When nice weather rolls around, it's time to take your dog outside to enjoy it. All you need is a leash, right? You may need something to scoop up his poop, depending on where you're headed, and you might want to bring some water if you're going on a long hike or if it's a particularly hot day. However, you may be forgetting something important. You're probably wearing shoes to protect your feet and sunblock to protect your skin, but what about your dog's feet and skin?
A dog's foot pads are firm and thick, since they were designed by nature to endure tough surfaces. But durable as they are, a dog's paws are still susceptible to soreness, burns, bruises, blisters and scrapes. Sore foot pads are a common aftereffect of a long day of hiking, walking on hot pavement in the summertime, and traversing ice and snow in the winter. Fortunately, there are ways to prevent this from happening. You can buy special protective footwear for your pooch's feet, for both winter and summer. Winter booties will help keep his paws from getting too cold and also help him avoid getting ice or salt in between his toes. Some are also waterproof. Summer booties can help keep your dog's feet cool and protected from the hot asphalt.
After a long hike or an extended period of time running outside in very hot or very cold weather, be sure to inspect your dog's feet carefully. Remove any debris, ice or snow that you find between his toes and inspect his toenails. If his paws are dirty, wash and dry them thoroughly. You can apply petroleum jelly or a moisturizer just for dog paws if they seem scraped. If they're bleeding, wash the wounds, apply antibiotic ointment and bandage them carefully, leaving the toes exposed if possible. Deep wounds may require a visit to the vet.
Now that we've studied sore dog paws, we'll consider another malady we humans are familiar with -- sunburn. Yep, dogs can get it, too, as you'll discover in the next section.
Dogs Get Sunburned, Too
If your dog enjoys being out in the sun -- and what dog doesn't -- you need to make sure that he doesn't get too much of a good thing. Many people don't realize that dogs are susceptible to sunburn, especially in areas where their fur is thinner, such as the tips of their ears and the bridge of their noses. White- or light-coated dogs -- like fair-skinned people -- are especially prone to sunburns. Some dogs without pigmentation on their noses, such as collies and Shetland sheepdogs, are genetically predisposed to a sun hypersensitivity called nasal solar dermatitis (also known as "collie nose"). This causes pink, raw areas to form on their noses and can lead to skin cancer if not treated.
A sunburned dog shows the classic sign of reddened skin that peels and blisters, just as humans do. The result is sore and painful skin. Just as with people, excessive exposure to the sun can cause cancer in dogs. For sunburn pain, mist the affected area with a water bottle; the cool water will soothe some of the discomfort. A cold compress is another way to relieve the pain. If the skin is raw, broken or your dog seems to be in pain, take him to the vet to get his sunburn checked out. He may need to have his hair shaved and a special topical cream, such as silver sulfadiazine, applied.
The best way to treat sunburn in dogs is to prevent it in the first place. Keep your dog out of direct sunlight during the middle of the day in the summer, when it's the hottest. You can also buy a sunscreen specially formulated for dogs that contains titanium oxide. Be careful about where you apply it, though, since he may just lick it off. You can also protect skinless or light-colored areas on your dog's body by putting a t-shirt on him (there are also shirts available that block UV rays). Dogs who are predisposed to "collie nose" can even get their white noses tattooed black to shield them against the sun.
So the next time you're gearing up for a long hike, think about how best to protect your dog from the elements, too. You'll both be a lot happier!
- ASPCA. "Top 10 Paw Care Tips for Dogs." ASPCA. 2011. (June 16, 2011) http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/dog-care/dog-care-paw-tips.aspx
- Eldredge, Debra M., et al. "Dog Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook." John Wiley and Sons. 2007.
- Foster, Dr. Race. "Collie Nose." Doctors Foster and Smith Pet Education. 2011. (June 16, 2011) http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=2+1592&aid=412
- Foster and Smith, Drs. "Dogs & Cats Can Get Sunburn." Doctors Foster and Smith Pet Education. 2011. (June 16, 2011) http://www.peteducation.com/article.cfm?c=2+2111&aid=1118
- Hedrick, Candace. "Understanding Dog Foot Pads -- Are My Dog's Feet Really Protected?" Pet Place. 2011. (June 16, 2011) http://www.petplace.com/dogs/understanding-dog-foot-pads/page1.aspx
- Pet Place Veterinarians. "Sunburn in Dogs." Pet Place. 2011. (June 16, 2011) http://www.petplace.com/dogs/sunburn-in-dogs/page1.aspx
- The Associated Press. "How to make your dog's days of summer safer." The Town Talk. June 16, 2011. (June 16, 2011) http://www.thetowntalk.com/article/20110616/LIFESTYLE/106160302