Tips on Walking Dogs in Hot Weather
Keeping Dogs Healthy in Hot Summer Weather
Summer weather is associated with fun outdoor activities - walks on the beach, picnics, baseball games, afternoons by the pool, hikes, camping trips, and a whole lot more. For most of us dog lovers, our pets are part of the family. Our dogs love hanging out with us and we want to include them in the fun.
Unfortunately, dogs process heat very differently from humans. Weather that is mildly uncomfortable for a human can be deadly for a furry companion. This doesn't mean you need to keep your dogs locked up whenever it's warm out - that is unhealthy, too. Dogs need exercise, but hot weather means you have to take extra precautions to keep your buddies healthy. I own two large dogs with equally large exercise requirements (an Alaskan husky and a husky/German Shepherd mix) and have lived with them in several famously hot areas, such as Charleston, SC and Tidewater, Virginia. These are the tips I used to keep my canine companions well-exercised but sufficiently cool.
Did you Know?
Everyone knows to keep a close eye on dogs with long, thick fur, but did you know flat-faced dogs also have an elevated risk of overheating? Their facial structure and nose anatomy means they cannot pant as effectively, making it even more difficult for them to cool off.
Hot Weather Gear for Fido
Elderly or overweight dogs, as well as dogs with pre-existing respiratory or cardiac conditions, are more susceptible to heat illness. Keep them in the air conditioning as much as possible.
- It's Hot! Keep Your Pets Cool!
During the course of the year, it's always important to make sure your pets are comfortable and safe, however in the summer months it is imperative that your dogs stay cool.
Keep your Dog Healthy in Hot Weather
The following tips are a great way to way to help you keep your dog exercised and healthy during warm weather. However, always remember that only you know your dog and the circumstances. If you're ever think your dog is overheated and suffering from heat exhaustion, take him or her to the vet immediately.
Know the symptoms of canine heat exhaustion. Dogs cannot sweat like humans. While they do have seat glands, they are located exclusively on their paw pads. The chief way dogs cool down is by sticking their tongues out and panting. This is a remarkably ineffective way of cooling down a large, furry animal and means dogs are very prone to heat exhaustion during hot weather. Many symptoms of dog eat exhaustion and stroke are similar to human symptoms of the same heat illnesses. Excessive panting, increased heart rate or respiratory rate, drooling, seizures, bloody diarrhea, and vomiting are all potential signs of heat stroke. Dogs normally have a higher body temperature than humans, but a temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit will generally trigger heat stroke's more severe symptoms, and can even lead to death. If you see your pet exhibiting heat stroke symptoms, get him or her to the vet as quickly as possible.
Get a summer hairdo. If your dog has long fur, consider getting it a summer trim. I do mean trim, not cut. Fur actually helps protect a dog's skin from the sun's rays. If your dog gets a short trim and has pale skin, consider using a pet-approved sunscreen. Yes, animals can need sunscreen, too!
Keep your dog hydrated. During hot weather, dogs can become dehydrated very quickly, so make sure to provide your dog with plenty of fresh water. Collapsible water bowls are easy to bring along on a walk, and you can even get leashes or harnesses with a pouch for a water bottle so pup can carry his own water. Portable water bottles with a flip-out bowl are another great way to carry dog-friendly water on the go.
Cool off in the shade. If your dog loves to play in the yard, make sure at least some part of the yard has shade at all times during the day. If you go to the beach or on a picnic, make sure your dog has access to shade, even if you have to put up an awning or umbrella. While on walks, make sure to walk in the shade, whenever possible, or take a break in the shade from time to time.
Watch out for burned paws. If you stop in the road to chat with a friend, remember that Fido's paws are resting directly on the hot asphalt. Asphalt temperatures can easily reach greater than 50 degrees Fahrenheit, or more, than ambient temperatures, which means your dog's paws can burn from prolonged contact with hot streets. If you're concerned about your dog's saftey and live in a very hot area, or in the city, consider investing in a pair of dog booties. You may feel silly buying shoes for your dog, but it can save your pet from nasty burns and trips to the vet. Then, they can do double-duty protecting dog paws from sharp ice and freezing temperatures.
Don't leave your dog in a parked car. It seems like common sense, but how many times have you walked past a parked car with a dog locked inside? Almost as bad, I once saw a very angry chihuahua in a bag hanging from a post outside a grocery store! Even if your car has tinted windows, it can easily heat to fatal temperatures in a very short time. In some states, it's even illegal to leave your dog in a parked car, so you could end up with a substantial fine in addition to an overheated pup.
Limit outdoor time. During warm weather, you should limit your dog's outdoor time. Only you know your dog's health, exercise requirements, and limitations, so there is no exact length of walk that works for every dog during hot weather. However, you should walk your dog for shorter distances at times during hot weather. Also, try to take walks in the early morning or at night, after sunset. If your dog loves trips to the park, shorten these, too. During cooler months, my dogs can run for an hour or more but, during the summer, they are exhausted after 10 or 15 minutes. Most dogs are eager to please and will keep walking or playing fetch as long as their human stays involved - its up to you to monitor your dog and call it quits when he or she becomes warm.
Hot weather brings special challenges for dog owners because we have to weigh our pet's exercise needs with their physical limitations. Dog's cannot speak or pour themselves a glass of water - it is our responsibility as pet owners to monitor our dogs and keep them healthy on summer walks and excursions.