Vet Blog

Walking Your Dog in Hot Weather

July 03, 2018

Here we are, summertime again in Florida, and the weather is hitting those high temperatures that feel as if we are living on the face of the sun.

During this time we must all be extra vigilant with our furry family members.

A few tips to remember when walking your dog:

Tip #1: Pay attention to your dog! Learn the signs of heat exertion in dogs and pay close attention to your pet. If you take them outside, stop every now and again and check them for signs of overheating such as heavy panting, salivating, glassy-eyed expression, and looking fatigued and exhausted. A good rule of thumb, if you get out of breath in the hot weather, your dog is at high risk of heat stress.

Tip #2: Cross streets quickly (if you must)! If at all possible plan a route that minimizes walking across asphalt on a hot day. Ideally, look for areas where you can cross the street that are shaded. If you are unsure how long it has been in the shade, place the back of your hand on the ground for 3-4 seconds to test the heat. (see hand test below).

Tip #3: Let the heat cool first! When it's really hot outside even a leisurely stroll will tire you out and those pups feel it more. Try to wait until it cools down, either later at night or early in the morning. Go with the flow and save a trip to the vet.

Tip #4: Do "Paw checks"! Stop frequently and do "paw checks", tell your pet that's what you're doing. Stop on a shaded or grassy area and say "paw check" before reaching down and touching those furry feet, check for heat on the pads themselves. If you are doing everything right, the pads should be cool, if your dog's pads are quite warm or hot to the touch then it is too hot to continue. Use cool water to wet those pads and sit it out for a while in a shaded area on the grass before making your way back home. When your dog is lounging at home, try touching the pads to familiarize yourself with how they should feel.

Tip #5: Do "Paw breaks"! Along with "paw check" do "paw breaks", scan ahead and look for cooler areas such as grass under trees, every few minutes stop and take a pause under these areas, this is also a good time to check your dog for signs of heat distress such as heavy panting, wait until this has slowed before continuing.

Tip #6: Bring water but leave the ice at home! Always bring along room temperature to cool water, but never iced water. The sudden coldness of the ice will constrict blood vessels making it harder for the body to get any cooling benefit from it, as well as giving your pet a cool drink can also be used to wet down pads.

Tip #7: Stay close to home! On days when the mercury seems like it just won't stop rising it's best to stay at home until it cools down. If you have to take your pet outside, stay close to home so if any problems arise, you can get your pet (or yourself) help quickly. You do not want to be in a situation where your dog needs emergency intervention and you still have to walk (possibly carrying your pet the entire way) a long haul before you can get home.

Tip #8: Be social! High heat can cause us to become disoriented. Do not attempt to walk in the heat in secluded areas. Stick to residential areas that you know well where others are around and likely to see you and offer help if you need it. This is a good tip for any weather, of course.

Tip #9: Go home early! If you notice even the slightest sign that you or your pets are not handling the heat well, do not attempt to push on. If your dog normally gets a 30-minute walk in cooler weather, expect they may only need 10 minutes in hotter weather. As long as they have had time to go potty, spend the remainder of the time at home in the cool, playing, cuddling, or just chilling from the heat.