I’ve never felt the need to write a blog before on if it’s too hot to run with your dogs. I’ve often written about it being a factor you have to consider very seriously when canicrossing in the summer months, but I actually feel the need to write a little bit more about it considering this long spell of exceptionally warm weather we are having.
Many people talk about not running dogs in the summer months and I agree that you should be very, very careful about this but have always advocated using common sense and knowledge of your own dogs limits to guide you. I stick to very early morning runs (pre 6.30 am) I take water with me everywhere, even if it’s only 1.5 miles or 2 miles and I watch my dogs like a hawk, looking for signs over over-heating.
I’m going to stress at this point just how dangerous over-heating is in our canine friends, they do not always know what is best for them, they will try to please you by carrying on, some might not even show many visible outward signs of being too warm and it is your responsibility to decide if, when and how far you will exercise your dog.
It is also not always widely known how much of an impact the humidity has on dogs. Dogs can’t sweat and have to lose heat primarily through panting , humidity has the effect of making our dogs cooling systems less efficient and is extremely dangerous when combined with higher temperatures. There are many temperature x humidity formulas you can look up to help guide you but I prefer not to use these and go with my knowledge of my dogs, rather than a figure which may not be appropriate and take any risks.
The main signs of over heating are as follows: restlessness, seeking out cool areas/shade, looking to lie down, excessive panting, excess salivation and thick sticky saliva. Also look for glazed eyes, red or very pale pink (rather than healthy pink) gums, stiffness in movement which can lead to staggering and any anxiety or agitation. There is also an increase in core body temperature and increase in heart rate , although if you were exercising your dog you may not be able to monitor this.
Other factors which influence how the heat may affect your dog are your dogs fitness, the breed, the type of coat your dog has (double coated dogs can get extremely uncomfortable in the heat) and if your dog is overweight at all. If you are in any doubt about the suitability of the weather for running your dog, even if others are running theirs, please do not be tempted to risk it as there have been too many tragic stories already this summer about dogs collapsing and the owners being heartbroken. If in ANY doubt, do not risk your dog.
If you think your dog might be getting too hot when you are out there are a number of things which can help cool a dog down safely, however if you suspect over heating ALWAYS get your dog checked by a vet as soon as possible because heat stroke is fatal. If you can do the following in the meantime it can help…
Stop all physical activity
Move your dog to a cool/shaded area as quickly as possible
Provide your dog with cool water (but not icy) to drink
If possible get paws and underside of your dog in water or on a wet towel but make sure you keep re-wetting the towel to keep it cool, the underside of your dog is where cooling will be most effective
If you can, also increase cool air flow over your dog (fan, windows wide open in a moving car)
Always put your dogs’ health first in the summer months, in the UK we have plenty of cool weather for running our dogs in, so why risk it?!