Not much beats a long walk in the sunshine with a dog, but in the heat of summer, heat stroke is a real threat. These tips, illustrated by a vary patient Shadow, will help you to keep your dog cool and safe on long walks.
- Know your dog
Some dogs are more prone to overheating than others. If your dog is short nosed, has a thick or double coat, is overweight, older, or is not particularly fit, they may find it more difficult to regulate their temperature on a hot day.
- Bring water
Dogs don’t sweat like we do, but they do pant to keep cool. This process uses a lot of water, which must be replaced. There’s a number of different travel-ready water bowls on the market, and even the fanciest ones are cheaper than a trip to the vet.
- Plan ahead
It’s a good idea to check the weather forecast before you go out. Overcast, breezy or drizzly days are ideal for long walks. We’re blessed with lots of these in the UK, but it can make us complacent when the sun decides to make an appearance. If the sun is out and it’s going to be a hot day, avoid walking between 11am and 2pm.
- Walk on a lead
This is a big one. Dogs can travel more than 3 times the distance of the walk if they are busy exploring off lead, which could be too much exercise if it’s hot. My advice is to break up the walk with sections on lead, or do most of the walk on lead if you have a long way to go.
- Avoid Tarmac/Asphalt
Grass is your friend. Dogs’ paws burn on hot tarmac, which can contribute to heat stroke. Aside from that, the pain of these burns can last for a long time after the walk. Test the temperature of the ground with your hand – if you have to remove your hand because of the heat, it’s not safe for your dog’s paws either.
- Pick a cool route
The walk shown in the pictures is across moorland, with very little shade. On the upside it did have bogs-a-plenty, which Shadow made full use of. On a clearer day, a woodland walk might be a better option, or perhaps a walk by a river, particularly if your dog likes to swim. Essentially, a summer walk should involve lots of opportunities for paddling and shaded spots for breaks.
- Know the signs of canine heat stroke
Panting and drooling are both symptoms of heat stroke, but they’re also symptoms of a dog enjoying their walk. However, if your dog starts to slow down, or their movements become uncoordinated, it is more likely that your dog is suffering from heat stroke. Another sign to watch out for is the colour of your dog’s tongue and gums. They should be pink – brick red means heat stroke. Dogs affected by heat stroke might also be sick. If you notice any of these signs, take steps to cool your dog down (see tip number 9) and get them to a vet as soon as possible.
8. Plan for an emergency
Make sure someone knows your intended route. Take a phone with you, and the number of the nearest veterinary practice.
9. Know heat stroke first aid
Get your dog to shade and provide drinking water. Soak an item of clothing in water and place it over your dog. Get your dog to the vet as quickly as possible.
Note – Do not submerge your dog in cold water, or pour very cold water on to your dog. Cooling your dog’s skin quickly can make the surface blood vessels get smaller, leading to increased blood pressure and additional complications.