Running in the Dog Days of Summer

My alarm goes off at 5:40 a.m. in August in Louisville, Ky. It’s time for my morning run with Julep, my four-legged jogging companion. We’re pounding the streets by 6 a.m. to get in a 5-mile run after I do some light stretching.

I prefer to workout first thing in the morning because it is (somewhat) cooler than later in the day when the sun is shining brightly. Cooler temps are beneficial to both me and Julep, albeit in different ways.

When we are at rest, over half of our blood volume is sent to digestive organs like the kidneys and intestines. When we begin to exercise, blood flow to the working muscles, such as the heart and hamstrings, rises. At the same time, blood flow to the intestines diminishes.

When the temperature rises above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, blood rushes to the skin, where sweat glands are situated. The autonomic nervous system forces these sweat glands to “switch on” and release water and minerals known as electrolytes at the same time. The water evaporates when air passes across wet skin, releasing internal heat and cooling the body.

Julep, my 3-year-old German shorthaired pointer, is bursting at the seams with enthusiasm. Blood flow increases and transfers to her working muscles when she begins to exercise. During physical exertion, blood flow to the head and paws rises in dogs. This is due to two factors: To begin with, dogs have no sweat glands save in the pads of their feet. Second, they pant, evaporating water and releasing heat through their mouth and tongue. That’s why it’s critical for dogs to stay hydrated as well—their mucous membranes in their mouth stay moist and cool them off. Running before sunrise is also advantageous for dogs since burnt pavement reduces the risk of foot pad injury.

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Here are a few more things to consider before going for a walk with your dog: Chow chows and boxers, for example, have short noses and flat features and are unable to release heat as effectively as other breeds. Also, if your dog has a darker or thicker coat, avoid vigorous movement during peak daylight hours because they absorb more heat.

Getting used to the heat and staying hydrated can help humans and dogs exercise more effectively, making it a safe and enjoyable experience for everyone. Trails to follow!

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