We keep cool when we’re running by sweating (perspiring if you’re a lady) which, by the process of evaporation, uses heat from the surface of our body to turn liquid water into water vapour. We have a surface area of between 1.5m² and 2m² depending on various factors such as height, weight, gender and body composition. When we sweat to cool down, we can easily lose a large amount of heat if we have a large surface area.
Dogs cool themselves by panting, and because they have a hair coat they tend not to lose as much body heat through the skin as we do. Most of the heat they lose is because of evaporation of water from their saliva. Because they are almost incapable of losing heat by convection, conduction, and radiation, it is vital to their well-being that their evaporative cooling system works as well as possible, and is fully replenished with water.
But when and how should you get your dog to drink?
Dogs are generally good judges of their own water needs. They should be given access to plenty of water all day. However this can be difficult to achieve when you’re out running with your pet. The answer? On a longer run, choose a route where there are plenty of places your dog may drink safely, or take water with you. Many parks feature dog drinking fountains that allow your dog to replenish vital water.
But what if you’re not near drinking fountains? On a recent long trail run we did with Guinness and Cinnabar, I wore a Camelbak backpack full of electrolyte drink for the humans, and shared it with our dogs using a folding water bowl. The dogs relished the dilute sports drink for the taste and were easily encouraged to drink early and often.
I regularly carry a water bottle on my 10k runs with Sinner. When it’s time to offer him a drink, I remove a clean baggie from my pick-up kit, fold the rim down a few times, and Voilà – instant dog bowl.
It is always a good idea to allow your dog to drink small amounts and often, rather than ingest a large quantity all at once, even after a run. This helps to avoid serious complications such as gastric torsion where a full stomach can twist and cause life threatening problems for your dog.