Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Dogs also can suffer from weather injuries

All too often when day hiking, we think our dogs are impervious to the warm or cold weather. A body covered in hair and the general belief that animals are hardier than humans both lead to this faulty conclusion.

Warm weather
Indeed, as soon as temperatures hit the high 80s, dogs are vulnerable to heat exhaustion and heatstroke on the hiking trail. This is especially the case when humidity is high.

The problem is dogs don’t sweat like humans and instead must cool themselves by panting. Short-faced dogs such as pugs and bulldogs particularly can suffer from heat exhaustion and heatstroke as they don’t pant or breathe very efficiently, and so have trouble cooling themselves down. And contrary to what one might think, athletic dogs also are quite vulnerable, primarily because they don’t realize they’re overdoing it.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke in dogs include dizziness and heavy panting that doesn’t subside. Of the two, heat stroke is more dangerous, as it can result in fainting, a hemorrhage, and even death.

To prevent heat exhaustion and heatstroke, limit hikes with your dog to the cooler morning and evening hours. While on the trail, ensure your dog rests in the shade for a while and that she has cool water to drink. Should heat exhaustion set in, get them into shade where a breeze is flowing, provide them with water to drink, and wet their coat.

Cold weather
Dogs actually are better able than humans to handle cooler temperatures. The cut-off point is when temperatures hit zero or colder.

Frostbite can occur, especially on the extremities of the nose, feet, ears and tails. Floppy and upright ears particularly are vulnerable to frostbite. The good blood flow of athletic dogs, however, generally means they’re less likely to suffer from it.

Another cold weather issues for dogs is paw irritation due to salt and de-icing chemicals.

To prevent frostbite, don’t hike with your dog when temperatures are zero or below. For paw irritation, avoid walking on sidewalks and roads where salt and de-icing chemicals are used. For both ailments, dog boots also ae beneficial.

Find out about trail guidebooks available in the Hittin’ the Trail series.