Barefoot Running

Summer time finds many pets out-of-doors on hot pavement


This summer, climate change caught me, as well as many pet parents, by surprise. Heat stroke, skin burns and painful third-degree blister-forming lesions on the bottoms of paws were surprise lameness diagnoses for many unsuspecting dog owners.

I woke up to the realities of skin care early this summer. In late May, I attended a lecture by Nia Banks;, a Johns Hopkins-trained plastic surgeon. She shared important ideas to protect ‘us’ from the effects of skin-related diseases. (Did you know that reggae-great Bob Marley succumbed to skin cancer? Yeah. He died from acral lentiginous melanoma, a cancer which began under one of his toenails.) As a result, I started carefully looking at my feet, . . . um . . I mean, . . . my clients dog’s feet this summer.

This pup came into a veterinary hospital with a history of lameness of three or four day’s duration. Typically, this pet will be reluctant to walk, let alone play. Clinically, clients complain of stopping, limping, and licking of the paw. Depending on the breed, some may even whimper!

As you can see, this pet has severe blistering (ulceration) and thickening of the pad pads (hyperkeratosis) which can lead to cracking of the pad, severe pain and possible infection.

So…. when you decide to run or walk with your pet on a different surface (other than grass, hard wood floors, or carpeting) take it easy at first. Walk on the sandy beach, black top, gravel or sidewalk for a limited amount of time, at first. Go home, praise lavishly for being a good athlete, and then examine your pet’s feet. Lengthen the workout schedule, a quarter-hour at a time. If the temperature is pushing 90 — postpone barefoot running. Ask yourself tenderfoot — are you walking on blacktop un-shod?

Many stores, REI, PetSmart, Petco, sell ‘booties’ with vibram-like soles to help your pet’s ambulate on difficult surfaces: rocks, sand and snow.

However, if you notice lameness while exercising: Stop! Praise your pup for letting you know there’s a problem and carefully inspect each paw pad. In addition to the pads, pay particular attention to the toe nails and the webbing between the toes. Toe nail injuries, rocks, glass, bottle caps and other foreign objects can cut, lodge and inflict severe pain.

If you see a problem: limit activity, crate rest (if necessary), and call your veterinarian to schedule an appointment. Soon!

Enjoy the warm days of summer and early fall!

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