Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The dangers of jogging with your dog

Now that summer is here, I have a crucial recommendation for dog owners: Please don’t run with your dog during hot, or even warm, weather. In my opinion the danger is just too great.

Consider this: as you are jogging in your shorts and lightweight t-shirt, your dog is wearing a fur coat and no sneakers. Humans cool their body temperatures by sweating, which we do over our entire body. Dogs, on the other hand, can only cool themselves by panting and heat loss through their paws. Warm weather means roasting-hot pavement, which eliminates a dog’s ability to lose heat through their paws, and can quickly contribute to heat stroke.

Heatstroke can be fatal - even with aggressive immediate treatment. Because your dog’s main concern is keeping up with you, she is not going to self-regulate and tell you when she is too hot to keep going. All too often, runners will only stop when their dogs actually collapse or refuse to go any further.

In fact, heatstroke is just one of the reasons to avoid running with your dog. Even when the weather is cooler, the constant jarring over long distances on hard surfaces is guaranteed to result in arthritis and chronic pain for your pet. Unlike humans dogs do not wear fancy running shoes to absorb the shock to their joints that occurs from pounding the pavement. If you must run with your dog, do it only in the cooler temperatures and never run for more than one mile at a time.

Clearly dogs need exercise during the summer, just like they do during the rest of the year. Healthy options include taking a walk in the woods, or heading to the dog park in the early morning or evening when it is cooler.

If heatstroke does occur seek veterinary care immediately. DO NOT submerge your dog in water or douse her with a hose--this will lower the body temperature too quickly. If you would like to start bringing down your dog’s temperature, wet her paws with cool (not cold) water and place a cool, damp towel over her. You can check her temperature with a rectal thermometer; anything over 104 should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

I realize this is a strongly worded post, but having a pet die of heat stroke is especially devastating because it can easily be prevented. So the next time you lace up your running shoes, please stop and consider if going for a run with you really is the best thing for your dog.

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