Summer is the perfect time to get outdoors. Sunshine, warm temperatures, and long balmy days are the ideal conditions for a hike in the fresh air. But if you want to bring your dog, you’ll need to take precautions to keep your furry friend safe. Hot summer days on the trail can quickly become dangerous for your dog if you’re not well prepared. Heatstroke, burned paws, and dehydration are all serious risks, so it’s crucial to plan ahead before you leave home. Here are my top five safety tips for keeping your dog safe when hiking in summer.
1. Plan the Trail with Your Dog in Mind
Before you rush out and hit the hills, take the time to plan your hike with your dog in mind. Is your pooch used to the inclines and rocky pathways? Have they walked that far with you before? You should take into account your dog’s age and fitness level when planning your hike, but this isn’t all. Will there be water on route for a cooling dip? Is there plenty of shade on the way or is the trail totally exposed to the sun? Is there likely to be dangerous wildlife or sheer drops along the route? Once you’ve asked yourself all these questions, you’ll be in the best position to plan a hike that both yourself and your canine companion can enjoy safely. Of course, the most important question is whether it’s safe to walk your pet at all. If the temperature is too high, the best option is probably a short walk in the early morning or late evening. Never force your dog to hike when it’s too hot, even if the paths are shaded.
2. Be Aware of the Dangers of Hot Ground
It’s not just the heat beaming down from above that you need to be aware of. The ground below your furry friends feet can quickly become burning hot on summer days. Black asphalt roads and pathways, as well as rock trails, can all absorb the sun’s rays and burn your dog’s paws. Sand at the beach can also become dangerously hot. A good general rule is that if it’s too hot for your bare feet, it’s too hot for your dog! To protect your pup’s delicate paws on summer hikes, you can get them a pair of dog booties. These little boots look cute and enable your dog to enjoy their hike with you in comfort
. Be aware that most dogs need to be introduced to boots slowly and using positive training methods though.
3. Avoid the Midday Heat
If the weather forecast predicts high temperatures, you should plan to complete your hike before midday to avoid the worst of the heat. Alternatively, walk for a while in the morning, plan a shady lunch stop and chill out for the hottest time, before continuing when the temperature has dropped. It’s easy to forget that unlike humans, your pup cannot sweat to cool down. They also have a fur coat, so your pooch is at much higher risk of heatstroke when exercising on a hot day. Heatstroke is a serious condition that can be life-threatening. Signs of canine heatstroke include weakness, extreme panting, salivation, shaking, confusion, vomiting/diarrhea and collapse. If your dog displays any of these symptoms, you should get them to a shady area immediately. Offer them water, but do not let them drink excessive amounts all at once. Pour water over them or drape a wet towel over their body to cool them down. Then get them to a vet immediately, while ringing in advance so the vet knows to expect you.
4. Bring Plenty of Water
If you exercise in the heat, you lose more water and need to drink more to stay hydrated. The same is true for your dog! Make sure to bring plenty of water for both yourself and your pooch when on the trail. Remember that your dog can get sick from drinking water from lakes and rivers, so it’s not a substitute for bringing fresh water with you. If you don’t want to carry lots of water and are hiking next to a river, you can bring dog-safe water purification tablets to treat the water first. Remember to take shade and drinking breaks often and monitor your dog for any signs of dehydration. Common symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, loss of skin elasticity and lethargy. If you notice any of these signs, encourage your dog to drink, stop your hike and get them to the vet for a check over.
5. Bring a First Aid Kit
There are several ways you and your dog could get injured on the trail, so it’s a good idea to keep a simple first aid kit in your pack. I recommend including some tweezers to remove splinters, wound cleaner and bandages, as well as a sterile, non-medicated eye wash to flush out any seeds or grit that may get into your pup’s eye.
Hiking with your dog is one of life’s great pleasures, but, as a responsible pooch owner, you must take precautions to keep your canine friend safe from high summer heat on the trail. So long as you assess your dog’s fitness, plan ahead, bring plenty of supplies and stick to shady trails, you can enjoy warm weather hikes with your pooch safely. But the best way to protect your dog is to avoid hiking with them when the weather is too hot. Walking in the early morning or evening, or just leaving your dog at home in a cool room when it’s too hot, should always be a priority.