This is a follow up post to our first article on dogs and hot weather.
We had Juno in to the vet this past week for her annual checkup, and she had a clean bill of health again! Nine years running, and we’re super happy about that.
While she still has her general (i.e., clock-setting, predictable) episodes of exuberant energy everyday, she’s starting to slow down a bit on her walks.
They’re no longer multi-hour treks, and are now more like casual scent-strolls to see what’s up in the neighbourhood. They’re down from 1-3 hours of constant running about, to 30 minutes of stopping to smell the roses.
Caveat: much of the reduction in outdoor walking energy may be due to the fact that we took to feeding her almost entirely via her treat-ball over the course of the past winter, which was rather cold, even for Juno’s taste. She wasn’t too keen on the long outdoor walks this snowy season. So we had to keep her exercise up indoors. Twice a day, she gets a long walk during meal times.
From her meal kibble-allotment, we add 10-20 pieces per fill-up, Juno pushes the ball about until it’s empty, and then brings it back to us for another fill-up. Repeat until the meal is over and the doggie is exhausted from the workout, and adjust the ball portions as necessary for your dog and energy-expenditure requirements.
Keep an eye out for if/when the ball gets too much built-up gunk in it (i.e., drool + kibble remnants), which can make the ball heavier and hard to carry for your dog and its teeth. Also, you can’t be sure if your dog is getting its full allotment of supper. We usually replace our treat-ball once or twice per year, as they’re rather difficult to wash out.
But we have digressed!
One of the questions we brought up with the vet was whether there are activity limitations based on Juno’s age (9 years) and breed (Labrador Retriever), and particularly for hot weather conditions.
The answer was straightforward: essentially, do what the dog is comfortably and safely capable of doing.
Our vet said that as dogs get older, owners have to monitor them much the same way that parents would monitor a young child, or caregivers would monitor a senior citizen. They may be more sensitive to the heat, less able to regulate their temperature on their own, so may need more frequent breaks, more water, shorter excursions, or less-strenuous activities.
The type of exercise depends on the overall conditioning of their bodies, joints, weight, health, and endurance.
She noted that dogs sweat primarily in two ways: through panting, and through their paws.
So, if dogs start to appear as if they’re getting overheated, tired, or stressed, stop the activity, get them into the shade, give them lots of cool water, and try to cool down their paws (cool water, or a soaked cool cloth on their paws).
She also advised that if dogs seem to be seriously struggling with the heat, get them to an emergency care vet facility as quickly as possible, as heat stroke can sneak up dogs, and can have serious, even deadly, effects on them.
Take note of any limping, favouring of a leg, or stiffness upon your return. Those can be indications of over-exertion, and may require some extra rest before you head out for another hike.
As well, remember that puppies don’t necessarily have the “I’ve had enough” warning system working in them yet and can over-exert themselves (Juno certainly didn’t have that system working when she was a puppy, and, as we came to realize, often became over-tired as we tried to tire her out). Remember to gauge your dog’s activities accordingly.
So, as an owner, get your dogs out there! Exercise is good for them (and for you).
And in doing so, consider their stages in life, monitor them closely, and have an emergency plan in mind just in case.
Wishing you a wonderful summer of outdoor adventures!
And, as always, thanks for reading. We’re glad to have you with us.