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Hiking in the heat endangers dogs’ lives

Hiking in the heat can be deadly to dogs, the San Diego Humane Society warns.

The society is urging trail walkers to leave their pets at home when temperatures are 70 degrees or higher.

Wednesday’s high temperatures around the county were all dangerous for outdoors adventures, with more high temperatures forecast for the weekend.

According to the National Weather Service, on Wednesday, Fallbrook reached 99 degrees; Valley Center 97; and Escondido, El Cajon, Santee and Poway all 95. Julian reached 85 degrees. It was warm in the western parts of the county too, with Encinitas reaching 84 and Chula Vista 83. Lindbergh Field topped out at 82.

Temperatures in the desert are expected to reach 110 this weekend.

While hiking is a popular way for owners to spend time with their animals, dogs are prone to heat exhaustion and their paws burn easily, said Humane Society Chief of Humane Law Enforcement Bill Ganley.

“Even if it is cool in the morning when you take off, the unexpected could happen and all of a sudden you are miles into a difficult hike when the temperatures rise,” Ganley said. “Just last weekend we had a heartbreaking case where an owner with the best intentions lost his dog during a hike because it got too hot. This is preventable, and we don’t want it to happen to anyone else.”

Ganley said there are several reasons dogs are at risk when hiking on hot days:

  • Dogs are much closer than humans to the ground where temperatures are hotter.
  • Dogs with black fur absorb sunlight, and some breeds have especially thick coats that cause them to quickly overheat.
  • Even without these added risk factors, an excited dog who is eager to please may not show signs of heat stroke until it is too late as dogs don’t have the ability to regulate their exertion level like humans do.

Ganley said it is important to always be aware of the signs of heat distress in dogs: heavy panting, glazed eyes, a rapid pulse, unsteadiness, a staggering gait, vomiting, or a deep red tongue.

If you believe your pet is suffering from heat exhaustion, place cool towels or spray water on them, especially on their paws, and contact your veterinarian immediately.

Ganley said the body of the dog last weekend was retrieved by helicopter from the top of Iron Mountain. Helicopter rescues are a partnership between the Sheriff’s Department, CAL FIRE and the U.S. Forest Service, and are often used to respond to people and pets during hiking emergencies.

So far this year, sheriff’s helicopters have rescued 280 people on local trails.

The Humane Society offers several dog hiking safety tips:

  • Never take your dog hiking when temperatures could exceed 70 degrees.
  • Always bring plenty of cold, fresh water and let the dog hydrate often. The amount of water depends on the size of the dog and the length of the hike. Generally, dogs can drink up to 1.5 ounces of water per pound per day. Dogs that are active and/or in a hot environment may need to drink more.
  • If the dog is slowing down or panting excessively, it’s time to give them a break — and then head back home. Do not encourage a dog showing signs of heat exhaustion to continue hiking.
  • Always keep the pet on a leash while hiking. It is the law, but it also prevents it from running away and getting lost or hurt if they see something in nature, like another animal.
  • A dog’s paws are sensitive. Test the temperature of the ground by touching it with the back of your hand for seven seconds. If it is too hot for your hand, it is too hot for paws. A rugged trail can hurt hurt a dog’s paws.