Safe Exercise In Hot Weather To Prevent Heat Exhaustion

The “Dog Days” of summer are here and soon that last cool front (that made your dog frisky like a puppy) will be a distant memory. As the heat bears down upon us, many owners and dogs alike are reluctant to get outside and continue their exercise programs that were begun during the cooler weather. Beyond mere discomfort due to the rising temperatures, the heat can be a true killer, causing heat stroke in your beloved dog. There are some simple measure you can implement to avoid harm to your pet while maintaining an active lifestyle.

Humans release excess body heat by sweating, utilizing the full surface area of pour bodies to cool our temperatures. Dogs primarily cool through panting, allowing heat to dissipate through their mouths, tongues, and airways. This limited surface area, combined with their fur coats, makes their cooling systems less efficient then ours. As a result, your pet can reach dangerous body temperatures much more rapidly than you. Dogs with flattened faces, or brachycephalic airways, such as bulldogs, and pugs are particularly susceptible to overheating and exercise intolerance.

Tips to Make Exercise Safer & More Fun!

  • Before jumping into a new exercise program, start with an examination by your Veterinarian. He or she can rule out any medical or orthopedic issues that may impair your dog’s exercise tolerance.
  • Weekend warrior syndrome is dangerous for both you and your dog. Do not expect your dog to vigorously exercise on the weekend after lying on the couch all week. Irregular bursts of exercise increase the risk of injury. Instead, provide regular exercise opportunities, starting with short exercise sessions and gradually increasing the duration and intensity over time.
  • Avoid leash walks and exercise during the heat of the day, choosing early morning and evening times instead.
  • Opt for grass or dirt trails over concrete to avoid burning your dog’s pads. Dogs sweat through their feet so cooler surfaces allow this secondary cooling system to work better. Additionally, concrete sidewalks transmit more force back through dog’s joints, which can predispose them to overuse injuries over time.
  • Give frequent water breaks. Just as you lose hydration from sweating, dogs lose hydration from panting. If your dog’s mouth is dry, offer water.
  • Consider a cooling vest of jacket for your dog. Many commercial products are available which help move you dog’s body heat away form his or her body. Products that focus contact on your dog’s belly and neck optimize cooling during exercise. Alternatively, you may wet your dog’s coat with water to provide evaporative cooling. Following exercise sessions, a cooling mat in your home provides an opportunity for your dog to more rapidly cool down and relax.
  • Introduce your dog to safe aquatic exercise options. Some dogs are natural-born swimmers and relish the opportunity to join you in your swimming pool. For others, a wading pool outfitted with toys equates to a fun, cool exercise venue.
  • Indoor exercise can include physical games (fetch, tug-of-war) as well as mental ones (finding hidden toys or treats, playing with toys that dispense treats as your dog manipulates them) to provide outlets for your dog’s energy.