Tips for Running With Your Dog
By Jennifer Kutcher
Taking your dog for a walk or run is a great form of exercise, but it’s your job to make sure your pet is safe when you run with her. Watch your dog’s behavior for any abnormal signs. You know your dog best, so when your dog starts behaving differently, something may be wrong. It’s important to know what to look for and how to prevent your dog from overheating.
Consult a Veterinarian
Before you begin, you should make sure you and your dog are physically capable before embarking on any new exercise regimen. If you’re unsure, check with your doctor and your dog’s veterinarian. Start with short distances (a mile or less). If your dog shows no signs of distress, gradually increase the distance. Just because you can run for five miles doesn’t mean your dog can or should.
Check the Weather
Pay attention to the weather and make sure it’s not too hot for your dog. A fact most people don’t know is dogs only have two ways to cool down. Panting is one way. Your dog might pant for many different reasons, so you have to take into consideration the circumstances in which she is panting. The second way a dog cools down is by sweating through the pads of her feet. Unlike humans who can sweat all over, dogs sweat through their feet.
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Pick a Safe Running Spot
Humans wear running shoes when they run, so they’re not aware of how tough or hot the ground is. Unfortunately, dogs don’t have that same feet protection. While dog pads are tougher than human feet, they can still be injured—and it’s a difficult recovery for them. Running in sand, dirt or gravel can damage the pads of your dog’s feet. The heat can also burn her pads.
While humans can stay off their feet when injured, a dog can’t. Therefore, it’s important to pay attention to where you are running, the temperature you are running in and to watch your dog for any sign that her feet might be injured.
Look Out for Signs of Heat Stroke
If your dog has an injury from running or shows any signs of possible heat stroke, take her immediately to the nearest veterinarian. Injured pads can get infected and cause a lot of pain for your dog. Heat stroke can cause severe damage to your dog’s organs and can be fatal if not treated properly and quickly.
If you’re unsure, stop and check your dog. Heat stroke signs include excessive panting and/or drooling, dark red or purplish gums, and wobbly or lethargic movement. Collapsing, diarrhea and vomiting are also signs. Foot pad injuries can cause limping or excessive licking of the pad.
If you take your dog running, bring water; pick a cooler time of day to run in and select an appropriate ground to run on. With the proper precautions, running with your dog can be a bonding experience as well as a great way for both of you to get some exercise.
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