Walking your dog is crucial for their physical and mental well-being. However, dogs can overheat quickly during the summer and suffer from heatstroke. When walking your dog in the hot summer months, it’s important to understand weather-related health risks. While taking your dog out on a hot day can be dangerous, you can help your pup get the exercise they need by taking a few safety precautions.
Know the Dangers of Taking Your Dog Out in the Heat
High temperatures and humidity can put your dog at risk for overheating, dehydration, and even heatstroke, a potentially life-threatening condition. Temperatures above 80°F (27°C) can pose risks for dogs, especially in high humidity.
Dogs cannot regulate their body temperature as efficiently as humans and rely primarily on panting to cool down. This is not always sufficient in extreme heat, and if their body reaches 104°F, it can be a life-threatening emergency.
The following factors can affect your dog’s risk of a heat-related health emergency:
- Hot pavement: Asphalt and other surfaces can become scorching in the sun, potentially burning your dog’s sensitive paw pads. Hot pavement becomes dangerous when it reaches 120°F (49°C).
- Limited shade: In areas with little or no shade, your dog will be exposed to direct sunlight, increasing the risk of overheating.
- Breed: Brachycephalic dogs, like pugs, bulldogs and French bulldogs, have more difficulty breathing and cooling down, making them more susceptible to heat-related issues.
- Age and health: Young puppies, senior dogs and dogs with underlying health conditions are more vulnerable to heat-related complications.
Plan Your Walk Times
Schedule walks during early mornings or late evenings to avoid the hottest parts of the day. These times of day are typically cooler due and provide less sun exposure, which offers more comfortable conditions for your dog and reduces the risk of heat-related complications.
Early morning walks are an excellent way for you and your pup to start the day together, and evening walks can be a perfect opportunity to wind down together after a busy day.
Check the Ground Temperature
Checking the ground temperature before walking your dog is crucial to protect their sensitive paw pads from burns. Place the back of your hand on the pavement or sidewalk for at least 10 seconds to test the surface. If it’s too hot for your hand, it’s too hot for your dog’s paws.
Assume the pavement is too hot for your pup’s paws if the outside temperature is 86°F or above. This temperature causes asphalt to rise to 135°F, which can burn its sensitive pads.
Instead of walking your dog on the pavement, opt for grassy or shaded areas. You can also consider using protective paw booties to ensure your dog’s comfort and safety during hot weather walks.
Apply Pet-Safe Sunscreen
Like humans, dogs, especially those with lighter coats or exposed skin, can be susceptible to sunburn. For example, bull terriers, pit bulls, boxers and greyhounds are particularly vulnerable to sunburn.
To protect your dog from harmful UV rays, apply pet-safe sunscreen on vulnerable areas like the nose, ears, and belly. Avoid using human sunscreens, as they may contain ingredients that are toxic to dogs, such as zinc. Zinc oxide, typically in human sunscreen, can cause hemolytic anemia in pups.
Instead, look for sunscreen specifically formulated for pets, and always follow the application instructions on the label. Regularly using pet-safe sunscreen can help prevent sunburn and reduce the risk of skin damage and cancer in your dog.
Feed Your Dog Cooling Foods
Certain foods can have a cooling effect on your dog, making them an excellent choice for hot summer days. These foods are based on the Traditional Chinese Medicine understanding of how different foods affect the body’s circulatory, respiratory, and digestive systems.
Cooling foods for dogs include:
- Wild rice
On hot summer days, feed your dog high-quality dry dog food with premium ingredients, such as turkey, whitefish and millet. These ingredients contain essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to support your dog’s immune system and cool its body.
You can also feed your dog ethically sourced freeze dried dog food with cooling ingredients. Freeze dried food retains most of its nutritional value while offering a lightweight, easy-to-store meal.
Avoid Strenuous Games
High-energy activities like fetch, frisbee or intense agility exercises can raise your dog’s body temperature and increase the risk of heat-related complications.
Instead, opt for low-intensity activities and games that allow your dog to expend energy without putting undue stress on their body. Gentle strolls, leisurely swimming or indoor play with puzzle toys can provide mental and physical stimulation without the risk of overheating.
Continually monitor your dog’s behavior during any activity. If they show signs of fatigue, panting or distress, stop the exercise immediately, offer water, and allow them to cool down in a shaded area.
Carry a Collapsible Water Bowl for Frequent Hydration
Carrying a collapsible water bowl makes it easy to provide your dog with frequent access to water while on the go. These lightweight, portable bowls are designed to fold flat, making them convenient to carry in your bag or attach to a leash.
Offer water to your dog at regular intervals during your walk, allowing them to drink as needed. You can also serve your pet wet dog food to help rehydrate and cool them down. Monitor their behavior and physical signs, such as excessive panting or drooling, which may indicate they need more water.
Consider a Cooling Vest
A cooling vest can provide extra comfort for your dog during hot weather walks. These vests, made from specialized materials, help regulate your dog’s body temperature by evaporating moisture.
A Safer Summer Stroll
Walking your dog is a vital part of their routine, but being mindful of the summer heat is essential. By planning your walks during the cooler parts of the day, providing shade and water breaks, and avoiding hot surfaces, you can help keep your furry friend safe and healthy.
Remember to watch your dog for signs of overheating and seek veterinary attention if necessary. Keep your pup cool and safe, and enjoy your walks with your pup.