Dogs exposed to and working in high heat use more energy as their system tries to cool. A problem arises because the hot environments also many times cause decreased appetite. For these dogs, it is very important to provide them with nutrient and calorie dense diets so their nutritional needs are met without consuming large amounts of food. Naturally, cool water should also be made continuously available.
Electrolytes. Do dogs need them?
A common misconception is that dogs lose electrolytes in the same manner that humans do. Dogs do not sweat as humans do, therefore do not lose electrolytes through their skin. Studies have shown that endurance sled dogs do lose sodium, potassium, and chloride during endurance exercise through urinary water loss, however, not due to heat. What this means is that giving your dog electrolyte infused water to help with the heat doesn't actually help them like it would a human.
So, What Can You Do?
1. Keep cool clean water constantly available in a big dish. An average 50lb house dog needs 5 cups of water per day. That more than doubles with strenuous activity.
2. If you feed kibble, soak kibble in water in a 1:1 ratio. This gets more water into them while they eat.
3. Bait the water to encourage them to drink more. Add some type of flavoring to the water that makes them want to drink it. Liver juice, some chicken broth, kibble, meat,or some other delicious temptation. Yes, it makes the water look nasty, but it encourages water intake.
4. Keep water with you. You know how water tastes different in different places? Well, dogs notice that too. Either bring your water from home, or if your dog is used to gallons of distilled water from the gas station, that will work too. Using water from random places can discourage proper hydration.
Hydration starts ahead of time, not right before and after you take your dog out to work. So remember the above tips so your dog is hydrated before starting any work. Don't think that giving your dog electrolyte water will make up for dehydration after the fact. And remember to give your dog time to cool off. Dogs need time to recover between bouts of activity, so don't push them too hard. Heat is a killer!