I know I’m not the only person who jokes, “My dog would fetch until his legs fell off, if I kept throwing that ball!” It’s usually worth a chuckle, especially if Augustin and a tennis ball are nearby so that I can demonstrate his willingness to do exactly that. But it’s not just a joke: Every summer, vets see many emergencies in which a dog has suffered heat exhaustion due to excessive exercise in hot weather. Even more frightening, the dog in question often was energetically chasing a ball or bounding around an Agility course until it collapsed.
Some dogs really will fetch until they drop. High-energy dogs depend on pet parents to monitor them while exercising and ensure that they remain cool and hydrated.
Reducing Your Dog’s Risk of Heat Exhaustion During Exercise
In order to reduce your dog’s risk of dangerous over-exertion, you should determine whether or not he or she is at risk in the first place. If you answer “yes” to most of the following questions, your dog could be at risk.
- Does your dog exercise until it is cued to stop, then gulp water or lie panting in the shade for a long time?
- Does your dog have a long, thick, dark coat?
- Do you participate in athletic activities with your dog during hot weather, particularly at mid-day?
- Has your dog ever seemed to suddenly become ill after exercise?
- Has your dog ever suffered heat exhaustion due to over-exertion in the past?
If you’ve answered yes to more than one of these questions, consider taking some of the following steps to keep your dog safe when exercising in warmer weather:
- Carry a spray bottle and keep your dog well cooled with it. Also consider a cooling vest or cooling bandana.
- Insist that your dog drink water and rest at least once every ten minutes while exercising in hot weather.
- Try to schedule exercise during evenings and mornings, when the air is cooler and shade is more abundant.
- Avoid shaving dogs of Northern breeds (Malamute, Husky)– it may seem like it would keep them cooler, but it actually destroys the coat’s natural ability to protect the dog from overheating by reflecting heat and light away from the dog’s body.
- Cool your dog’s paw pads regularly during exercise in hot weather. If you can set up a wading pool and encourage your dog to splash in it frequently, great. If a pool isn’t an option, soak some dog booties in cold water and apply them to your dog’s feet at regular intervals.