This month’s newsletter focuses upon how to safely exercise with your pet during hot summer days.

How Your Pet Keeps Cool
Unlike humans who reduce body temperature via the evaporative effects of sweating, our furry friends primarily cool down by expending heat through panting. Secondarily, pets can lower their body temperature by sweating through skin that is not covered with hair—a limited area including the nose and feet. So on hot days it’s vital that you monitor your pet’s level of panting during exercise.

When to Exercise
Exercise early in the morning (before 10AM) or later in the evening (after 6PM)—before or after the sun is brightly shining on their play area. To the greatest extent possible, exercise in grassy, shaded areas and allow your pets equal parts play and cool down between sessions. Cut grass (compared to dirt, gravel, concrete or blacktop which absorb heat) tends to be cooler and will help lower your pet’s temperature.

When the outdoor temperature exceeds 90 degrees, all strenuous activities should cease as high temperatures tax the body and make it difficult for you and your pet to properly regulate body temperature. To the extent possible, avoid exercising during days when the humidity exceeds 90%. Never exercise when the heat index (the combination of temperature and relative humidity which is often cited on the news) is above 100.

Heat Index

During hot days, a short run or brisk walk can often provide the necessary level of daily exercise without introducing undue stress on your pet. For more active pets, consider introducing a pet pool or sprinkler into the exercise routine to help keep them cool and introduce a new element of fun. Keeping their feet and body wet can help prevent overheating and allow your pet to exercise for a modestly longer period of time.

On the hottest days, consider playing with your pet indoors—taking advantage of your air conditioning. Games such as hide-and-seek will challenge your pet’s mind and provide physical activity as they run from room to room searching for you. Also consider an indoor game of tug-of-war—allowing your pet to exercise their muscles and controllably burn off energy that they would otherwise release outdoors.

Carry Water
Bring and ensure your pet drinks plenty of water; do not rely on water fountains or traditional shared water sources as they are often out of service during hot days. Importantly, offer your pet water frequently and proactively—when you notice the signs of rapid panting or exertion. When providing water, use a cup or bowl (rather than pouring water into your hands) to ensure your pet can easily lap up water they need rather than allowing it to pour on the ground.

Water for your Pet

Also ensure your pet’s water is cool—but not ice cold—to help lower your pet’s core body temperature. When drinking, allow your pet to consume water for up to 20 seconds (or up to 12 ounces—depending up their size) in a single “session.” Then, allow your pet to rest for 30 seconds, and repeat offering more water. Pets that gorge or overconsume water in a single “session” are more likely to vomit or feel unnecessarily uncomfortable.

Monitor Your Pet
Your pet is your responsibility, so monitor them for symptoms of heat exhaustion. Signs include:

  • Excessive panting
  • Reddened gums
  • Excessive drooling
  • Vomiting
  • Shaking or muscle tremors

If you believe your pet may be experiencing signs of heat stroke, please contact us immediately. It is vital that you begin to stabilize and reduce your pet’s body temperate before tissue, organs or the brain become affected. Also, be sure you know how to cool down your pet in an emergency.

Cool Down Period
After exercising, allow your pet to gradually wind down their physical activities via a brisk walk followed by a slow walk and then a sitting rest. This will allow your pet’s heart rate and breathing to slowly return to a normal level—and allow time for your pet’s muscles to cool down. If your pet needs to immediately sit, monitor their breathing to ensure they are comfortable and not in distress.

Cool Down Period

Eating Post-Exercise
On a hot day or after strenuous activity, it’s important to allow your pet to cool down for at least one hour before offering food. While your pet will likely be hungry, eating too soon after exercising for some breeds can contribute to bloat—a life threatening and potentially fatal condition.

With experienced doctors trained at the nation’s best veterinary schools, our sole focus at Kirkwood Animal Hospital is to maintain the wellness and health of your pet. If you have questions or concerns regarding your pet’s activities, please contact us. We’re always here to help.

Kirkwood Veterinarians

Kirkwood Staff