Does your dog still need exercise when the weather is hot?
Just because it is hot weather out doesn’t mean your dog should stop getting their daily exercise. It should be more moderate than usual and precaution needs to be taken.
Dogs still need exercise to keep them healthy, keep their muscles strong to prevent injury and prevent boredom that can lead to behavior problems. A well-exercised dog is calmer, has better behavior and happier.
What are the hazards of dog exercise in hot weather?
Dogs don’t have sweat glands like humans to help cool them off. Their cooling system is in their nose, tongue and paw pads
The most obvious risk is heat sickness in the form of heat stroke and heat exhaustion. Sunburn can also be a problem especially for dogs with a light color or white coat or a thin coat. Sunburn to the nose can also be a concern. Use a sunscreen for dogs. The third area of concern is damage to the paws. In the hot weather the tarmac, concert and even manhole covers can be extremely hot.
Heat stroke and Heat Exhaustion
The dangers of heat stroke and heat exhaustion are very real and the potential for your dog to suffer from this are very high. Especially if they are not conditioned to the hot and humid weather. Heat stroke can take several hours before it becomes deadly. Some extreme cases can cause death if the dog doesn’t receive medical care immediately.
Signs that your dog may be overheated include
excessive whining and fidgeting,
panting with the tongue right out of their mouth and being scooped at the end,
weariness, confusion, sluggish movement
red gums and tongue.
Other signs to look out for are foaming at the mouth, thickening of the saliva and breathing difficulties.
Dehydration can set in fast. During dehydration, the dog’s mouth and gums will become dry and the skin will lose it elasticity. If you grab the skin on the back of the neck and stretch it will return slowly back into its natural position.
This is a sign that they are highly dehydrated and may go into shock. They will need IV fluids to be injected by your vet. Any signs of heat exhaustion or dehydration are a cue to stop the exercise and allow them to cool off.
Get into the shade or indoors if possible and give them small amounts of cool water. Don’t let them drink large amounts at once. Use a wet cloth to cool their paws, groin, and armpits. Cooling a dog down too quickly can cause them to go in to shock.
Heat stroke, if not treated can be fatal. If they exhibit any vomiting, weakness, or seizures get them to the vet as soon as possible.
Humidity is also a factor. Dogs cool themselves by panting, and humidity makes their cooling system less effective. Every dog as their limitations when it comes to handling the heat.
Short nose, flat-faced breeds such as French Bulldogs, Boxers and Pugs have compromised air passages which can limit their oxygen intake making it more difficult to cool off.
Dogs with thick dark-colored coats are also more prone to getting hot as opposed to a dog with a lighter color and finer coat.
Become familiar with your particular dogs’ limitations and indicators.
These risk factors will have an effect on yours dogs limitations for handling the heat.
Being a breed with a short nose and flat face such as Bulldog, Pug or Boxer
Dogs that are bred for cooler climates such as Huskie or Malamutes
Being a breed with a thick double coat such as a Collie or Old English Sheep Dog
Being a puppy or a senior dog
Being overweight or obese
Having long or dark colored fur
Having any sort of health issue that affects the lungs or heart
Having previously suffered from heat stroke
Tips to avoid heatstroke, sunburn or paw damage.
Always check the temperature of the ground with your hand before commencing your walk. Also, check when going on to a different surface such as going from the grass to footpath. This photo shows the damage hot ground can do to a dogs paw. If the ground temperature is too hot to put your hand on, it is probably an indication that it is too hot outside for your dog anyway.
Avoid vigorous exercise and play outside on hot days. Plan to exercise them early in the morning or later in the evening when the temperature is cooler. This will also prevent sunburn. Alternatively, exercise them indoors preferably in air conditioning.
Heat-related issues are very common in the early days of the hot weather. Your dog has not had the opportunity to become acclimated to the higher temperatures. Take extra care during this period. Expose your dog hot weather over a period of days so they can adjust.
Put a white cotton t-shirt on your dog, especially if they are black or dark colored and more prone to attract heat.
Hydration is of crucial importance. Ensure you have water with you at all times when you are on your walks.
Be aware that a dog can suffer from heatstroke even if they are not involved in vigorous activity or it is not that hot. In fact, dogs can suffer from heatstroke even while swimming.
Obviously, never leave your dog in a car or any area where they cannot stay cool.
How to keep a dog cool in hot weather
Give your dog ice cubes or toys such as a Kong filled with water and frozen.
Get a cooling mat for your dog. These are very effective and your dog will love to lay on one when they feel hot.
Use a cooling vest for your dog. Cools through the science of water evaporation – simply wet the vest, wring it out and place on your dog
Groom your dog. For non-shedding breeds, you can have them clipped shorter. Avoid shaving them too short. This can diminish their ability to stay cooler and can make them more susceptible to sunburn. A dogs fur acts to insulate them from the cold, but also from the heat.
Many people will clip of a double coated breed such as Collies or Shepherds, but in fact this does not make them cooler as the picture demonstrates. The dog in the picture had the rear end clipped and the front left with the natural double coat. As you can see, the natural coat kept the dog cooler. For more on this, read the article “Should I clip my double coated dog“. You can clip under the belly where they trap a lot of heat to help make them cooler.
Wet your dog down with a hose before and after their walk to keep them cooler. Dogs cool from bottom to top so so be sure to cool off their stomach, chest and groin and feet.
Also, you can play in the water as part of their exercise. Go for a swim or get them a kiddie pool to splash around. They can also run through a sprinkler or go to the beach. Just beware of the heat of the sand on their paws if you do go to the beach.
Try to walk in places that have lots of shade, even if the sun is not at its peak.
Follow your dogs lead. Even though they can’t tell you it is too hot for them, they can show it in other ways. If they are content to laze around on a hot day, let them. They will know when it is a more comfortable time for them.
How to cool your dog down quickly
Ways to exercise your dog during hot weather.
Provide plenty of activities that work your dog brain, not just the body. Mentally stimulating activities can use just as much energy and tire your dog as much as physical exercise. This can include puzzle toys and activities, nose and scenting games and learn new commands and tricks. For more on mental enrichment and mind stimulation, read the article “Mental enrichment and mind stimulation”
Exercise and play indoors
There are plenty of games and activities that your dog can do indoors such as fetch, tug of war or hide and seek to name a few.If you have stairs in your house they can be a good way to get your dog moving while building strength in the hind legs walking up. Walking down will build strength and stability in the core. Using a treadmill is another good option for exercising indoors.
Not all dogs like to swim, but if your dog loves the water this an ideal way to burn pent-up energy Ten minutes of swimming can be equivalent to an hour-long walk. Alternatively, do other water play like a game with the hose or sprinkler or splashing in a paddling pool
Several shorter sessions
Give your dog a couple of short walks or exercise sessions throughout the day to avoid them getting too hot from one strenuous session.
Dog daycare and indoor training facilities
Consider sending your dog to a dog daycare for a few days a week or an indoor training facility or dog gym if they are available in your area. Alternatively, arrange play time with another dog if you know another dog owner who may have a good setup for hot weather such as a large basement.
Dogs still need exercise to keep them healthy, keep their muscles strong to prevent injury and prevent boredom that can lead to behavior problems. A well-exercised dog is calmer, well behaved and happy.
It just means that you have to be aware of the hazards and signs of heat stroke and heat exhaustion, sunburn and burnt paws and take appropriate steps to ensure that they are safe during the hot weather. Try some alternate exercise methods like mental enrichment games or indoor activity.
For more tips read “How to keep a dog cool in hot weather”
Recommended for exercise in the heat