By Christie Long
Jogging is a perennial favorite pastime in Colorado, and many runners like the company of their dogs on runs.
For the most part, it’s an activity that can be enjoyed by both, and many of the same common-sense safety rules apply to dogs as to humans.
Most dogs need to work up to longer distances gradually, conditioning their muscles and cardiovascular systems to endure longer distances.
If you are an avid runner and acquire a new adult dog make sure to have a full examination done by your veterinarian to ensure that there are no obvious joint or bone problems that might be exacerbated by jogging.
Most experts agree that puppies should not be allowed to jog long distances until their bones are mature, anywhere from 10 to 14 months of age, depending on the breed. Large- and giant-breed dogs mature slower than small and medium breeds. Just like humans, dogs have growth plates on the end of their long bones, which allow the bones to lengthen normally during growth. Those plates fuse with the rest of the bones when growth is complete.
Dogs cool themselves through a different mechanism than people. Being covered with fur or hair means that heat must dissipate through the tongue, mouth and, to a smaller degree, the foot pads. You can appreciate that this gives them a much more limited cooling ability than we have, based on surface area alone.
Because of this, it’s possible for a dog to get overheated much quicker than we do. Keep this in mind when choosing the time of day that you take your dog jogging. The cooler morning and evening hours are more comfortable for us and safer for them.
It’s a good idea to carry a canine first-aid kit with a thermometer when taking your dog for a long run or hike. A rectal temperature above 102.5 degrees is a signal that your dog is not cooling itself properly, and it means it’s time to seek shelter from the sun or stop the activity altogether.
And always bring a collapsible bowl and water to keep your pooch hydrated.
Pavement and cement can reach extremely high temperatures in the summer. Even though the skin of the pads is tougher than the “regular” epithelium that covers the rest of a dog’s body, it is still possible for a dog to suffer burns and abrasions on these skin surfaces during a long run in hot temperatures.
Christie Long is a veterinarian at the VCA Animal Hospital in Fort Collins, CO. Long left her job in software sales in 2000 to travel for 13 months. Along the way, she was touched by the plight of the animals she saw and somewhere in the Nepalese Himalayas she vowed to return to school to become a veterinarian. While she often finds end-of-life situations heart-wrenching, she considers herself blessed to be called upon as a trusted adviser to families during difficult times. Dr. Long’s family includes her husband and travel partner, Wiley, their son, Wiley IV, their dogs Pancake and Gizmo and cats Sneaky and Sidh.