Protected Paws

Area Veterinarians Offer Owners Advice On Keeping Their Pets Safe In Summer

Posted: July 25, 2014

Daily News-Record

Max, a 5-year-old hound mix, plods along in his Ruff Wear dog boots while owner Keith Trevvett follows closely July 22 in downtown Harrisonburg. (Photo by Jason Lenhart / DN-R)
Given the temperatures pavement can reach in the summer, Dr. Tara Bell cautions owners to consider their pooches’ paws: “If you wouldn’t walk on it in bare feet, then don’t let your dog do so.” (Photo by Jason Lenhart / DN-R)

Each day, Amy Cerelli’s store, Blue Ridge Dog, caters to canines and their owners across the Valley.

During business hours, her three-year-old Jack Russell terrier, Indiana Jones, roams the building located on Newman Avenue in downtown Harrisonburg.

When he does venture outside in extreme weather, Cerelli straps a pair of boots, or “booties” as she calls them, on Mr. Jones to protect his paws. The shoes, which she says are a popular purchase this time of the year, boast Vibram rubber soles, breathable mesh material, and reflective piping to help with night visibility.

“In the summertime, the hot pavement obviously gets really bad,” explained Cerelli, who owns five pooches, including a mixed breed terrier that was rescued after found tied to a bench in the Bronx, N.Y. “It can really cause damage to their paw padding.”

Though dogs have a tough, thick cushion on the bottom of their feet, this natural “padding” is susceptible to blisters, tears, burns and other damage that may cause discomfort, according to the American Society For the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ website,

The paw is composed of skin, bone, ligaments and connective tissue, which can be compromised when exposed to sizzling surfaces for an extended period of time.

Though paws are thicker than human flesh, Dr. Kathleen Connors of Stone Spring Veterinary Services maintains that overexposure to certain surfaces during peak weather — such as black pavement and boat docks in the summer — can cause this padding to slowly wear down.  Even hot sand on the beach can be detrimental to the foot, she added.

“[Dogs] can get second and third degree burns on their feet and remove layers on their paws,” explained Dr. Tara Bell, veterinarian at Ashby Animal Clinic in Harrisonburg.

“These burns can cause infections to the point where the dog may not be able to walk properly.”

Bell admonishes owners to be aware of the damages that can come with exposure to treacherous surfaces. Protective footwear, she says, is beneficial for the dog against hot pavement in the summer, while also serving helpful against the ice in the winter, or for hiking trails year-round.

Conditioning a dog to certain surfaces can serve as an alternative to protective footwear, as it builds this “tolerance,” says Dr. Erica P. Vaughan, veterinarian at Copper Ridge Animal Hospital. Dogs can be conditioned to terrains during appropriate times of the year, she maintains. For instance, one could condition their animal to pavement through regular walks on a crisp September afternoon, which will help toughen a dog’s paw pad.

 “Dogs gain a tolerance to certain surfaces, but if they have an abrasion or wound, it takes a long time for it to heal,” remarked Vaughan. “That tissue is hard to heal, sometimes taking several weeks to do so.”

Whichever avenue taken, local veterinarians collectively endorse planning ahead for the sake of your animal’s well-being.  

 “Always stay on the side of caution,” warned Bell. “If you wouldn’t walk on it in bare feet, then don’t let your dog do so.”

Contact Matt Gonzales at 574-6265 or

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