Burned paws occur in dogs when foot pads encounter damaging heat or chemicals resulting in burn injury to the skin.
• Dogs with burned paws often show no symptoms initially but lick their feet excessively and limp or refuse to walk after the injury occurs
• Physical examination is sufficient to diagnose burned paws
• Serious burn cases require treatment such as pain relief, wound management, bandaging, and antibiotics
• Avoid allowing a dog to walk on potentially hazardous surfaces to prevent burned paws. Pavement gets dangerously hot when the ambient temperature exceeds 85°F (29°C).
Burned paw pads most commonly occur in dogs as a result of exposure to hot sidewalks or ice melting chemicals. Less serious burns are painful but often heal spontaneously while more severe burns result in loss of pad tissue and infection.
The onset of symptoms varies depending on the source of the burn. Pavement is rarely hot enough to burn instantly, so most burns develop when a dog continues walking on a hot surface for several minutes or longer.
Bleeding of the pads is seen in cases of full thickness burns. Severely burned pad tissue sloughs off leaving open wounds that are at risk for infection. Signs of infection include delayed healing, redness, swelling, heat, discharge, loss of appetite, and lethargy.
Burned paws are serious but not life-threatening. The injury is painful and sometimes leads to the loss of pad tissue and open wounds. Pad tissue takes a long time to heal, and infections may develop as a further complication from severe burns. Minor burns are common, for example, after walking on inappropriately hot surfaces or snow melt chemicals. In minor cases the prognosis is good but in serious cases the healing time can be many weeks.
Different types of burns have different causes. Some types of burns reported in dogs include:
• Thermal burns - Exposure to hot pavement and sand is the most common source of paw pad burns
• Other thermal burns - hot liquids or materials, flames • Electrical burns - treading on live electrical wires
• Chemical burns - ice melt products, acids, drain cleaner, gasoline, paint thinners
Burned paws are painful, but dogs often don’t show signs of pain while the injury is occurring. Symptoms like excessive licking of the paws, lameness, and reluctance to walk take time to develop.
Diagnosis of burns is usually self evident. A dog presenting with burns usually requires physical examination to assess the severity of the injury and blood work to check for infection.
Treatment depends on severity. Most minor cases go away on their own with time and rest. Anti-inflammatory medications may be recommended for pain relief. Preventing licking of the paws and burn creams may be helpful in more complicated cases. Severe burns require wound management including flushing the burns with saline, dressing the wounds to encourage healing and prevent contamination, and supporting the wounds with bandages or boots to reduce pain when walking.
Severity determines prognosis. Minor burns are uncomfortable but resolve in 1-2 days. Severe burns take weeks to heal and require significant treatment to prevent infection and facilitate healing.
Prevention of burned paws is possible in most cases by being aware of pets and restricting access to potentially hazardous surfaces. Burned paws during hot weather can be prevented by awareness of outside temperatures higher than 85℉ (29℃). During these times, best practices to prevent burns include:
• Walk early mornings and late evenings
• Avoid walks without shade or with significant amount of time walking on the pavement or sand
• Perform the pavement test - hold the back of a hand against the pavement for seven seconds. If it’s uncomfortable, then delay the dog walk
Low grade burns associated with walking on hot asphalt or sand are common in dogs. Severe burns are uncommon.
• Pain relief • Wound care • Dressings and bandages • Boots • Antibiotics when indicated
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