How to Prevent Your Dog From Overheating on the Hiking Trail

Editor’s note: This Care2 favorite was originally posted on July 16, 2015.

This summer has brought extreme temperatures to many U.S. states. Human hikers know that it’s important to carry enough water, wear loose-fitting clothes and don a wide-brimmed hat when venturing out in temperatures that can reach — or exceed – 100 degrees.

But what about their canine companions? Dogs don’t have the same options to shield themselves from the heat; all they can do is to follow wherever they are led — and sometimes this can have deadly consequences.

In past summers, Arkansas’ Pinnacle Mountain State Park has seen multiple dogs overheat and die while out hiking with their owners. Other dogs have passed out from heat exhaustion and needed to be carried down the trail. And these numbers are higher than the normal one or two canine deaths over a whole year, Joshua Jeffers, assistant park superintendent, told The Dodo.

The animals that died were of different breeds and ages, but most deaths happened during the hottest hours of the day, between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. “Nobody has any business bringing their animals out that time of day,” Jeffers said.

Jillian Rossi, state park interpreter, explained that sweat helps releases heat from the human body, but a dog can only pant – which is not a fast way to cool down.

“The humidity affects people, but it affects dogs up to three times more,” added Rossi, who says the heat affects dogs’ vital organs first.

Incidences of dogs overheating have also been reported in California and Arizona.

In one such case, the Altadena Mountain Rescue Team, near Los Angeles, California, was called to help a dangerously overheated boxer named Tyson who could not move or drink water.

Tyson was hiking with his human when, at about 1 p.m., he became lethargic and stopped walking. His owner called for help, and the rescue team was able to drive up the dirt hiking trail and reach the pair. The rescue crew placed the pooch into an air conditioned Altadena Rescue Team truck, and both Tyson and owner were driven off the hot trail to the parking lot at Eaton Canyon Nature.

However, most cases of dogs dying from heat exposure go unreported, so no statistics exist on how widespread the problem is. But estimates suggest that several hundred dogs suffer this slow, agonizing and entirely preventable fate every summer.

What Are the Symptoms of an Overheated Dog?

Symptoms include:

  • Skin that is hot to the touch
  • Heavy panting
  • Excessive thirst
  • Inability to move
  • Salivation

In the worst cases, this can progress to vomiting, diarrhea, loss of coordination and unconsciousness.

Nobody wants to witness their dog experiencing these horrific symptoms. It just takes careful forethought and common sense to protect your canine.

How to Prevent Overheating on the Hiking Trail

Prevent these early signs of too much sun from even happening by:

  • Not pushing your dog to keep going if she doesn’t want to
  • Making sure your dog has a shady spot where he can rest
  • Having a lot of drinking water handy if your dog shows any of the above signs of overheating — you can never have too much
  • Avoiding the use of muzzles, which can inhibit the ability of the dog to pant
  • Never taking your dog out in the hottest part of the day
  • Going for early morning or late evening workouts, and only for short time periods

Jeffers also urges hikers to read their dogs’ signals: If they’re straying off of paved trails, “the pavement is probably too hot for their paws.”

Have a great summer with your dog, and stay safe!

Photo Credit: Kate Brady/Flickr

158 comments

Renata B
Renata B2 months ago

Bring water with you, always (well unless it's snowing!!!). And be considerate at all times (I know, many humans find this task almost impossible to perform).

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Teddy G
Teddy G4 months ago

How about not taking your dog hiking in hot climates during the summer? Exploiting his desire to be with you and putting his life at risk? Not worth it.

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bob P
bob Petermann4 months ago

Good information thank you.

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Georgina M
Georgina Elizab M4 months ago

tyfs

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Ruth S
Ruth S5 months ago

Thanks.

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Donna T
Donna T5 months ago

thank you

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Leo C
Leo C5 months ago

Thank you for posting!

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Kathy G
Kathy G5 months ago

Thank you

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 .
.5 months ago

Wait until the evening time when its a lot cooler.

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Deborah W
Deborah W5 months ago

Different breeds and ages died, with most deaths happening during the hottest hours of the day, 9am to 6pm. NOBODY HAS ANY BUSINESS BRINGING THEIR ANIMALS OUT AT THAT TIME OF DAY. Humidity affects people, but it affects dogs up to THREE TIMES MORE, the vital organs first, with the worst cases progressing to vomiting, diarrhea, loss of coordination and unconsciousness.
Estimates suggest several hundred dogs suffer this slow, agonizing and ENTIRELY PREVENTABLE fate every summer. If your pet is a full family member, why would you even consider doing this? Observing nature all around you, moving forward into unknown areas and animals, some not friendly to dogs loose or restrained,
and at the same time pay close attention to the symptoms and preventions listed? BE HONEST, YOU WOUILDN'T. Hit the air conditioner, leave food, water and uncaged, with poop-paper access if no trust-worthy walker is available.

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