Cool Tips to Beat the Heat on Summer Hikes With Your Dog
Summer is fleeting, which is why you want to make the most of it with your dog. If you’re hiking, keep these tips in mind to keep your dog safe and hydrated.
Just like people, many dogs enjoy tackling the trails on a warm summer day. And just like people, dogs can be susceptible to heat stress. High humidity, direct sun, warm asphalt, and sweltering city temperatures are all great reasons for you and your dog to get out of the city and onto a trail. Before you go, there are a few things to know about the staying safe while hiking this summer with your dog.
Heat stroke is a potentially deadly condition. If your dog begins to show signs, get them to shade and begin to cool their body slowly. Pouring tepid water on the groin, feet, and armpits will help to cool your dog down slowly. Cold water may cause the dog to go into shock. Dogs exhibiting signs of heat stroke will need immediate veterinary care.
Know the Signs of Heat Stroke
- Rapid panting
- Lots of drooling
- Hot skin
- Twitching muscles
- A dazed look
Plenty of Fresh Water
To cool their bodies, dogs pant. Hah-hah-hah-hah. (Nothing funny here, that’s the sound of a dog panting). Warm air passing over a wet tongue evaporates moisture from the tongue, which cools off the dog’s body. Panting uses a lot of moisture. Keeping your dog hydrated helps to them to keep their body cool.
Now the trouble is, not all dogs want to drink enough water all the time. Before a hike, add some water to their meal, either soaking kibble, or pouring extra over their meal. With added moisture, your dog will need to have some extra bathroom breaks, so expect to make some adjustments to their bathroom schedule.
Out on the hike pack plenty of water, but skip the ice cubes. The best bet is just regular room temperature water. Hot water is obviously no good, but cold water might seem like a nice idea, but it actually requires the dog’s body to work harder to warm the cooler water to the dog’s internal temperature. So, tepid water is actually best.
If your dog won’t drink enough on the hike, consider baiting the water. Baited water is an old musher’s trick. Baiting the water means you put something tasty in the water, so that the dog wants to drink more. Popular choices are cut-up low sodium hot dogs, sardines, low-sodium chicken broth or a dab of vanilla ice cream. The trick isn’t to overdo it, just a little but to tempt the dog to drink. It might take some experimenting to find the right mix.
The Best Laid Plans
The best way to avoid the hot sun is to plan your hikes in the early morning to avoid the worst of the hot weather. The cooler temperatures of the evening have reduced the air and surface temperatures, making it safer for your dog to hike.
Hiking earlier in the day has the added benefit that the trails will have less people on them, too. But, be advised that the earlier part of the day is also when the wildlife tends to more active as well. So keep your eyes peeled and a dog on a leash to avoid any conflicts.
If possible plan a hike that follows a river, or leads to a great swimming hole. You can both cool off by swimming or wading in the water. Keeping your dog hydrated and on a leash means you can keep him from drinking water at the swimming spot. Giardia, leptospirosis, and blue algae may be present in the water. Drinking contaminated water can have some really crappy results (no pun intended) for your dog.
A good grooming means your dog will be able to tolerate the heat a little better. Brushing and bathing your dog will remove any dead hair and skin that’s left on their body. Less dead hair means the dog’s coat is less likely to tangle and the skin can breathe easier. A great way to get rid of lots of dead hair is a bath. Your dog will feel better, and look better! For summer baths, stay away from fruity smelling shampoos, as those are more likely to attract mosquitoes.
If you have a long coated, or double coated dog, you might be tempted to have them shaved down for the summer. Groomers say to skip the shave, as the hair may not grow back and some of that hair will protect the skin from sunburns. I am not a fan of shaving a coated dog, but I will scissor trim some of the hair from their groin and legs to help cool them off.
Set a Proper Pace
Hiking on a hot summer day is strenuous. The distance your dog can travel during a spring romp, may be significantly shorter and slower on a hot day. So keep a cool head, and play it by ear. It is far better to rest in a shady spot than push on and regret it later. Now get out there and enjoy a summer hike with your dog.