of course, the dog days bring more daylight hours and more time to spend with our pets. Your dog's favorite activity no matter the time of year is spending time with you. There's no reason you can't take long walks with your dog in the summer, but it's critical that you ensure he won't burn his paw pads on hot pavement and other heat absorbent surfaces. Taking a few precautions means you can both enjoy the dog days.
Which surfaces are hottest?
Some surfaces retain more heat than others. Contrary to what dog owners may think, asphalt is not the hottest surface. Vets Now reports that a university trial showed that artificial turf is the hottest surface on a typical summer's day. The synthetic material used in running-track construction is next on the list, followed by asphalt. Brick is next on the list, followed by concrete, with natural grass retaining the least heat of the six substances tested.
Sand was not included in the study, but if you've ever walked on the beach barefoot on a hot, sunny day, you know how scorching hot beach sand can be. Keep that in mind if you want to take your dog to the beach.
Testing the pavement
Before taking your dog for a walk in the heat, go outside and test the pavement. Banfield Pet Hospital recommends placing a bare foot or hand on the surface and try holding it there for 10 seconds. If you can't stand it, neither can your dog.
Your dog must still go outside in hot weather, and if you live in a city, you have little choice but to deal with the pavement. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to protect your dog's feet and prevent burning. Take your dog out for his constitutionals in the early morning hours before the pavement heats up, and in the evening when it has already cooled down. If possible, any midday walks should take place on grass.
Protective boots for your dog are a must if walking him on hot surfaces in the summer. You don't want to use the same boots your dog may wear in winter, as they are simply too hot. As Dogtime notes, summer dog booties are designed with durable soles but have mesh construction allowing paws to breathe.
Not all dogs will put up with having boots on their feet. If your dog is uncooperative, there's an alternative. Paw wax, applied to your pet's feet before you leave the house, provides protection. One caveat: It's wax, it's messy, and you will have to wipe it off before your dog goes back indoors.
Dog foot burns
Even if you think a surface isn't too hot for your dog, you may miscalculate. Signs of dog paw pad burns include foot licking or chewing, a reddish or pinkish hue on the pads, limping, or just plain not wanting to move. Badly burned paw pads may produce blisters. If your dog isn't too large, pick him up and carry him inside, but get him indoors as soon as possible.
Cool your dog's feet by either running cold water on them or by applying a cold pack or compress. Take your pet to the vet immediately if his feet are burned. The vet may prescribe antibiotics to combat possible infection from burns, and your dog's feet may require bandaging until they heal.