Pet society

Taking your pet on the trails with you? We spoke to experts to keep your furry friend safe during playtime.

For many pet owners, warmer temperatures and summer mean more quality time with their favorite furry friends outdoors.

In order to make excursions as fun (and as safe) as possible, here are some tips before hitting the trails.

Know your limits

Just because you can handle 1,000 feet of incline or a 10 mile hike doesn’t mean your dog can. The American Kennel Club recommends that all pet owners look for signs of dehydration when taking them on longer or physically strenuous trips. For dogs, these symptoms may include lethargy or loss of interest, sunken and dry eyes, dry nose, dry or sticky gums, and lack of skin elasticity. Behaviors may also include shadow-seeking, restriction of movement, lying down, panting uncontrollably, vomiting, flushing of the skin, or excessive saliva.

If their condition worsens, heatstroke could develop, which requires immediate veterinary attention.

“Small, short-legged dogs are particularly susceptible to overheating because their bodies absorb heat closer to the warm floor,” advises the club. “Flat-faced breeds also heat up faster.”

If a pet owner is looking to improve their dog’s physical fitness, the club recommends conditioning. For puppies, slow and careful exercise is recommended as their bones and joints are still fragile. Conditioning requires intentional commitment to ensure your dog is doing the right kind of exercise, such as gentle warm-ups and cool-downs. If your dog just had a tough run, you’ll want to do a cooldown instead of crate it back and drive it home.

Although it is rare for Summit County Search and Rescue to respond to animal calls, it does happen. Owners are encouraged to constantly watch for signs of exhaustion and rough terrain that may be too much for their pets.

If a pet becomes lost, owners should contact Summit County Lost Pet Rescue and follow their advice to locate their dog or cat.

Watch out for the heat

Off the trail, owners should always be aware of their dogs’ limits, especially if they choose to bring their pets into town. In 2017, Colorado passed a law that grants “immunity to a person who renders emergency assistance from a locked vehicle.” In other words, it is legal to break into a locked car to rescue a pet if the person has reasonable grounds to believe the dog might die as long as they reasonably attempt to contact the owner and call 911 before breaking into the car.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, even if it’s only 70 degrees outside, the inside of a car can be up to 20 degrees warmer. It only takes 10 minutes for the interior to reach over 100 degrees per day at 85 degrees.

Additionally, the organization advises never to completely shave your pets. While it may seem obvious that excess hair can affect your pet’s ability to regulate its temperature, the layers of a dog’s coat protect it from overheating and sunburn. Like insect repellent, make sure any sunscreen used on your pets is labeled specifically for pets.

Dogs’ paws are as sensitive as human feet, which means pets can suffer serious burns to their feet from hot pavement or grass if care is not taken. According to the American Kennel Club, the asphalt temperature registers 135 degrees when the air temperature is 86 degrees.

“Spending even a few minutes browsing an outdoor event can be dangerous,” the club said. “It’s because you wear shoes to protect your feet, but not your dog.”

If it is absolutely necessary for a pet to go outside in warmer temperatures, the American Kennel Club recommends buying shoes or booties to protect their paws.

This story previously published in the Summer 2022 edition of Explore Breckenridge and Summit County magazine.

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