Exercise is one of the best ways to keep your pets slim and trim and help prevent serious diseases like cancer. With summer just around the corner, people and their pets will be spending a lot more time outdoors. But remember, exercising your pets in hot weather comes with some health risks. Here are some great tips on exercising safely when the mercury rises:
• Some dogs including those with thick coats, the elderly, very young, overweight and flat-nosed (brachycephalic) breeds such as English bulldogs, pugs, Boxers, Pekingese and Shih Tzus, are at an increased risk of heat-related illnesses such as heatstroke and dehydration and should be kept indoors when it’s hot outside. If you don’t have air conditioning in your home then keep a fan going to keep things comfortable.
• On hot days, it’s better to exercise in the early morning or late evening when it’s cooler. If you are out in the heat during the day, take shorter walks and try to stay in shaded areas. Water-related activities are a great way to keep your dog cool. Head to the lake (if you’re so fortunate), or fill up the kiddie pool in the back yard or turn on the sprinkler for your dog to run through. Remember: if your dog is out in the yard on a hot day, make sure he has access to a well-ventilated shady area to cool off.
• Make sure your dogs always have access to water, both indoors and out. Change the water frequently so it stays fresh and cold, especially if you have multiple dogs. If you go for a longer walk or hike away from home, make sure you bring along lots of water for both you and your dog. Bring along a collapsable bowl as it’s difficult to give your dog a drink directly from a bottle.
• Get to know the signs of dehydration and heatstroke as these two conditions can be deadly. In hot weather, your dog can quickly become dehydrated. Make sure your dog drinks plenty of water and watch for signs of dehydration: lack of skin elasticity; sunken eyes; dry or sticky gums; lethargy; and changes in urination.
• When your dog’s temperature rises to a level where they can no longer cool themselves, heatstroke occurs and you should seek immediate medical attention. Common signs of heatstroke include: heavy panting; drooling; staring or glazed eyes; fever; excessive thirst; difficulty breathing; vomiting; deep red or purple tongue or gums; and in severe cases seizures and unconsciousness.
• Dogs with short, light-coloured coats such as Dalmations, Pitbulls, white Boxers and American Bulldogs as well as cats with white coats are more susceptible to sunburns, which is linked to skin cancer, so be particularly careful with these animals when you’re outside. Apply sunscreen to unprotected areas of skin such as the ears and nose and re-apply sunscreen regularly as directed.
For dogs with heavier coats that spend a lot of time outdoors, daily grooming and a light trim instead of shaving is recommended so their skin is not left unprotected from the sun.
• Walking on hot asphalt or sand can burn your dog’s paw pads. Protect your dog’s paws by applying a protective wax before heading out, put summer booties on or walk your dog in shady or grassy areas.
Although not related directly to exercise, a serious safety concern that comes up every summer is leaving pets alone in parked vehicles. NEVER leave your dog alone in a parked car when it’s hot outside! It only takes a few minutes for the temperature inside your vehicle to reach dangerous levels. Cracking the windows will NOT help. Please don’t risk your dogs’ life by leaving them alone in a parked vehicle.