Maybe no one is more excited to get outside on a summer day than your sweet pooch. However, dogs can overheat just like humans, so it’s important to know how to keep them cool when you’re out for a hike.
Michelle Marotti, education and outreach specialist for Boulder County Parks and Open Space, provides some insight on summer trail safety for canines.
“Whether or not it’s safe to hike with your dog on a hot day depends on a few things, such as dog breed, your individual dog, and the specific trail,” she said. “It’s best to avoid hiking during the hottest times of day.”
Marotti, who owns a Great Pyrenees Australian mix, explained that cooling off in the heat is especially difficult for dogs. “Any dog can get brain damage or heat stroke if it’s too hot,” she said. “Certain dog breeds are more susceptible to heat stroke.”
Some simple strategies for hiking safely with your dog when the temperature soars, Marotti said, include planning ahead to be out during the cooler times of day and taking shorter hikes. Also, choose a shady hike and bring plenty of water.
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“It can be very dangerous to hike with your dog in the heat,” said Rayna Healy, director of Active Dog, a company that takes dogs hiking while you’re busy at work. “They don’t sweat in the same way that we do, so it is not as easy for them to keep cool.”
If you are concerned that your dog is too hot, look for signs such as excessive panting, ropey drooling, and lethargy, Marotti said.
To reduce discomfort or illness from the heat, Marotti suggests bringing a bandana and plenty of water (pack water for you and your dog, not just to share), then wet the bandana and rub the cool cloth on the dog’s belly, armpits and paws. Her dog wears booties in summer (and winter) on the trails so as not to get blisters from hiking on rocks and other hot surfaces. Bring a portable bowl for your dog’s water, rather than pour it in your hands or directly into their mouth.
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Healy recommends Kool Skinz vests, which are designed to keep dogs cool for up to two hours of activity.
“Dogs can get sick pretty quickly from extreme temperatures, so avoid hiking with them during the hottest times of the day,” Marotti said. “If you’re uncomfortable, your dog probably is, too.”
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