Summer is in full swing and the temperatures just keep climbing. But it’s important to keep those pups, and yourself, just as active. The heat means adjusting your routine to keep everyone safe.
Step out when the sun is low: We all know the sun is at its highest between 11am & 4 pm. So if you can get out there early in the morning and late in the afternoon you stand the best chance of not getting too hot. I also absolutely LOVE jogging when it’s raining. A nice afternoon rainstorm brings just enough of a breeze and cooling sprinkle to keep us going. ‘Course, I never go out when there is lightning nearby.
Accessorize: If you have to take your pup out in the heat of the day be sure to check the heat on the sidewalk. Before your pets hit the pavement place your bare palm down; if it’s too hot to leave your hand down for a full minute consider booties. You can pick up a pair at your local pet store. They come in all sizes and colors, but can be a bit pricey. Especially if you don’t need them often. If you have a medium to large dog consider buying a few pairs of baby socks. They wear out quickly but they are super cheap. Booties are also great to have on hand when you hike or jog. Especially if your dog is too big to carry. I once tried to carry Yukon 2 miles off a trail after he cut his foot on a rock. When I couldn’t carry him any further I had to just let him limp along and it broke my heart to know he was suffering. It was the last time I ever went out without booties.
Water is life: Make sure your pets stay hydrated. Keep a full bowl of water at the ready. If you are walking or hiking make sure you take a collapsible bowl and extra water. It’s best to offer small amounts of water often. Some dogs, like Swota, will go too long without water and then gulp it down. In fact, any time Swota is excited she makes a habit of chugging down a ton of water and then yakking it right back up. This isn’t just gross but could cause a host of bigger problems. After chatting with her vet to rule out any real health problems he suggested filling her bowl with ice anytime she gets hot or excited. Just enough water that she can lap it up slowly lets her hydrate without gorging and helps her cool down. Plus, ice cubes make a nice crunchy summer snack — with zero calories.
Get High: The higher the altitude the cooler the temps. Load your pups up and head for the mountains. In fact, if you go far enough you can even still find snow! We are so lucky to live so close to the Rockies. And this time of year is the absolute best time to take advantage of it. But don’t under-estimate the climb. Just a couple weeks ago Robbie & I loaded the dogs up and headed for one of our favorite trails. Even though it was a bit cooler than the valley we still had to stop much more frequently than usual to water the dogs. Consider teaching your dog to drink out of a bottle. If you ever lose or forget your bowl, you can still keep your pup hydrated. We picked up an accessory that screws onto any standard bottle and looks like a hamster waterer. It slows the water down a bit so they don’t choke.
Take up water sports: So many trails around Denver follow our many water ways. Especially if you have to go out in the heat find a trail that gives you & your pup a chance to dip your toes in and cool off. Bear Creek Trail winds from Downtown into the foothills and it is one of my favorite places to jog. When we get too warm a quick dip in the creek cools off even the hottest of dogs. Or find a local lake or pond for a rousing game of fetch.
Don’t leave ’em exposed; We all know better than to leave dogs in hot cars. But it can also be dangerous to leave your pet unattended in the back yard. Even if you put out lots of water. While working in the animal ER I saw old dogs come in every summer with heat stroke after laying in the sun in the back yard, even with a full bowl of water just 10 feet away. Let ’em stay inside where there’s air conditioning when you can’t keep an eye on them. Especially when it comes to those old guys. In fact, no matter what you’re doing with your old dog, keep in mind that he may be less heat tolerant.
Consider a new do: But only if its right for your pup. Not all doggie coats are the same. For some dogs a nice summer shave releases a whole lot of heat, like storing your winter parka in the closet. But a close shave is not right for every dog. Double coated breeds do better when simply brushed out. Everyone has an opinion on this one. And I have received a number of snarky comments out on the trails with Yukon & Swota with regard to their thick double coats. When it comes to a dog with a double coat think of your dog like a thermos, that thick coat will keep them warm in the winter and insulate them from the heat in the summer. Chat with your vet or groomer before you do anything drastic. Most dogs do best with just a solid grooming. Keep in mind also that color will also effect how your dog deals with the heat. As long as we’ve had Swota she has always wanted more water than Yukon, I kinda wrote it off to her size and thicker coat. But on a recent afternoon jog I stopped for a moment to rest and while patting Yukon and Swota on the head I was shocked by the difference in surface temperature of their two coats. Well, it should come as no surprise to any grade-school student that Swota’s black coat felt much hotter than Yukon’s highly reflective white coat. She is also always the first one to dive in the creek at any opportunity.
Don’t let the summer sun keep you locked inside. Get out there and enjoy it safely!
*Summer activities may not be right for all dogs. Elderly, out-of-shape, and brachiocephalic (flat-faced) dogs may not be able to regulate their body temperature as well as more active breeds. Talk to your vet about understanding your dogs limits.
* Watch your dog closely for any signs of distress: Excessive panting, change in gum color or tackyness, excessive or lack of salivation. Keep in mind that dogs are programmed not to show weakness.