SAN DIEGO (CNS) - The San Diego Humane Society urged pet owners Wednesday to be extra careful and leave their dogs at home when going hiking on hot days.
While hiking is a popular way for dog owners to bond with their pets, on days when temperatures exceed 70 degrees, dogs are more prone to heat exhaustion and their paws burn easily.
"Even if it is cool in the morning when you take off, the unexpected could happen and all of a sudden you are miles into a difficult hike when the temperatures rise," according to Bill Ganley, chief of Humane law enforcement. "Just last weekend we had a heartbreaking case where an owner with the best intentions lost his dog during a hike because it got too hot. This is preventable and we don't want it to happen to anyone else."
That dog's body was retrieved by helicopter from the top of Iron Mountain.
Dogs -- especially smaller breeds -- are much closer to the ground, where temperatures are hotter. Dogs with black fur also absorb sunlight, and some breeds have especially thick coats that cause them to overheat more quickly. Even without such added risk factors, an excited dog eager to please may not show signs of heat stroke until it is too late, as dogs don't have the ability to regulate their exertion level like humans do.
The Humane Society urged pet owners to be aware of the signs of heat distress in dogs: heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, unsteadiness, a staggering gait, vomiting or a deep red tongue. If a pet is showing signs of heat exhaustion, owners should immediately contact a veterinarian. Owners can also place cool towels or spray water over dogs to help lower their temperature, especially on their paws.
The San Diego Humane Society offered a series of safety tips:
- Never take dogs hiking when temperatures could exceed 70 degrees.
- Always bring plenty of cold, fresh water for dogs and let them hydrate often. The amount of water depends on the size of the dog and the length of your hike. Generally, dogs can drink up to 1.5 oz of water per pound per day. Dogs who are active and/or in a hot environment may need to drink more.
- If a dog is slowing down or panting excessively, it's time to give them a break and then turn around to head back home. Do not encourage a dog showing signs of heat exhaustion to continue hiking.
- Always keep pets on a leash while hiking. It is the law, but it also prevents them from running away and getting lost or hurt if they see something in nature, like another animal.
- Remember a dog's paws are sensitive. Test the temperature of the ground by touching it with the back of the hand for seven seconds. If it is too hot for your hand, it is too hot for your pet's paws. Additionally, a rugged trail can hurt a dog's paws.