Do the Math
If you’re worried it’s too hot to run with your pup, Dr. Lee has a rule: Take the temperature, add the humidity, and if you get 150 or more then it’s probably too hot. So, if it’s 80 degrees with 70 percent humidity (80+70=150), then Buddy should sit and stay.
Lee said most owners can guess when it’s too hot, so she rarely treats overheated dogs on the most extreme days.
“But when people see that it’s 80 or 85, they think it’s temperate and not too bad,” she says. “So that’s where we see the most heat strokes.”
Keep the temperature of the pavement in mind, too. Unlike you, your pup’s feet aren’t protected by running shoes.
“If you’re can’t hold the back of your hand to the pavement for at least 10 seconds, then it’s too hot for your dog’s paw pads,” Robinson says.
Look for Warning Signs
For dogs as for people, the biggest danger in summertime running is heatstroke, clinically called hyperthermia. Overexertion can cause Lucy’s body temperature to soar past 106 degrees, which can lead to blood clots and organ failure.
“Even with aggressive treatment, this can be fatal,” says Lee.
The Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine looked at more than 50 dogs in need of emergency care for heatstroke. Most had been strenuously exercising on a hot day—some for only six minutes. These were, on average, healthy 3-year-olds. Still, half of them died.
Some dogs love their owners or love to run so much that they won’t listen to their bodies and will run until their heart literally gives out.
This dangerous path comes with warning signs, though.If your dog lags on his leash, it could mean he or she is beginning to struggle. If his gums or tongue turn bright pink, his belly’s red and warm, he’s panting heavily and he can’t catch his breath, then his core temperature is probably rising. Heavily concentrated urine (small amount, dark yellow color) and collapse suggest dehydration.
These early indicators likely cause no permanent damage but, according to Lee, it’s a slippery slope.
“We don’t really know how long it might take to go from there to a heatstroke, because we can’t monitor their body temperature as we go,” she says.
If your dog struggles during a run, Lee advises that you stop and find water. Let your dog lay in the water and/or douse them using either a hose or your hands. Once you’re home, give them plenty to drink and a comfortable, air-conditioned place to rest. Ice baths could shock the system and are not a good idea.
But if you suspect your dog is having a heatstroke, “Don’t waste more than five minutes getting him to the vet, and ideally an emergency vet,” Lee says. “Once you get to a heatstroke, there’s a very poor prognosis. And it can cost you thousands of dollars.”
Still, Robinson says, “Some dogs love their owners or love to run so much that they won’t listen to their bodies and will run until their heart literally gives out. This powerful mental drive overrides all physical signals from the dog’s body. If your dog won’t stop on his own to rest, be sure to encourage him to take a break, drink water and cool down.”
Consider Other Options
Dr. Lee is “a huge advocate” for running with dogs. She served as veterinarian for the 2016 Iditarod and often hits the trails with Milo, her black-and-white pit bull/Aussie shepherd mix.
“Just do it safely,” she says.
If it’s too hot to run, consider a brisk walk, a swim or a trip to the dog park where your pal can exercise at their own pace. Or bring them along only for your easy warmup or cool down jogs.
But don’t let your pooch be slothful till September. “I have a vet rule,” Lee says. “If you can’t exercise your dog for 30 minutes a day every day, then you shouldn’t have a dog. They need the physical exercise as part of their mental stimulation.”
Just remember the summer isn’t always a dog’s best friend.
READ THIS NEXT: 17 Paw-fect Dogs for Runners