Hot Days in San Diego: Beware of Heatstrokes in Dogs

One of the first words that pop up in my head associated with San Diego is “Sun” “Great Weather,” and “Hot.” Most of us who live in San Diego love the sun. It invites going to the beach, relaxing at the park or enjoying a cappuccino at the café around the corner. The heat doesn’t seem to beat down active outdoor people; they still enjoy their hikes, runs or long walks. Some enthusiasts run even on the hottest days during the middle of the day, while others drive by, panting in their cars, with the A/C on full blast.

Like people, dogs react differently to heat. Some of them don’t seem to mind it too much (e.g. Ridgebacks,) while others try to crawl into the tiniest spot as long as it is cool. Heavy coated dogs, dark colored dogs, as well as short nosed dogs are especially sensitive to heat.

No matter what kind of breed you have, they all have the same trouble – they can’t sweat the way like we humans do. Their way of cooling down is mostly through their paws, and by panting and breathing heavily, while their tongue is hanging out widely.
Another way of cooling down is by dilating blood vessels in their face and ears. The expanded blood vessels help cool the dogs blood by causing it to flow closer to the surface of the skin.

Does that mean though you can’t exercise your dog because another hot day is coming up? If you keep a few guidelines in mind, you don’t have to worry too much. 

Try to exercise your dog in the morning or later in the evening rather than during the day when it’s hottest. Stay away from hot pavement, hot sand or other hot surfaces, since dogs’ paws are very sensitive. Try to stay in the shade while exercising, and avoid trails with no shade at all. If you exercise your dog for longer than 30 minutes, bring some water along. Offer the water throughout your walk, run or hike and let the dog drink a couple sips every now and then instead of letting them drink it all at once – this is especially important while running your dog. Think about how you would feel if you just drank half a liter of water, and start running again.

If your dog likes to swim or play in the water, Fiesta Island or one of the other dog beaches (Ocean Beach, Coronado or Del Mar) are great locations to get some exercise in, even on warm days. Often, there is a breeze at the beach, and the water helps to stay cool. Bring a towel for the dog to lie on, and an umbrella to provide shade.
 If you can’t avoid walking on hot sand until you get to the cooler sand part, you can either get some doggie boots, or use old socks. Wet the socks beforehand and slip them over your dogs’ paws.
**Don’t forget, even dogs can get sunburned, especially the lighter coated ones. Avoid going during mid-day between 11:00 am – 3:00 pm if its very hot. 

Throughout exercising your dog, watch for signs of overheating. Is his panting abnormally heavy? Is he slowing down and wants to lie down as soon as a shady spot comes up? Give your dog a break, offer water and pour some water over his paws, to help cool them down. If he gets up on his own after a couple minutes and seems to be good again, continue your workout, but slow it down. If you can’t motivate your dog by using your voice to continue the workout, it’s best to go back home (assuming your dog is still responsive and can walk on its own.)

After you get back to your car or home, make sure your dog can cool down. Provide some water and turn on the A/C or crack the car window enough to get fresh air and a breeze in, but don’t let your dogs head hang out of the window. At home, make sure he has access to water and a cool place to lie down. If you want to feed your dog, give him at least a 20 minute break before feeding him.

Below you will see an info-sheet with signs of heatstroke, when it occurs and what to do.

Heatstroke in Dogs

Happy exercising! 

Author: Vanessa Barrera, Unleashed Dog Fitness San Diego, Dog Exercise & Care Service. 
Don’t have time to exercise your dog, or need a pet care service? Contact Unleashed Dog Fitness today for a free evaluation! New: UDF Day Boot Camp (Daycare incl. exercise)!

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