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Don't Run Your Dog Into The Ground! Pet Dangers and Running With Your Dog

Posted December 21, 2014 in Dog Checkups & Preventive Care

Girl jogging with her dog

Dr. Justine Lee is a board-certified emergency critical care veterinary specialist, and is the CEO of VetGirl. For more from Dr. Lee, find her on Facebook!

Last week, I talked about running with your dog. After all, it’s a great way for you to bond with your four-legged family member, to mentally and physically stimulate him, and to help keep you in shape too! However, before just jumping right into it, there are a few pet dangers that you need to be aware of that occur when you exercise with your dog, including the top three that I see:

  • Heat stroke
  • Pad abrasions
  • Soreness

Heat stroke
When it comes to deciding when to take your dog out for a stroll, rollerblade, run, or trot, my general rule stems from working with sled dogs. If the temperature plus humidity added together are greater than 150, it’s too hot for your dog! For example:

Temperature:  75°F 
Humidity level: 80% 

75 + 80 = 155 

In my opinion, this is too hot to run! If you want to torture yourself and run, go for it. But, in general, only do intense exercise with your dog if it’s < 150.

Keep in mind that dogs can potentially overheat more, as compared to humans. Here are a few reasons why they can overheat:

  • They have fur! Imagine running with a fleece on in that same weather you’re about to subject your dog to.
  • They lack the rapid heat loss from sweat (e.g., as they only have sweat pads in their paws).
  • They don’t know how to pace themselves appropriately (e.g., they’re so excited they are running all over the place initially): "Yeah! We’re going on a run!!!!!"
  • They can’t say no to you (e.g., if I were your running partner and you made me run past 6 miles, I’d verbally turn you down in a second!).
  • They have extra insulation. 40-60% of our pets are obese nowadays, and while we want you to exercise them, that added fat provides additional insulation, predisposing your pet to overheating. I still want you exercising your pet, but take it slow to help them shed that fat!
  • They have been bred to not breathe well. Certain breeds with brachycephalic disease (e.g., the smooshed in face) typically can’t exchange gas and heat well. They are much more predisposed to overheating. My rule: if your dog snores, he’s likely brachycephalic and shouldn’t run in heat!

When in doubt, exercise during non-peak heat hours…

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Justine has more than 18 years of experience in the veterinary industry and is a board-certified emergency critical care veterinary specialist and toxicologist as well as the CEO and founder of Vetgirl. She is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.