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5 Heat Safety Tips When Exercising with Your Dog

 by jaime on 11 Jun 2014 |
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The warm summer weather means spending more time outside walking, running and playing with your canine companion. While it's fun to take advantage of the summer sun while it lasts, it's important that you understand the hazards that summer heat presents to your dog, too. High temperatures can cause heat stroke, dehydration and burns, and UV rays can lead to sunburn and sometimes skin cancer. Practice these pet safety tips to minimize the risk of these consequences when exercising with your dog.

1. Time Your Exercise Sessions Properly

The sun's rays are the most intense, and the temperatures are highest, between 12:00 and 2:00 pm. Avoid exercising your pet between these hours if at all possible. The best times to exercise outdoors in the summer are before 10:00 am and after 4:00 pm. Not only is the temperature cooler in the morning and evening, but the UV rays are less direct, leading to a smaller risk of sunburn for both you and your pet.

2. Keep Those Paws Safe

Hot asphalt or concrete can burn your dog's paws. Avoid exercising your dog on these surfaces on hot days, and opt instead for a grass park or dirt trails. Just be careful walking your dog to and from the car if you drive to a park - even a few steps on hot asphalt can be hazardous. If you live in the city where concrete or asphalt are the only options, purchase a pair of doggie booties. These are little shoes that slip over your dog's paws and protect them from the heat.

3. Offer Plenty of Water

Whether you exercise your dog near home or in a dog park, make sure you offer them plenty of water before, during and after exercise to prevent dehydration. An easy way to carry water with you is in a regular water bottle. Most dogs easily adapt to drinking out of a bottle when water is poured into the side of their mouths. If your dog does not adapt to drinking in this manner, you can carry along a small bowl and pour the water into it for them. While you walk, pay attention to the locations of public bathrooms and drinking fountains. If these are available along your route, you can avoid carrying your own water.

4. Notice Dehydration Early

Despite your best efforts to keep them hydrated, there may be times when your dog does become dehydrated in the summer heat. Learn to recognize the signs of dehydration, which include sunken eyes, lethargy and loss of appetite. Offer your dog water immediately if you notice these signs. If they don't drink within an hour, call your vet for further instructions. Prolonged dehydration is very dangerous; it can lead to kidney failure, intestinal blockage, and sudden death.

5. Use Sunscreen

You wouldn't spend an afternoon in the sun without applying sunscreen, and neither should your dog. There are many pet sunscreens on the market. For best results, purchase one that is endorsed by the AAHA or SPCA. Spray-on formulas are easy to apply. If your pet has short hair, coat their whole body. If they have long hair, you do not need to spray their long-haired body parts. However, you should still apply sunscreen to any area where their hair is sparse.

Summer is a time of year that is meant to be enjoyed. If you follow the tips above, you and your furry friend can have fun in the sun without compromising health or safety. If your dog has specific health problems that may impact their ability to tolerate heat, contact your veterinarian before taking them out in the heat for prolonged periods of time. You're always better safe than sorry, and it's perfectly okay to stay inside on the hottest days of the year.


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