A friend passed along a horrifying local news story this week: A new bridge is under construction in my neighborhood. One side has been completed and opened recently, just in time for some very hot weather. A local character nicknamed The Beagle Guy was biking with his pack when he noticed them behaving oddly. He stopped to see what was wrong, touched the ground … and realized it was HOT. He told construction workers and got his dogs out of there.
A civil engineer on the project recorded a temperature reading of the bridge surface: A whopping 147 degrees! Nearby concrete sidewalks registered a toasty 106 and a metal handrail, painted black, was “only” 114. But the day hit the low 90s, so this could be a rare problem, right?
Unfortunately no: Another day, when the temperature was in the 80s, common during Missoula’s short summers, the bridge surface was 145 degrees.
Those poor dogs!
During extreme weather in particular, but really, always: Think about your dogs’ experience. Paw pads are sensitive: Extreme heat or cold is painful. Many snow-melt chemicals burn horribly. Rough terrain — icy or rocky or sandy — can scrape and cut pads. When walking or hiking with your dogs, think about that. If you wouldn’t walk barefoot on the surface, don’t ask them to.
On hot days, I don’t ask Cali to walk on asphalt. I won’t walk her across the new bridge at all. In winter, I avoid any sidewalk that has ice-melt on it. If you’re an avid hiker or live somewhere wintry, consider boots (I know, dogs hate them… but many dogs will accept them with proper training that includes a lot of treats).
If your dog has severe burns or you suspect they might, go to your vet or an emergency vet. Burned paws are very painful!
To soothe mildly cut or burned pads:
- Plunge the paw(s) into cold water and soak for several minutes
- Clean gently to remove debris
- Pat the paw dry; do not rub the pads
- Use a natural balm, such as Musher’s Secret or pure aloe vera gel
- Wrap the paw loosely with gauze or a sock
- Keep the dog off her feet (yeah, right!)
How does this happen?
The panels covering the bridge surface use a newish “polymer” material used “all over the world,” according to the Missoulian. It’s significantly lighter weight than concrete.
But most bridges are outdoor, and, though covered bridges are quaint, they are not terribly common, so this cannot be the first bridge using this material that gets direct sunlight. How has this problem never been discovered previously? And why is testing the surface temperature in various weather conditions not a routine part of QA testing?
OK, done ranting.
But, since we can’t count on the world to be safe for dog paws, we need to protect our pets. Have a safe and cool summer!
The hot side of the bridge got a new (temporary) paint job to protect paws and other unshod feet! I am impressed with the speed at which a fix was found — and I hope that a permanent solution is implemented soon!