Hiking can be just as beneficial to your canine companion as it is for you. Regular hikes expose your dog to new things, such as animals and other stimuli. They can also improve your dog’s mental balance, ward off disease, and help strengthen your bond.
Exercise is important for dogs of all ages, even more so in puppies that tend to have an abundance of energy to burn. According to the American Kennel Club, certain breeds like Border Collies and Belgian Malinois require a higher level of physical activity compared to lower-energy breeds like Basset Hounds and Bulldogs.
Hiking is a fun, social, and effective way to ensure that your dog gets the exercise he needs. Depending on your location, hiking may be possible throughout the year. However, it’s important to be safe while hiking with your dog in hot weather conditions.
Hot Weather Hazards for Dogs
High temperatures pose certain risks to dogs, starting with dehydration. Dehydration is essentially the absence of water from tissues caused by a lack of water intake or acute attacks of diarrhea, vomiting, heat stroke, or other illnesses. Dehydration can cause a range of symptoms, such as loss of appetite, loss of skin elasticity, panting, vomiting, diarrhea, dry nose, thick saliva, sticky gums, and dry-looking eyes.
According to VCA Animal Hospital, heat stroke can develop when a pet’s body temperature exceeds 103 degrees Fahrenheit. This elevated body temperature can cause elevated breathing, abnormal gum color, dry gums, bruising of the gums, disorientation, and even seizures. Heat stroke, also known as hyperthermia, is considered a medical emergency and requires immediate attention.
Safety Tips for Hiking in Hot Weather
Many dogs enjoy spending time with their owner in nature. However, dogs can become fatigued and even ill if they spend too much time in the hot sun. To keep your dog safe and happy while hiking, implement these safety tips for dogs in hot weather conditions:
- Check the Weather
Before venturing outdoors, check your local weather report. If there is a heat wave, you may want to reconsider your plans or pack extra supplies. When hiking on especially hot days, set out early in the morning or wait until the sun starts to set in the evening. If you plan on hiking in public parks, be sure to check the park’s specific rules. It is illegal to walk your pet on trails in triple-digital temperatures in certain parks. Ignore this rule and you could face a hefty fine.
- Pick a Cooler Trail
Where you choose to hike can play a direct role in your ability to keep yourself and your dog cool. Look for hiking trails that offer ample shade, such as those in wooded areas with dense tree coverage. Hiking trails near water also tend to be cooler. If possible, opt for a trail that is at a higher elevation as the air is typically cooler the higher you go. It is also important to remember that just like humans, dogs can encounter the effects of high altitude. Acclimate slowly and look for signs of possible altitude sickness in dogs.
- Bring Plenty of Water
Lots of water is essential when hiking with your dog in hot weather. Consider the temperature and how long you’ll be away from home when packing water. Bring more water than you would expect to need just in case, as well as a collapsible travel bowl or water bottle with a built-in bowl to make it easy for your pet to stop and drink throughout the hike. Use your own thirst as a guide to tell you how often to stop for water. As a general rule of thumb, stop approximately every 15 to 30 minutes for a water break.
- Check Paws Regularly
Hiking on hot surfaces, such as pavement or rocky areas, can cause trauma to your pet’s paw pads. Even dirt trails can heat up when exposed to direct sunlight. Stop on a regular basis to check your pet’s paws for burns, cuts, or other injuries. If the ground feels too hot, consider applying paw wax to your pet’s feet or train your dog to wear protective booties during hikes.
- Pack Emergency Supplies
Even when you are being cautious, there is always a chance that your dog could suffer an injury while on a hike. When this type of situation occurs, you want to have access to emergency supplies. Carry a pet emergency kit with the essentials, such as tweezers, alcohol wipes, bandages, and other items you may need if an injury should occur on a trail.
- Brush Your Dog
Regular brushing helps remove your pet’s undercoat which can assist with air circulation through the fur. In the summer, frequent brushing can help keep your dog cooler by having less fur and a lower chance of matting. In addition, brushing can help you determine if your pet has picked up any ticks during your hikes. While shaving your dog may seem like a good idea, this is usually not recommended. Fur acts as insulation for dogs and keeps them warm in the winter and cool in the summer.
High temperatures can pose certain health risks to both pet owners and their dogs. Pets have limited ways to cool down and rely heavily on panting to keep cool. Dogs exposed to hot weather are also vulnerable to heat-related injuries and illnesses. However, these risks can be significantly reduced by prepared pet owners. By following some simple safety tips and paying attention to your dog’s needs, you can keep your pet happy and healthy during hikes.