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FEATURE — The summer sun is rising high in the sky here in the Southwest. The balmy days of early summer can quickly heat up to searing temperatures that can become dangerous for hiking if you are unprepared.
Your dog will be ready and willing to accompany you without a second thought! That is why it is up to you to be the voice of reason. How will you know when hot is too hot for a walk or hike with your dog?
First, it helps to know a few things about dogs. Their normal body temperature is between 101 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit, several degrees higher than our own. Depending on the breed, their fur provides them with insulation not only from the cold but also from heat. Longer hair allows air to circulate and regulate a dog’s body temperature to avoid overheating.
Many pet parents mistakenly choose to shave their pets, thinking it will help to keep them cool. In actuality, they are not only damaging the pet’s coat but also likely putting them in danger of heat stroke. Also, the skin of a dog’s paw pad, while tough, is still susceptible to getting burned on hot pavements, sand or even grass and artificial turf.
With these things in mind, we must be attentive to the risks and make a sound judgment about summertime conditions for a dog walk, no matter what time of day. When preparing for your walk, it helps to literally think like a dog. When you are one to two feet off the ground, the heat radiating from the pavement can be overwhelming.
Do a quick surface temperature check of the pavement, sand or surface on which the dog will be walking by placing your hand on the ground. Can you hold it there for seven seconds or more? If yes, then you are good to go.
It’s worth noting that the ambient temperature compared to asphalt temperature can be quite shocking. There are some varying factors, such as humidity and cloud cover, but the following guide should be considered:
- 77 F ambient temperature equals 125 F asphalt temperature (in full sun). At this temperature, paw/skin damage may occur in one minute.
- 86 F ambient temperature equals 135 F asphalt temperature. At this temperature, paw/skin burns in under a minute; an egg will fry in five minutes.
Be a well-prepared hiker! Don’t hit the trail without items that will keep you and your dog safe and comfortable. Here are a few essentials that will help you beat the heat.
Water and bowl. Take a portable or collapsible water dish and plenty of fresh water for you and your pup. Add some ice cubes to your water bottle to keep the contents cool.
Allow your dog to drink a little at a time with no ice. If they overindulge, they may throw up. Ice may cause an extreme body temperature change that could also lead to adverse reactions.
Doggie boots and cooling vest. Sounds extravagant, right? However, this makes great sense in our harsh desert environment. Dogs have tough paw pads, but it’s not just the heat from which the pads need to be protected. There are many hazards – plant debris, litter and rough terrain – that can cause injury.
Cooling vests are a must if you have shaved your dog’s coat. Even if your dog still has its natural coat, a vest can keep the body regulated if there is a spike in outdoor temperature or your dog overexerts. Fitting the right boots and cooling vest on your dog and getting your dog accustomed to them can take time. Be patient and ask for assistance from a dog professional
Canine first aid kit. Carry along some basic supplies – either in your own first aid kit or in a pet-specific kit – that will help you to deal with injuries that your dog might sustain on the trail. A few of the items to take would include hydrogen peroxide to disinfect cuts, scissors with rounded tips to trim hair around wounds, bandages and gauze pads, tweezers to remove foreign objects in a wound and a small sock or bootie to protect a wounded foot.
For hot sun protection, pick up some paw and nose soothing balm. This salve relieves redness and inflammation and heals cuts, cracks and wounds. Paw Soother is a great brand that moisturizes, calms and heals your pup’s paws and nose to keep them nourished and healthy.
So you’ve checked the forecast and are prepared to head out and enjoy the outdoors with your dog. Here are five of my favorite local trails:
- Paradise Canyon/Scout Cave Trail, a 2.4-mile loop located off Snow Canyon Parkway.
- Turtle Wall Trail, a 3.8-mile loop located off Highway 18 north of Snow Canyon Parkway.
- Chuckwalla Trail, a 1.7-mile loop located off Highway 18 north of Snow Canyon Parkway.
- Santa Clara Petroglyphs via Anasazi Trail, a 2.9-mile loop located off Santa Clara Drive.
- Snow Canyon, a 3.5-mile loop in Snow Canyon State Park.
Be safe and have fun out there!
Join WOOF! Wellness Center & Training Academy for trainer-guided hikes. We request that dogs have completed a basic manners class or loose leash walking class to participate in the hike. Our trainer can set up a free assessment if you are not sure about your dog’s ability to join the hikes. Call 435-275-4536 or visit woofcenter.com.
Written by ANITA DELELLES, LMT.
This article was originally published in the July/August 2023 issue of St. George Health and Wellness magazine.
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