It’s official! Summer is finally here and that means hot weather is coming along with it. Longer days and warmer nights make for great opportunities to get out for fresh air, sunlight and exercise, but keep in mind the rise in temperature can also create hazards like overheating and dehydration. It’s important to keep dogs cool in Summer while they’re enjoying fun and exercise! Here are eight veterinarian-approved tips for exercising with your dog in warm weather.
#1 BYO Water
Never ever leave home without water for your dog. You can easily travel with water specifically for your dog with bottles like the PupFlask. Doctor Stephens suggests you pause every 15 minutes to give your pup a drink of cool, fresh water.
#2 Aim for Early Mornings or Late Evenings
You can avoid the heat by working around hours when temperature tend to soar. Limit your activity hours to early morning or late evening hours. Finding areas to walk where there is shade is beneficial for your pup too.
Dr. Brenda Stephens, DVM, clinical associate professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine in the Department of Clinical Sciences at NC State University in Raleigh explains that dog owners should be mindful of humidity and not just high temperatures. The added moisture in the air from humidity makes dogs feel hotter. Dogs keep cool by panting but when they breathe air that is dense with humidity, it doesn’t help them to cool down they way dry air does.
#3 Watch out for Hot Surfaces
Your pet’s paw pads can burn on surfaces that get extremely hot. Ever sat on hot leather that’s been roasting in the sun all day? Yeah, ouch. Asphalt and sand can both heat up very fast when in contact with direct sunlight.
You can protect your pup by testing out questionable surfaces that have been sitting in the sun for prolonged periods. Doctor Stephens recommends using your hand to touch surfaces like sand, concrete or a walkway. Place your have on the surface and if you can’t hold it down for more than 5 seconds then it’s probably not suitable for your dog to walk on. There is always the option of dog boots, which are available for summer and not just for winter seasons. Dogs don’t always love these boots but you can gradually get them used to wearing them by introducing them in small doses before going on long walks.
#4 Take Breaks
Don’t let the heat and humidity stop you from getting outdoors for activities with your dog. Do take breaks while you’re out and exercising today. Keep your dog cool by resting and recuperating in shady areas together. Another option is to get out and be active in short spurts instead of over one long period of time. Try going out together for 10 minutes three times a day, instead of one long 30 minute session.
#5 Is Your Dog’s Breed Sensitive to Heat?
Dogs with shortened noses and faces are part of the brachycephalic family (Pugs, Boston Terriers and bulldogs, to name a few) and they need owners to take extra care when it comes to beating the heat. Because these dogs have shorter noses and airways, they can’t properly pant to cool themselves down. Take extra care if your dog has trouble breathing!
#6 Indoor Exercise is also an option
While it can be nice to spend time outdoors with your dog, don’t compromise their health just to take advantage of the sun. Sometimes it’s just too hot for your dog to be out in the heat for so long. Indoor activities, especially those with air-conditioning, will help your dog to be more active when it’s too humid or warm outside. Sometimes your dog will even refuse to go outside and this may be a sign it’s a good day for playing fetch in the hallway.
There are many options to choose from when it comes to indoor alternatives to overheating outdoors. For smaller dogs, even a supervised swim in the bath can be great for cooling down and moving around. Agility courses, behavioural training or even toys that require dogs to use mental or physical energy are all great ways to keep your pet moving and entertained.
#7 Watch Out for Signs of Overheating
Heatstroke is an issue for dogs as well as humans. Know the signs of heatstroke so you can keep an eye out for your pet while they are enjoying their time outside. When dogs are overexerted, they will often seek somewhere to rest or walk closer to their owners or even simply stop walking. Signs of stress may include yawning or blinking excessively. Dry gums or heavy panting can be signs of dehydration. Changes in your pet’s behaviour, like walking differently or ceasing activity, are indications the heat is too much for your pet. If you want more certainty, you can always attempt to take your dog’s temperature with an ear thermometer. For dogs, a normal temperature ranges between 101 and 102.5.
Vomiting and diarrhea are also signs to watch out for. A circulation problem may lead to a bright red tongue or gums. Keep in mind that obese or overweight dogs overheat more easily and extra care should be taken in monitoring for signs of heatstroke or overheating. If you are concerned about signs you are seeing get your dog to a vet. It’s best to give notice by calling ahead so the staff know how to prepare for your needs.
#8 What to Do If Your Dog is Overheating
Air-conditioning, cool baths or pools of water will help bring your dog’s temperature back down. Bring your dog ice water or frozen treats, if you have them. Keep in mind, they may not want these and you shouldn’t force them to eat them. If they will allow you to put them under a cool shower, this can also help. You can also try wrapping them in a cold towel or spritzing them with water. If your dog’s condition doesn’t return to normal within a short period of time, call your veterinarian.