7 Tips for hiking with dogs in hot weather
Ah summer, it’s what we spend all year looking forward to! It’s what Australia is known for ~ sand, surf and fun in the sun! For Kate and I, summer means exploring the backcountry trails every chance we can… in between hitting the beach that is!
Summer bushwalking is a fantastic way to keep your dog fit and healthy through the hot months. But as with all dog adventures, your trip preparation is key to your enjoyment and safety whilst out on the trails.
Here are our top 7 tips for hiking with dogs in hot weather.
1. As always – Safety first!
When heading off on a hike in summer time, it’s crucial to research before you go. The Bush, whether in Australia or other parts of the World, can be hazardous in any conditions, so researching the trail conditions, taking note of the weather, bushfire ratings and nearest vet clinic is essential before heading out. I can’t stress enough how much your pre-trip preparation can make the difference to your hike.
Be safe, alert someone as to where you are going, and pack accordingly.
2. Check Bushfire sites, apps and warnings for your area.
Bush and fire go hand in hand. Before heading out on any hike take the time to look at any fire warnings in the area. The last thing you want is to be caught out in an emergency situation in a remote location. Be prepared and do your research before you go.
In Australia, each state has warnings posted on their country fire service websites.A few also have phone apps you can download for real time information and alerts.
Victoria – Country Fire Authority
New South Wales – NSW Rural Fire Service
Australia’s Capital Territory – ACT Rural Fire Service
Queensland – Rural Fire Service Queensland
TAS – Tasmania Fire Service
Around the World there are similar services, so be sure to check them out for where you are planning on hiking with your dog. And I’ll say it again, do not think of heading out to the bush before checking these first!
3. Hike to your Ability
When planning your hike, take into account the ability and fitness of your dog. The heat can intensify how hard your dog is working on the trails, so be sure to keep within both your and your dog’s fitness limits. Start off with smaller walks, and build up to longer hikes on more challenging terrain to adequately condition both your and your dog’s muscles to hiking within the heat.
4. Plan your Hike to avoid the hottest times of the day
If you know you’re in for a scorcher of a day, plan to do the majority of your walking in the morning before the heat becomes too intense. Plan to get up early and complete your walk before midday when the heat is getting close to peaking. Or walk a bit in the morning, take a break and enjoy a long leisurely lunch and continue on in the late afternoon or evening when the temperatures have cooled off again.
Heatstroke can be fatal in dogs, so knowing what signs to look out for in your dog is important. According to our friend Dr Jo, the vet behind Creature Clinic, signs of heatstroke in dogs can include excessive panting, vomiting and diarrhea, profuse salivation, ataxia (loss of coordination of movements), weakness, listlessness, collapse, shaking, and seizures. If you notice any of these in your dog whilst out on the trails, immediately stop, seek shade and rest your dog. Offer water and try to cool them down by pouring water over your dog, or wetting a towel and draping this over them. Once they are able to keep going, stop your walk and get your dog to the nearest vet (which you should know from your pre-trip research).
Heatstroke can cause serious damage and can be fatal, so prevention is key to protecting your dog. Watch your dog for signs, and be sure to take lots of breaks in the shade and keep well hydrated.
5. Stay Hydrated
Know what happens when you do exercise in the heat? I’m betting you tend to sweat more than if it was cooler. Sweat = needing more water to replenish what you’re losing. This goes for your dog too. When packing for your hike, take enough water for you and your dog, and then some!
How much water you and your dog may need can vary significantly, but as a rough guide, whatever you would take on a cool day, double it for a hot day. So if you generally would drink 2 litres on an average day, then take at least 4 litres for a hike in the heat. If you don’t like the idea of carrying all the water then look into water purification methods (tablets/filters) so you can replenish your supplies from rivers or creeks if you cross them. Remember dogs can get Giardia too, so always treat their water and don’t let them drink from streams if you wouldn’t yourself!
Stop regularly for water breaks and watch your dog for any signs of dehydration. These can include loss of elasticity in the skin, sunken eyes, lethargy, loss of appetite, dry mouth and in severe cases vomiting and diarrhea. If you notice any of these occurring, get your dog to a vet as soon as you can.
Again, prevention is always better than a cure, so take the time to stop for water breaks and allow your dog to drink their fill before moving on.
6. Avoid burnt paws
Burnt paws can occur not only everyday life walking on pavement, but also when out on the trails. I learnt this one the hard way, and unfortunately poor Kate bore the brunt. We were out for a dayhike which included walking over some flat rocky terrain. It wasn’t very hot, but it was sunny and the rocks had absorbed the sun’s warmth.As we trekked over them poor Kate burnt her paws in the process. I felt terrible, so immediately looked up ways to prevent this happening again in the future. The solution we found was dog booties!
We now go by the rule “If it’s too hot for your feet, then it’s too hot for your dog’s.” If you wouldn’t walk the trail in bare feet then protect your dog’s paw pads and cover them up safely with a pair of dog booties.
7. Enjoy a Swim…. safely
Find those hidden waterholes, creeks and rivers and make the most of them! Nothing better than cooling off in a stream after a hike. Kate can certainly attest to that! Always be sure to check any warnings displayed. That way you’re going to avoid any unpleasant surprises as to what is lurking in or under the water.
Summer days are made for adventures, so embrace the heat while following these tips and get exploring safely!