For sporting dogs, heat and the potential to overheat can result not only in decreased performance but also serious health conditions. Owners should recognize signs of overheating so they can take steps to avoid potential health problems.
Sporting dogs are at risk of decreased performance and health issues during hot weather conditions if not properly hydrated, regardless the length of exercise. Owners should be aware of the need to provide active dogs more frequent water intake during all sessions.
To keep a highly active dog comfortable while exercising for about an hour at thermoneutral temperatures of 70 degrees Fahrenheit, about 50 percent more water is required than the amount needed by an inactive dog.
Also, dogs are more at risk of becoming dehydrated during short-duration exercise in which they are not provided water or it is given too infrequently, than during long-duration exercise that allows frequent access to water. It is critical to encourage water intake during any length of training in the summer months, but especially to be mindful when training events are shorter, and hydration is a commonly overlooked need.
The best way to ensure adequate hydration is to administer water directly from a water bottle in frequent, small volumes. It can be difficult to know how much to increase water intake, however, because there is not a linear relationship between increased temperatures and how much water to give per added degree of heat. It is estimated that water requirements can more than double when exercising dogs in warm temperatures. Providing free access to fresh water before and after training is the best strategy, and adding direct intake during and immediately after exercise will help to reduce risk.
Calculating Water Intake
If a medium-sized sedentary dog weighing 50 pounds consumes approximately 1,000 kilocalories of food per day, he or she will need approximately 1 liter of water throughout the day. That is a guideline based on an estimated average that may need to be modified for individual dogs’ requirements.
This same dog could need a 50 percent increase in daily calories required when becoming highly active. That increases the dog’s calorie intake to 1,500 kilocalories, thus increasing the estimated water need to 1,500 milliliters, or 1.5 liters.
At 80 degrees Fahrenheit, this water requirement increases to approximately 3 liters during the day. An owner that exercises a dog in these conditions could use a 1-liter bottle containing cool water to give the dog a few squirts of hydration every 10 to 15 minutes. That should be adequate. After exercise and once the dog has had time to calm down and relax they should have free access to clean, cool water when done exercising, enabling him or her to self-regulate hydration.
Owners need to make changes to volume according to body weight and daily calorie needs. Overweight dogs appear to have a higher water requirement, making it even more important not to allow a dog to exceed his or her healthy weight.
Proper hydration is just as important as proper nutrition, training and conditioning for a sporting dog to be successful in the field.