In June I showed a co-worker a picture of our dogs and she commented that Blue looked like a Rodrigo miniature and that Sydney was fat. She wouldn’t buy my excuses that Sydney just has a Cattle Dog body or that she’s “big boned.” She then went on to tell me that her weight is probably why she’s still limping more than a month after she pulled her muscle and that the extra weight will do damage over time to her internal organs among other things.
I felt terrible. I was killing my dog!
Sydney loves her food (just like her mommy) and now she’s fat. My boyfriend has been commenting on it for months, but it took my co-worker to make me see that we had a problem. So I cut way back on the treats, cut back on portion sizes, and started taking the dogs on longer daily walks.
Exercising you dog in the summer heat
This year, the Pacific Northwest is having a mild summer. That doesn’t mean that we don’t have hot days, we just don’t have the heat waves we’re seeing in other parts of the country. That doesn’t mean that we get a break when we take our walks. Our dogs are used to this climate and are just as impacted by the heat as we are.
We walk our dogs daily at Strawberry Fields for Rover, walking around the trails. The entire walk is almost 1.5 miles. We go one time around on weekdays (and hot days) and 2 times around on weekend mornings when it’s still cool.
What we love about Strawberry Fields are the opportunities for the dogs to play with their friends, they can run ahead and back (getting even more exercise), and there are three accesses to fresh water creeks where the dogs can jump in and cool down on hot days.
I used to think that when my dogs were panting, then they were cooling themselves down and would be fine. WRONG! Panting is their way of cooling their bodies, but Lisa Norwood, an employee of the City of San Antonio’s animal shelter, shared that panting is much less effective than when we humans sweat.
Sydney before and after…
RUNNING WITH YOUR DOG
We walk, we don’t run. I haven’t taken the time to train our dogs to run with us and when we do run their herding tendencies come out, we’re surrounded by three dogs who start to direct us around the yard. Not an effective way for us to exercise – it’s great for them.
Vanessa Rodriguez, a Freelance Writer & Ultra Runner, taught her dog to run with her and her dog is now a great running buddy for both Vanessa and her husband. She shares her tips on how to train your dog to run with you here: Train Your Dog for Long Distance Running
Heidi Ganahl, the CEO and Founder of Camp Bow Wow added the following safety tips for running with fido in Summer:
Start Slow - If Fido has never been out for a run with you, don’t expect him to be up for a marathon. Start with a combination of running and walking for a short time until you notice that his endurance is increasing. Just as humans are, dogs are susceptible to stress fractures and heat stroke. Dogs’ growth plates are not fully formed until 18 months old, so they should speak to their veterinarian before running with their dog if they are younger than 18 months.
Be Mindful of the weather - You know how torturous it can be to run on a brutally hot day with high humidity so don’t subject Fido to that as well. Dogs can overheat very quickly and cause heat stroke. If you absolutely must run that day, go during the early morning hours, between 5 AM and 8 AM, before the sun becomes scorching hot or leave Fido at home.
Wear proper accessories - As mentioned before, it’s wise to run during the cooler hours but this often means running before the sun comes up or after it has gone down. If running in the dark, be sure that you and Fido accessorize with some reflective gear so that you are visible to traffic.
Watch out for Fido’s feet - Pavement and asphalt gets incredibly hot on summer days and can quickly burn your pup’s feet. Gravel can be dangerous as well, as it can puncture Fido’s paws. To be safe, only take Fido running on dirt trails, grass, or sand. Stop periodically during your run to check his paws for burns or cuts.
Hydrate - Make sure Fido has had a chance to drink water and hydrate before you take him out on a run. If you’re going first thing in the morning, wait until he’s had a bowl or two of water. Take a product like a Handi Drink so you can stop and give your pup some water throughout your run.
Keep a watchful eye - Dogs are people pleasers and if you want to keep running, dogs will often work to keep up even if they may be in pain. Be sure to check on your dog and make sure he doesn’t look like he’s in pain or suffering from heat exhaustion.
Lather up - Believe it or not, dogs are susceptible to sunburns. If you’re running on a sunny day, be sure to apply sunscreen to both yourself and Fido if your dog has shorter hair or are a lighter color.
Eating before or after running - Make sure that your dog does not eat one hour before or after running. Some dogs are susceptible to bloat and eating too close to exercising can be extremely dangerous.
DID YOU KNOW???
The Truth about Shade: Our dogs have a favorite tree that they lay beneath and we took comfort that they can stay cool there. It’s not the shade of the tree that keeps them cool; actually, shade offers little to no protection on a sunny day. They stay cool because of the ground they’re lying on – it’s very cool to the touch and it would take days of direct heat to warm it up and that doesn’t happen in that area of our yard.
Change the Water Regularly: We change our dogs water twice a day, morning and evening, because it can’t sit too long, because the water warms up and bacteria growth is faster in warmer (hot) water.
Cracking the Window: By the way, did you know that cracking the window “a little bit” does very little to reduce the temperature inside a parked car. It takes only ten minutes for the interior of a car to reach 102 degrees on an average 85 degree day and in thirty minutes, that temperature can reach 120 degrees. I shared this with a guy who was planning to leave two dogs in his car while he shopped at Costco – he took his dogs back home instead.
Symptoms of heat stress: Symptoms of heat stress include excessive thirst, heavy panting, glazed eyes, vomiting, restlessness, excessive thirst, lethargy, fever, dizziness, a rapid heartbeat, profuse drooling or salivating and unconsciousness.
If an animal does show signs of heat stress, gradually lower their body temperature and get them to a vet immediately.
Dogs need sunscreen too: “Just like humans, cats and dogs can get sunburned, especially if he/she has light-colored hair. Animal sunburns can cause the same problems as that of humans: peeling, redness and even cancer. As skin cancer in pets is a serious concern, purchasing pet-friendly sun screen can go a long way in protecting the health of your pet when the heat kicks in. Places that are easy to forget, but prone to burning are: inside the nostrils, tip of nose, around your dog’s lips and the inside of ears for dogs with stand-up ears.” ~ Heidi Ganahl, the CEO and Founder of Camp Bow Wow
The bonus you’ll find when exercising your dog is that your dog isn’t the only one getting exercised! Our Sydney isn’t the only one who has lost weight.