On some trails in Flathead National Forest, every hiker has a companion…the furry sort.
When the thermometer soars, you’ve got to be sure Fido isn’t baking on the trail. Veterinarian Jim Thompson of Whitefish Animal Hospital explains that dogs don’t have sweat glands. Rather than perspiring to cool their bodies via evaporation, like humans do, they pant. Without the ability to sweat, heatstroke and dehydration can plague dogs, especially those with thick dark coats.
Absolutely do not leave your pet in the vehicle at a trailhead. In 80-degree heat, for instance, a car can heat up to deadly levels within a half hour. Cracking a window never lets in enough air to cool the car.
“Plan for hiking early in the morning or later in the evening,” Thompson recommends. If you must hike with the pooch in the heat, rest frequently in the shade. To cool down with swimming, plan a hike to a lake or river.
Carry fresh water for Fido—about 8 ounces per hour. “Even with creeks available, it’s prudent to carry extra water for the dog,” warns Thompson. He recommends wetting down doggie backpacks or filling them with frozen water bottles to help keep the pooch cool.
If you see signs of excessive panting, lagging behind, and pinker than normal gums, cool your dog down fast, using the same remedies you would for an overheated human: shade and cold water. In the absence of water deep enough for submersion, Thompson recommends soaking a T-shirt in cold water to use as a compress on the dog’s abdomen and around the ears.
“Always be careful with dogs,” says Thompson. “They’ll get overheated easily unless we pay attention to them.” If you’re hot, Fido is most likely hotter.
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