We offer cat sitting, dog sitting, dog walking, care for rabbits, chickens, rats, fish and more.
As a professional dog walker, sometimes I have to walk dogs when it’s hot enough to fry an egg on the street. Not all dogs have the luxury of going out before 1pm or waiting until after 6pm and really, if done properly and with some common-sense tips, you can safely walk most dogs even in extreme heat.
WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS WITH BRACHYCEPHALIC DOGS
“Brachycephalic” dogs are those with short, wide snouts and flat faces. They are at an increased risk for heat-related health issues and if it’s over 80 degrees outside should not be walked except for a brief potty break if necessary. Some of the Brachycephalic breeds include Old English Bulldogs, American Bullies, Boxers, Pugs, Boston Terriers, French Bulldogs, and Lhasa Apsos.
ANOTHER WARNING: IF THE HEAT DOESN’T GET YOU, THE AIR QUALITY MIGHT
Make sure to sign up for Air Alerts from SpareTheAir.com to be notified when air quality is poor in the Sacramento region. We get these alerts daily and adjust our outdoor activities accordingly for the health and safety of our pet clients and our walkers.
And now, assuming your dog is healthy and fit …. let’s get walking!
Tip #1: Pay attention to your dog! Learn the signs of heat exertion in dogs and pay close attention to your pet. Don’t simply attach that leash and start jogging – stop every now and then and check your dog for signs of overheating such as heavy panting, salivating, glassy-eyed expression, and looking fatigued and exhausted. A good rule of thumb: If you are jogging or walking so fast that you are out of breath in hot weather, your dog is going to be at a high risk for heat stress.
Tip #2: Cross those streets lickety-split (if you must)! Note: if at all possible, plan a route that minimizes walking across asphalt on a hot day. Now I’ve seen the facebook images that claim if it’s too hot for you to stand barefoot on the ground, it’s too hot to walk your dog but that can be misleading. Consider that we have two feet and they have four, which means that each of their feet is in contact with the ground for a much shorter period of time than ours would be doing the same activity. In essence, if you can run or trot across the area barefoot and not get burned, then your dog can walk it. Ideally, I look for areas that we can cross a street that are shaded. If I don’t know the area well, then I don’t know how long the shade has been covering the street so I stop to place my hand on it before crossing. If I can lay my bare palm on the street for 3 seconds, then we cross, and we cross quickly. This is the ONLY time we move quickly during these hot afternoon walks.
Tip #3: Let the heat do the hard work! When it’s really hot outside, a leisurely stroll will tire you and those pups out as much as a faster pace in cooler weather. Go with the flow, and you’ll save yourself a trip to the vet.
Tip #4: Do “paw checks”! We stop frequently to do “paw checks” and I even tell the dogs that’s what I’m doing. I stop on a shaded or grassy area and say, “paw checks!” before reaching down to touch those furry feet. What I’m checking for is heat on the pads themselves. If you are doing this right, the pads should be cool. If your dog’s pads are warm to the touch or hot, it’s too hot to continue. Use your water or find a hose to wet those pads and and sit it out for a while on some grass before you head back home. When your dog is at home lounging, touch his pads to familiarize yourself with how they should feel in your hand.
Tip #5: Do “paw breaks”! I do these along with the “paw checks”. While walking, I’m constantly scanning ahead to look for areas that are going to be cooler such as grass, areas shaded by trees, someone’s overflowing sprinkler that has now wet the cement, even dirt is going to be cooler than unshaded cement. Every few minutes, we’ll stop and take a rest on these areas. This is also a good time to check for signs of heat distress in your dog. I’ll wait until panting has slowed before continuing.
Tip #6: Bring water but leave the ice at home! Bring along room-temperature to cool water, but never ice water. The sudden coldness of ice will constrict blood vessels making it harder for the body to get any cooling benefit from it. You can use water to give your dog a slow drink, and wet down pads, ears, and the inner legs and stomach area.
Tip #7: Plan for some sitting! Plan your walking route with some rest areas in mind. A shaded porch step, park benches, a tree stump – look for places where you can sit down, and the dogs can rest too. Make sure the ground around the rest area is not too hot; we want to take a rest, not bake. These breaks are longer than “paw breaks” and I generally wait until the dogs tell me they are ready to go again. Panting should be very slow to nearly stopped before you continue on.
Tip #8: Stay close to home! Days when the mercury seems like it won’t stop rising are not the days to go on a 5 mile walk. It may get monotonous, but keep your walk close to home so that if there are any problems, you can get your dog (or yourself) help quickly. You do not want to be in a situation where your dog needs emergency intervention and you still have to walk (possibly carrying your pet the entire way) 45 minutes just to get home to your car or call someone and wait for them to reach you.
Tip #9: Be social! High heat can cause us to become disoriented. Do not attempt to walk in the heat in secluded areas. Stick to residential areas that you know well where others are likely to see you and offer help if you need it. This is a good tip whether it’s hot or not, of course. If you are going to be in a desolate area, bring along a friend.
Tip #10: Go home early! If you notice even the slightest sign that you or your pet are not handling the heat well, do not attempt to push on. If your dog normally gets 30 minute walks in cooler weather, expect that she may only need a 10 minute walk in hot weather. With our pet clients, we make sure everyone at least goes potty and then we may spend the remainder of the visit time in the home, playing, cuddling, or just recovering from the heat.