We couldn’t help but laugh when we looked up the National Weather Service’s definition of a “heat wave.” According to one of their safety articles, heat waves are a period of abnormally hot weather generally lasting more than two days.

While putting together a history of “hot spells” in Boise, they get a little more specific. That list includes a series of two or more consecutive days where the high temperatures are at or above the normal temperature for that date. By that definition, we’ve been in a “hot spell” for 15 days and if the forecast holds, could be for at least 15 more. 

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That’s you’ll see so many cyclists, runners and walkers on the Greenbelt in the early morning hours before temperatures become unbearable in the afternoon. At that point, you’re going to run into one of two kinds of people on the Greenbelt: bridge jumpers who get some sweet relief from the Boise River and morons who are actually trying to work out. (We don’t think you’re actually a moron. This author is one of those people who runs during the hottest parts of the day and just feels like a moron after she finishes.) 

The thing about people is that they can make those sorts of good (or bad) decisions for themselves. Dogs? They’re at the mercy of their humans to make the right decision for them and hopefully, you’ll make the decision to NOT walk your dog in the afternoon until the hot spell passes. Unless you’ve bought them booties, your dogs don’t have shoes protecting their paw pads, making them susceptible to burns and in some extreme cases, blistering. 

According to a Journal of Medical Association article about surface burns, asphalt can get dangerously hot even if the outside temperature seems pleasant. Here’s what they measured:  


Those temperatures represent the worst-case scenario: direct sun, no wind, very low humidity and high radiant energy. That’s why it’s recommended you should look for shaded areas to walk in, rather than sections of the Greenbelt like near the Warm Springs Golf Course or Shakespeare Festival that are in direct sunlight with little to no relief. 

So how do you know if your dog’s paw got burnt during a walk together? According to Petsmart tell-tale signs include: limping, trying to avoid walking, licking or chewing of feet, paw pads that are darker than normal, visible damage or blistering. If you notice symptoms like that, take your dog to the vet. They’ll be able to confirm that it is a burn and send you home with antibiotics if the burns or blisters have become infected. 

A three-legged labrador whose left rear leg was amputated due to cancer.

Multiple sources, including experts at Washington State University, say that a good way to tell if it’s too hot to walk your dog is to try it yourself. If you can’t hold the back of your hand on the ground for seven seconds, it’s too hot. 

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