This year, the 4th of July falls on a Monday, tempting all those “weekend warriors” to spend three days overdoing it. If you aren’t one to get regular exercise during the week, these spurts of activity (no matter how fun) can pose real health risks, especially on hot, summer days when the temperatures soar.
Before taking your dog with you on your weekend warrior bike ride or jog, there are a few things you should take into consideration:
The overall condition of your dog: If your dog is overweight or out of condition, keep the exercise to a bare minimum at first. Dogs need to build up their stamina over time, so very short sessions are best. Activities such as biking or jogging with you should be introduced gradually and carefully. You may even want to check with your vet first to make sure these are safe activities for your dog.
Your dog’s age: Youngsters whose growth plates have not completely closed should not be taken for long bike rides or runs on hard surfaces (such as roads or sidewalks). Generally speaking, your puppy should be at least 18 months old before biking. Running on hard surfaces is very hard on the skeletal system and can cause lasting problems.
Your dog’s breed or body shape: Brachycephalic breeds (those with short noses and flat faces) are not built for distance running. Some of the dogs in this group are Pugs, Boston Terriers, Chow Chows, Shih Tzus, Boxers, and Bull Mastiffs. All of these breeds can be prone to overheating. Also, dogs with long bodies and short legs, such as Dachshunds, Basset Hounds, and Corgis, are not suited for long distance runs.
Your dog’s coat: Your dog is wearing a fur coat all the time! While it may be obvious that breeds with dense coats or long coats will get hotter much faster than you will, the same is true for dogs with short coats (i.e. German Shorthaired Pointers, Great Danes, Whippets, etc.). You can choose to wear lighter clothes to stay cool, but your dog is stuck in that coat and the only way to cool off is by panting. Short-nosed breeds don’t have the best panting mechanisms, which is why they are prone to overheating.
Temperature and humidity levels: Hot weather, especially combined with high humidity, can be dangerous. High humidity means less moisture is evaporating from your dog’s mouth during panting, making it more difficult for him to cool down.
The surface your dog will be travelling on: Always test the ground, especially black asphalt, before taking your dog out on it. Dogs’ pads are sensitive and can get burned on hot surfaces and worn on rough terrain. Biking and jogging on dirt trails is usually easier on the dog, but even so, if your dog has been a couch potato, you’ll want to keep the exercise to a minimum at first.
If you are determined to take your dog with you, be sure to bring plenty of water and to give your dog lots of rest breaks. Try to bike or jog in shady areas. Watch for signs of heat exhaustion. Cool your dog down immediately if there is any cause for concern by spraying water onto their pads, their neck, groin area and belly. Limit strenuous activities with your dog to the early morning or evening when the temperatures aren’t quite so high.
Have a fun and safe 4th of July holiday!