Hello fellow explorers and adventurers!
All across the country the signs of warmer weather are finally here and while this means nicer days to go out on hikes, it also means seasonally appropriate precautions must be taken. Our companion animals can’t tell us that they are getting too hot or are uncomfortable, and usually by the time we are able to notice it’s been much too long for them. Dogs and cats, like other animals, will endure more than the typical human before showing signs of distress, so here are some helpful tips to keep your adventure pups and kittens happy as the mercury rises.
The Palm Test
If your adventure is taking you on a paved, sand, or gravel path be sure to do The Palm Test before starting. These kinds of substrates do not offer protection from solar heat (like how grass stays cool) and in fact store it. Even if there is a breeze that day which feels good to us, a hot direct sun will heat up the ground rather quickly and that will not be fun for your pet’s paws. The Palm Test is easy: place your palm firmly on the ground for a solid 60 seconds. If it is uncomfortably warm for you it will be too hot for your adventure buddy as well. Retail paw salves are generally not labeled as thermal protection, so unless your pet is wearing thermal regulated paw protection, it’s better to just find a different activity that day. The safest way to be sure a trail of any substrate won’t burn any paws is to Palm Test the ground before starting.
One of the golden rules for any outdoor enthusiast is to stay hydrated. Prehydrate and always bring more water than you think you’ll need. In desert and high elevation areas this means 1 liter of water per person per hour. Based on the size of your pet, overcompensate and bring more than you think they’ll drink. By the time we sense we are thirsty we are already in the process of becoming dehydrated. So every time you stop for a sip, offer your pet some too—even if they are not panting, they may still be warm and will appreciate a cool drink. Which brings us to…
If You Don’t Drink It, You Wear It
It’s very straight forward. Even if they may not want to drink, the water doesn’t need to just be tossed from their bowl. While rubbing your pet’s coat, slowly trickle the water onto your hand (to not startle your pet by having water poured directly onto them) so it can soak the fur and be massaged close to the skin. The main areas to wet are from the base of the neck to the mid-back, and if possible, the chest. If this at all stresses your pet do not do it, asses the situation and cut your hike short if needed.
Cats and dogs do not sweat the way we do, so this will offer them some evaporative cooling that works in a similar way. You can offer just small amounts of water at a time so they don’t end up wearing their whole supply, and of course offer more until your pet is done drinking if they are thirsty. By offering small amounts frequently you can make sure your pet has drank if thirsty, or at least gotten a nice cooling massage to help beat the heat.
By starting early the ground has not yet had a chance to store the heat of the day. Temperatures generally don’t peak until midday either, so you are also going out at the coolest time of day before everything warms up. If your day has to start later just be sure to be in shade by midday, when the sun is at its highest and you and your pet will be most vulnerable to its affects. Or wait until late afternoon and have a nice evening stroll instead.
Plan accordingly based on the weather reports. If your day to go outside is going to be very hot or will offer little to no cloud cover, plan an adventure somewhere with shade. This is not always possible but when tree cover is an option, if the day is hot then take it! Dogs and cats can’t change their clothes to go with the weather so offering relief by picking a shaded hike will go a long way to make sure they can still enjoy being outside. If your pet is really sticking to the shaded areas in a partially covered hike then you know it’s time to go home because the exposed parts of the hike is making them too uncomfortable.
Trust Their (And Your) Instincts
Your pet enjoys their time exploring nature as much as you do. But if you sense that today’s adventure is too much, even if your pet is still driving forward on their leash, the best thing to do is save it for another day. In the same vein, if your pet is just not themselves that day, take that as a signal that maybe a quieter activity somewhere cool would be best.
Remember, there is always next time. It doesn’t pay to play with safety, yours or theirs! Stay safe and happy adventuring!
Do you agree with CricketsNeedsABath’s tips? Tell us in the comment section below!