Tan dog paw and spotted dog paw lying across a person's hand

Summer paw care: seven essential tips

When the heat is on, make sure your dog’s paws stay cool, clean and injury-free

Will you and your dog be spending more time outside in the warm days ahead? Summer is the time when you can be more active and really enjoy the fun of having a pet — going for long walks, vacationing together, perhaps swimming or playing catch with a Frisbee.

Your dog’s increased exposure to the outdoors does call for more vigilance on your part — particularly when it comes to those four feet. The condition of your dog’s paws is key to wellbeing. These tips can help ensure a happy and healthy summer for your dog.

  1. Don’t let him sweat it. Did you know that when dogs become overheated, they sweat from their paws? While panting is the first clue that he needs to cool off, a trail of doggy footprints should also move you to action. Get your dog out of the sun and into an air-conditioned space, if possible. Then moisten a washcloth, wipe down his face and paws, and offer him some water.
  2. Walk when it’s cooler. Asphalt pavement and sandy beaches can get terribly hot when the temperature soars. With prolonged exposure to these surfaces, your pet’s paws could get scorched. To avoid that, take your dog to a pet-friendly park and walk him on the grass. The best times in summer for long walks and exercise are in the early morning and just before sunset, when it’s still light outside.
  3. Keep nails trimmed. If you hear clickety-click every time your dog walks, his nails need to be shortened. Ask your veterinarian to show you how to trim them and to recommend the best tool for the job. If hair pokes out between the pads, that needs to be trimmed as well.
  4. Look ahead. Keep your eyes peeled for broken glass and other sharp objects that could break the skin on your pet’s paws. If your pet is wounded, clean the affected area and contact your veterinarian.
  5. Watch out for limping. Sometimes dogs in the countryside pick up a prickly burr that lodges itself in between paw pads. Tweezers may remove it. If your pet’s gait is off, inspect the paws for foreign objects and injuries indicated by swelling, redness, and discharge.
  6. Check for cracks. Walking on hot, hard ground can dry your dog’s paws, which may lead to cracking. Examine his paw pads to make sure they’re soft. If not, talk to your veterinarian about some easy at-home treatments.
  7. Last licks. Dogs lick their paws for different reasons: For some, it relieves stress. For others, especially ones who take up the habit in summer, allergies may be the culprit. Contact with grass, weeds, and pollen is a common source of irritation. And once your dog comes inside, tracking the substance into the house can prolong his discomfort. One way to combat that is to moisten a washcloth and wipe down paws after the walk.

By following these tips, you and your dog can get the most out of the sultry season. As always, call your veterinarian if your dog is hurt or conditions worsen.

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