Tuesday, July 26, 2016

How hot is too hot for your dog's feet?

Sinead the Boston terrier sleeping outside

Boston terriers like Sinead are sun worshipers. When the sun creeps out from underneath the clouds, she's the first to paw at the door. As soon as she gets outside, she runs to the sunniest spot, closes her eyes and drinks that heat in. She'll stay out there until she's absolutely breathlessly hot, and even then, she won't come in until I make her.

So from time to time, I'm tempted to take her for a walk in the afternoons on warm, summer days. While I know (and have talked about) how Liam the pug can't do anything strenuous when the temperature hits 80, Sinead just has a much better tolerance for heat. In theory, she should be able to go for a walk.

And here's where the theory breaks down.

Even though Sinead might be happy and content to lie down in the grass in the full sun, she might have a very different experience while in a walk in the neighborhood. That's because most of our walking surfaces are paved. And those surfaces can grow amazingly hot.

Sinead the Boston terrier lying on her side

I've been reading research from Martha Breithaupt about pavement temperatures on moderately sunny days. She used a very sensitive form of thermometer that could help her to get an accurate gauge of the temperature of various surfaces, and she took measurements during all sorts of different types of the day. Her results are striking.

On an average day in Florida at 5pm, the temperature of the air is 93 degrees. But the temperature of the pavement one might walk on is 112. And the temperature of blacktop (like a road) is 131. At 120 degrees, dog pads can blister and they can feel pain, she reports.

Clearly, walking on a blacktop at 5pm on a day like today would be a no-go for Sinead. But exposing her to 112 degree roads might not be pleasant, either. Long walks on hot roads like that might do a subtle form of damage that builds up over time.

I encourage you to check out the research before you take your heat-loving dogs out to walk. You might change your mind.

And remember: A dog's foot pad sensitivity is similar to your foot pad sensitivity. Before you make your dog walk on something that may be hot, take a few barefoot steps and see how you feel. Too hot for you? Might be too hot for the pet, too.

Any of you have special tips and tricks you use for hot-weather walks? I'd love to hear them. Hit me up in the comments!

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