As summer approaches so does the extreme heat that will undoubtedly accompany thousands of hikers this season. This can make it tough to travel with your pup but definitely not impossible. The key is to educate yourself on the dangers of hiking in the heat and to take appropriate action when needed. Read this guide to learn how to master the art of summer hiking.
Monitor the Temperature
Keeping an eye on the temperature is vital to ensuring the safety of your sweet pup. Once it hits 70° F (~21°C) you need to be wary of the heat of the air as well as the ground. A good test you can do is to place the back of your hand on the ground for 5 seconds. If it's too hot for you then it's definitely too hot for your dog. According to Charlie Powell, WSU College of Veterinary Medicine, if it's 86°F (30°C) the asphalt can be well over 135°F (57°C). This can burn and destroy their skin in seconds.
Understand the Breed
Brachycephalic breeds (a.k.a. short-nosed dogs) such as Pugs, French Bulldogs, Shih Tzus, and Chow Chows are extremely vulnerable to overheating because their bone structure doesn’t allow enough air to fight off the heat. If you have one of these pups, it might be best to leave them at home for these extreme hikes.
People with northern breeds such as huskies also should be wary, however, these breeds can become acclimated to the hot weather over time with moderation.
With all breeds be sure to regularly brush them before hiking season to increase circulation, allowing them to better battle the hot weather.
Pick the Right Hike at the Right Time
To avoid the heat, consider hiking in the morning before the temperature is at its max. Sunrise hikes can be a beautiful, peaceful way to beat the heat. Picking a hike with lots of shade or by the water can also greatly decrease the dangers of high temperatures.
If you want to be on the safe side, consider opting for a fun water activity with your pup such as paddle boarding. This would allow them to hop in for a swim if they need to cool off.
What to Pack
This is essential. Pack more than enough water for you and your dog and be sure to drink it regularly. Staying hydrated greatly decreases the risk of heat exhaustion. Make sure to also bring along a collapsible bowl or some method to distribute the water in a comfortable way for the pup.
Though not essential, many recommend protecting your dog’s paws against the hot ground using dog boots. If you are looking to purchase, we would recommend the Muttluks Mud Monsters which are about $50 (~€41) for 2 boots.
If you don’t want to use booties, some dog owners use protective wax which is safe, natural, and pretty cheap. Musher’s Secret Paw Protection comes highly recommended.
Harness/Collar, Leash and ID Tag
To ensure the safety of your dog and others, keeping your dog leashed is very important. Similarly, bringing their ID tag can be a lifesaver if your pet does some unplanned exploring.
In Case of Emergency
Though it's scary to think about, heatstroke and heat exhaustion are quite common among dogs so it's important to understand the differences, the symptoms, and how to combat them.
Heatstroke is much more serious and if you encounter signs you should immediately pick up your dog, go indoors, and call your vet. Symptoms include excessive panting, drooling, dry nose, red mucous, rapid heart rate, and vomiting.
Heat exhaustion is also simply known as overheating. Though less fatal than Heatstroke, action should still be taken if you believe your dog is overheating as it can lead to full on Heatstroke. Signs include excessive panting, general muscle weakness, and cold skin. If you are noticing these symptoms, take your dog to a shady place, slowly wet them, and offer them water. It is important to do this in a gradual way so it doesn’t shock their system.
Be Safe and Have Fun
If you follow our tips above you should be able to have a blast this summer exploring dozens of national parks with your pup. The main takeaway is to be prepared in every way you can. Be it through choosing the right hike, packing the right things, or knowing what to do in an emergency, this preparation is absolutely vital to making the most of pet hiking during the summer.