Canine Tip of the Day: Friction Burns

Canine Tip of the Day: Friction Burns

When you have a fast moving, athletic dog who loves to chase or race or turn on a sixpence, friction burns to the pads are an occupational hazard.  People tend to think of burns merely in the capacity of being caused by something hot, like a flame or boiling water, but there are several different types of burn that your pet can sustain including:-

Hot burns
(caused by anything hot including flames, boiling water and even the sun),
Cold burns
(usually due to ice or frozen metal),
Chemical burns
(from anything that can get either onto the dogs skin or be licked off)
Electric burns
(caused by electricity during a shock)
Friction burns
(usually as a result of coming to an emergency stop on the paws or other skin surface)

The golden rule is that if skin dries, it dies, and so if your dog gets a burn, you must run the affected area under cold water for a MINIMUM of 10 minutes, or until the skin is cold – therefore, if after having run the burn under cold water for 10 minutes there is still any heat left in the burn, you must continue until such time as all the redness and heat has left the wound.When you have finished cooling the burn, it is perfectly fine to keep it covered with a moist clean dressing to keep the skin cold and wet.If the dog will not allow you to do this and refuses to have either a hosepipe cooling the wound or is unable to stand in the case of friction burns to the pads, for 10 minutes in a pool of cold water), you can try placing ice cubes or frozen peas in a clean, wet, tea towel and keeping it in contact with the affected area, again for a minimum of 10 minutes.Remember that if the burn is on skin beneath the fur, it might well be masked and therefore difficult to determine the size and severity of the burn.  It is often necessary to cut away the fur to expose the area so you can see more clearly what you are dealing with. Burns are very painful and it is often sensible to apply a makeshift muzzle to ensure your own safety.
We can go through the S.C.A.L.D. check list to assess the severity of the burn as follows:-
S = Size – how big is the burn? Any burn bigger than 1″ square on a large dog needs treatment from a vet so with a small breed, obviously this size guide will be considerably smaller. Be on the safe side, always seek veterinary advice if your dog has been burned, however small.
C = Cause – what caused the burn? Some burns are more serious than others for example if the burn was caused by a chemical, not only do you have the burnt skin to deal with but also the possibility of a poisoning if the chemical manages to make its way into the dog’s blood stream. With chemical burns you MINIMUM time under the cold running water DOUBLES to at least 20 minutes to ensure you flush the chemical from the layers of the skin completely.
A = Age – how old is the dog? Very young, elderly, frail or recently ill dogs need urgent attention
L = Location – some places on your dog are more dangerous than others. If any of the following locations are damaged then I would always seek veterinary attention immediately:-
D = Depth – how deep is the burn? A full thickness burn will be oozing, bleeding and very wet. This is an emergency situation. You should apply a cold wet dressing to the burn, ring your vet and tell him you are coming to the surgery immediately.
Remember, all the while you are treating your dog and his burns, please be on the look out for signs of shock which are much more dangerous than the burn itself.  Should your dog start displaying any of the shock signs, stabilise him with his rear end elevated, ring your vet and then continue to treat the burn once you have his shock under control.
Extra Tip for Flyballers
When competing at flyball, our dogs can often experience friction burns due to the sheer speed of their runs and turns.  They do more than one run in a session so its a great idea to treat their pads between runs if you get the opportunity.  Simply using an ice pack or cold compress to the pads for several minutes after each run can greatly reduce the incidence of friction burns.  If you want your dog to run and compete for you all day, its imperative that you take care of his paws and cooling them between the sessions is a very pro-active step to take.
If you are ever in doubt as to the severity of a burn, please phone your vet immediately for advice.


  1. Reply

    My small shitzu was bum scotting and has got a brush burn on her private region looks like may be infected ,what can i put on it.

    • Reply

      If it looks infected, then she needs to see a professional veterinarian I’m afraid poor love. If it was just sore, then you could bathe with salt water to keep it clean and put on some aloe vera gel or something similar to cool, moisturise and soothe but obviously it would depend on how close to the internal opening it was. You can imagine how sore it would be if it were your own lady parts so my advice seriously would be to see a vet.

  2. Reply

    My Dachshund keeps rubbing her nose across the carpet (trying to bury things under blankets and clothes) and she has a sore right where her hair and nose meet it’s red and was bleeding, the bleeding has stopped but it’s raw and red. What can I do for it to not become infected?

    • Reply

      If you wash it with saline (1 teaspoon of salt dissolved in a pint of fresh clean water) you should be able to keep it clean. Try to keep it moist if you can with something like aloe Vera gel – if the skin stays healthy and doesnt dry out, it will heal faster.

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