Children and spouses of military service members are called “dependents.”
It might be a good idea to use this term for our pets when it comes to hot weather.
One of the things we tend to overlook on the Palouse is burns to dogs’ feet because we don’t often get outdoor temperatures that hot here.
On occasion, we do see temperatures that elevate surfaces temperatures of asphalt or pickup truck bed liners to the point they will burn a pet’s feet.
Some argue a dog’s foot pads are tough and hot surfaces are not much of a concern. That is partially true in some cases.
Owners of serious hunters or coursing competitors may have a pooch with built up foot pads that are perhaps more tolerant of thermal injuries, but it is not a good bet.
A canine foot pad does have specialized tissue to prevent injury, provide support, and protect the structures of the foot. Foot pads are not, however, the equivalent of a modern shoe or boot designed for humans, nor are they indestructible
The dog is dependent on us to prevent it from being confined in a situation where a burn could occur.
Recall the dark black pickup truck bed liner and a dog on a short restraint.
Once warmed up to a desirable temperature and given a choice, a dog will seek shade in hot weather. In moderately warm weather, they may lie in the sunshine then in the shade and repeat as desired.
Ideally, we should let them have the choice.
So how do burns occur? Typically it is an owner who walks or runs with their pet and does not try to protect their dog’s feet. One has to think about it. Recall when you were young and played outside? Most people can remember a time when it was too hot for bare feet on asphalt, so you avoided it or you dashed across it very quickly between shady spots.
A dog on a leash may not have that choice if the person is running or walking on hot asphalt.
The person may be preoccupied with their phone or their run and not really be considering the dog’s safety and health.
How does one know if their dog’s feet are burned? Obviously if they are extremely painful and the dog is in distress, most people are going to know.
Burns can also be more subtle because dogs tend to want to please us.
They may not be thinking about the hot surface they are running on only to later be in pain.
For the champion hunters out there, they are often so singularly focused they will show up with cactus thorns completely through their feet or their pads fully abraded off.
So, here’s what a good owner should do.
First, test the surface with the back of your hand. This can be a sandy beach, too. If you can’t keep you hand there for more than a few seconds, it is too hot for a dog’s pads.
Consider running or walking exclusively on turf.
A dog with burned pads may limp or refuse to walk. Their pads will likely be darker than normal.
Inevitably, the dog will incessantly lick and even bite at the affected paws. Blisters and extreme redness may be apparent.
But a blister under a thick pad can be difficult for one to see easily.
In the most extreme cases, parts of the pad may have sloughed off leaving an open, but preventable wound on your dependent.
Charlie Powell is the public information officer for the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, which provides this column as a community service. For questions or concerns about animals you’d like to read about, email email@example.com.