Exercise Programs

For Hot Weather

Nancy Doyle, MPT
Woman and dog running on beach at sunsetThe “Dog Days” of summer are almost here and soon that last cool front (that made your dog frisky like a puppy) will be a distant memory. As the heat bears down upon us, many owners and dogs alike are reluctant to get outside and continue their exercise programs that were begun during the cooler weather. Beyond mere discomfort due to the rising temperatures, the heat can be a true killer, causing heat stroke in your beloved dog. There are some simple measures you can implement to avoid harm to your pet while maintaining an active lifestyle.

Humans release excess body heat by sweating, utilizing the full surface area of our bodies to cool our temperatures. Dogs primarily cool through panting, allowing heat to dissipate through their mouths, tongues, and airways. This limited surface area, combined with their fur coats, makes their cooling systems less efficient than ours. As a result, your pet can reach dangerous body temperatures much more rapidly than you. Dogs with flattened faces, or brachycephalic airways, such as bulldogs and pugs are particularly susceptible to overheating and exercise intolerance.

Here are some tips to make exercise safer (and more fun!) For everyone:

. Avoid leash walks and exercise during the heat of the day, choosing early morning and evening times instead.

. Opt for grass or dirt trails over concrete to avoid burning your dog’s pads. Dogs sweat through their feet so cooler surfaces allow this secondary cooling system to work better.

. Give frequent water breaks. Just as you lose hydration from sweating, dogs lose hydration from panting. If your dog’s mouth is dry, offer water.

. Consider a cooling vest or jacket for your dog. Many commercial products are available which help move your dog’s body heat away from his or her body. Products that focus contact on your dog’s belly and neck optimize cooling during exercise. Alternatively, you may wet your dog’s coat with water to provide evaporative cooling. Following exercise sessions, a cooling mat in your home provides an opportunity for your dog to more rapidly cool down and relax.

. Introduce your dog to safe aquatic exercise options. Some dogs are natural-born swimmers and relish the opportunity to join you in your swimming pool. For others, a wading pool outfitted with toys equates to a fun, cool exercise venue. See a hilarious video of French Bulldog “Phoebe” epitomizing pool play on our Facebook page and add video or photo of your own pup’s summer play!

. Indoor exercise can include physical games (fetch, tug-of-war) as well as mental ones (finding hidden toys or treats, playing with toys that dispense treats as your dog manipulates them) to provide outlets for your dog’s energy.

At Gulf Coast Animal Rehabilitation and Fitness, our indoor facilities provide a safe venue for exercise in a climate-controlled environment. All Fitness programs are designed and supervised by our Physical Therapist to ensure each patient’s specific needs are met. Our two underwater treadmills allow our patients to comfortably complete a tailored exercise regimen for cardiovascular conditioning while avoiding the dangers of overheating. Specially designed canine exercise equipment completes the fitness spectrum, allowing your dog to strengthen muscles and work on balance and coordination while having fun. We specialize in providing customized exercise programs to dogs across the spectrum of physical abilities, from deconditioned geriatric dogs striving for better mobility at home to nationally-ranked elite athletes pursuing their next title. Additionally, dogs needing optimal movement for their endeavors (conformation, agility, dock diving, etc.) benefit from a therapeutic exercise program.You can view more information about our services on our website: www.gcvs.com.

Originally published June 2011.

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