Burned dog paws: Vet's guide to signs, causes and treatment

Girl walking a dog on pavement
(Image credit: Getty Images)

All dog owners should be aware of the possibility of burned dog paws since the burns are not always obvious initially. 

Alongside heatstroke and mosquito bites, burned paws are often regarded as a seasonal hazard in hot weather, however it's important to note that it's not only caused by a dog making contact with hot pavements: ice, chemicals and salt can all burn a dog’s paw too. 

Burnt paws are extremely painful and, if left untreated, can become infected. So, it’s important to know the symptoms of burned paw pads and what you should do. 

Here’s a vet’s advice on preventing, spotting and treating burned paws.

Causes of burned dog paws 

 Firstly, let’s take a look at why dog paws burn. Common possible causes include: 

  • Hot surfaces Tarmac, asphalt and fake grass are the most common culprits! They absorb heat throughout the day and retain it well, meaning they stay hot for quite some time. 
  • Ice Did you know that freezing cold can burn too? Icy surfaces can cause nasty burns. 
  • Salt The salt used for de-icing the roads and pavements can cause chemical burns. Dogs also have a tendency to lick it off, which then irritates the gut, resulting in nasty vomiting and diarrhea
  • Chemicals  Many chemicals can cause burnt paws, with the added danger that your dog may lick the chemical off

Naturally, if your dog stepped on anything hot (such as hot coals, a hob or boiling water) then their paws would also burn! 

While these types of injuries are (thankfully) less common, it’s important to be aware of all potential hazards. 

Signs and symptoms of burned dog paws  

So, how do you know if your dog’s paw is burnt? This may sound like a silly question, but the burns aren’t always obvious straight away. Here are the symptoms to look out for:

  • Limping, or lameness that shifts between legs 
  • Reluctance to walk
  • Licking or chewing their paws  
  • Reluctant to let you look at or touch their paws 
  • Patchy discoloration of the paw pads 
  • Blistered paw pads 
  • Peeling paw pads, or flaps of skin 

Of course, these symptoms can be caused by other conditions too! So if you notice any of these signs, it’s important to have them checked by your vet, rather than assuming the cause.

Cane corso dog sitting in summer meadow giving paw to its human

(Image credit: Getty Images)

What to do if you notice burned paw pads  

If you notice any of the above symptoms of burned paws, you need to take your dog to see their vet. 

Burns are very painful, so your dog will need veterinary prescribed pain relief alongside treatment for the burns. Burns are also prone to becoming infected, so your vet will need to assess them and give antibiotics if needed.

If you’re wondering how to treat burned dog paws at home, here are the steps to follow: 

  1. Run the pads under cool water for around ten minutes. This will cool the area, as well as washing off any residual chemicals or salt if this was the cause. Never use ice or iced water and don’t apply any ointments or creams yourself. 
  2. Place clingfilm loosely over the paws, being very gentle of course. You can keep it in place with a loose bandage or sock. This should only be a temporary measure, to be kept on for a short time while you seek medical advice. 
  3. Call your vet! They will book you an appointment so that they can assess the wounds, prescribe any pain relief or antibiotics needed, and apply specialist dressings. If possible, use a car rather than walking your dog to the appointment. 

Your vet may then ask you to apply creams or change dressings at home and will give your instructions on how to do so.

bandaging a dog's paw

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How long do dog paw burns take to heal?

Healing of dog paw burns can be lengthy, taking anywhere between 7 days and several weeks. It’s hard for an area to heal when it's constantly having pressure put on it! 

During this time, you will need to avoid walking on rough surfaces and keep the area clean and dry.

Preventing burned dog paws 

As with most things, prevention is better than cure! Here are our top tips for preventing burned dog paws: 

  • The pavement test: On hot days, place the back of your hand on the surface you’re considering walking on for at least 7 seconds. If it’s too hot to comfortably hold your hand there, it’s too hot to walk your dog on! 
  •  On hot days, don’t walk your dog during peak sun and stick to grassy areas. Walk early in the morning, late in the evening, or not at all! Remember that heatstroke is a very real danger too.  
  • Rinse your dog’s paws in cool water after a walk, especially if you know the grit lorries have been out.  
  • Avoid walking in icy conditions. 
  • Consider using dog boots in winter to protect from ice and salt, if your dog will tolerate them! 
  • Avoid using harsh chemicals for cleaning. If you do, make sure you keep them out of reach and rinse the floor thoroughly with water after use. 

While prevention is naturally best, of course, accidents do happen. So if your dog does burn their paws, now you know what to do! 

Summary

Burned dog paws are painful and at risk of becoming infected. Of course, prevention is better than cure if possible! If your dog does burn their pads, it’s important to call your vet, even if the burn seems mild. Dogs can be surprisingly stoic, and pads can be hard to assess!

Sarah-Jane Molier graduated in 2009 and has been enjoying life as a vet ever since. She currently works as Head Veterinarian in a small animal practice. Sarah-Jane particular enjoys internal medicine, alongside her managerial role. When not working in practice Sarah-Jane enjoys sharing her knowledge and helping pet parents by writing on a wide variety of animal health and medicine topics. In her spare time Sarah-Jane loves walking Nero (her rescue dog), gardening with her two young children and reading.