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  • Writer's pictureCuyamaca Animal Hospital

Dog Heatstroke Prevention On Hikes In East County San Diego

Hiking with your dog is such a great activity and provides some great benefits to both you and your pup. Besides being a great source of exercise (to burn off that crazy energy of his), it allows your dog to explore new scents and environments different from his regular routine. It’s also a wonderful bonding experience for both of you as you discover new sights together.

However, living in eastern San Diego County provides its own challenges, especially during the summer. While we’re known for perfect weather, it gets a little warmer over in East County. This is why we wanted to share with you some important information about hyperthermia in dogs including how to prevent it, what signs to look for, and what to do if you see those signs in your own dog.

Mission Trails Regional Park | Cuyamaca Animal Hospital | Dog Panting And Hot


The temperatures in Santee can get pretty high and while that shouldn’t scare you away from the trails at all, there are still some precautions to take. Dogs are prone to hyperthermia, or heatstroke, and we here at Cuyamaca Animal Hospital see it a little too often. A lot of pet owners don’t recognize the early signs of heatstroke and are therefore unable to prevent hyperthermia. So, the next time you go hiking, a little prevention can go a long way towards making your hike more enjoyable! And, even if that means staying home or trying out your hike in the cooler early morning, it’s all for the better for a healthy dog.

Dogs Overheat Faster Than Humans

Dogs can only emit sweat through their paws. This means that heat can get easily trapped under their thick fur coat. The primary way dogs release heat is through panting, which isn’t the most effective way when the temperature is super high and the exercise level is set to a more strenuous pace. Dogs who are overweight, older, or brachycephalic, such as bulldogs or pugs, are also more easily prone to overheating. 

Dogs Release Heat Through Panting | Cuyamaca Animal Hospital | Hot Summer Dog Safety

What are the Signs?

When your pup is panting hard, slowing down, or seeking shade, it’s a good sign that they’re becoming overheated. If your dog’s gums and/or tongue is red, head towards shade and begin cooling him off. More serious signs of hyperthermia can include staggering gait, tongue turning blue, shock, collapsing, or even death. If your dog starts to show these signs, it’s imperative you cool your dog down and take him to the closest veterinary hospital. You can cool him down by bringing him into the shade and pouring cool water over his head (try not to get water inside his ears to avoid discomfort or nystagmus). You can also pour cool water on his abdomen and paws. 

Note: Some dogs presenting with heatstroke at Cuyamaca Animal Hospital are not even on a walk or hike. Most are older, obese, or brachycephalic dogs who were in backyards with hot temperatures. So, we recommend making sure that your dog is NOT left outside in the hot summer months. If you can’t leave your dog indoors, consider a doggie daycare for them. Our favorite is, of course, Furry Friends Resort, across the parking lot! 


If you’re hiking in direct sunlight, make sure that you only go out when the temperature is below 75 degrees. If there is shade, it’s ok if it’s a little bit above 80 as long as you are prepared and alert. Your dog is wearing a thick coat, so he’s going to get hotter than you at a much faster rate. This means he is also going to drink water at a faster rate. A good rule of thumb is to make sure to bring twice as much water for your dog than you would need for yourself. We also recommend bringing additional water in case you need to cool your dog off in an emergency. Encourage your pup to drink water throughout the hike to keep him hydrated, but be careful he doesn’t drink too fast (that can cause vomiting).  As soon as your water is half empty, it’s time to turn around as you do not want to be stuck without water.

Summer Hikes In San Diego | Santee | Cuyamaca Animal Hospital | Pet-Friendly Hikes In San Diego

Hiking in San Diego

Hyperthermia is ALWAYS preventable. Know what to look for if your pet is getting overheated & know how to react so that you and your dog can enjoy bonding and exploring the lovely trails around East County San Diego! Some of our staff LOVE hiking up Cowles Mountain Trail here in Santee (did you know it brings you to the highest point in San Diego?). If you do check it out, make sure to bring extra water and only hike on cooler days as shade is sparse on this trail. Another popular option in Santee is Mission Trails Regional Park, which consists of over 7,000 square acres, so you are bound to have new trails and sites to see each time you go!

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