The minute Beau sees his leash, he gets pretty darn excited.
"He can tell time," said Beau's person, Todd Morris. "He knows when we're going to go for a walk."
Twice a day, the spunky Cavalier King Charles spaniel hits the road for a mile or two walk around his Keller neighborhood. Along the way, he typically stops for a water break or two, and the duo sticks to shaded areas.
"Dogs get hotter a lot quicker than people do," said Morris, who with his wife, Sue, adopted Beau four years ago. "We always walk early in the morning or late in the day to avoid the heat."
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Morris knows the importance of making sure pets keep their cool in the summer heat, but the marathon runner also is the first to recognize that Beau needs daily walks to stay slim, fit and healthy.
Without exercise, any pooch can put on a paunch, pronto. But this time of year, exercising becomes especially challenging due to the Texas heat and humidity.
Common sense says walking, or even worse running, at high noon in 90 degree-plus heat can turn into a disaster, but what's the safest time to exercise a dog?
Early morning is the best bet.
"If you walk these guys in the early morning when it's still in the lower 80s, it's much better," said Dr. Tim Morton, a veterinarian at Family PetCare in Fort Worth. "Even late at night, it can still be in the 90s and a dog can get overheated."
Shaded sidewalks help take the heat off. Beau benefits from taking his strolls in an area of Keller that has lots of mature trees. In some neighborhoods, groups of pet owners hold off until midnight or even later and walk in groups.
Any time of day, access to water is a must. A thermos filled with cold water is always good to take along on even the shortest walk. Inflatable dog dishes that can be tucked in a pocket and pulled out when it is time for a water break are also handy.
Cooling vests are another way to keep little dogs cool, but they can become a hindrance if pet owners fail to notice when they are no longer working.
"It can become a coat instead of a cooling vest," Morton said.
Since dogs don't sweat like humans do, pet owners should be prepared if their dog becomes overheated.
Alcohol rubbed on a pooch's paws can help cool them down. A few sips of cool water can help, but don't plunge a hot dog into icy water. It can do more harm than good. And if a dog is in distress, take him to a vet immediately.
"If a dog is panting excessively, drooling and vomiting, you don't have a lot of time," said Dr. Jaime Lyn Doherty, a veterinarian at I-20 Animal Medical Center in Arlington. "You have to get in the car and go."
Just like people, dogs need time to get acclimated to the rising temperatures.
Someone who spends their days in an office is not going to adjust to the heat as readily as someone who works construction outdoors year-round, Morris said. The same is true with pets.
If Fido lounges on the couch all day in an air-conditioned house, he is not going to adjust to rising temps as well as the dog that lives in the back yard. Pet owners should take this into account when they go for a walk.
Most people wouldn't dream of walking barefoot on hot pavement, but they never give a thought to how the heat affects their pup's paws.
Typically dogs have enough padding to protect their paws from heat, said Dr. Rita Ruple, a veterinarian at Parkside Animal Hospital in Keller. But pet owners should pay attention to the ground when the outdoor temperature soars.
Dogs can burn their paw pads if they run hard on concrete, she said.
Noses can also get sunburned if a dog with sensitive skin or short fur is outdoors too long, Morton said. And forget about a close shave for dogs with heavy coats.
It might sound like a good idea, but with a burr cut, skin is exposed that has never seen sunlight before, he said.
And play smart, too
Border collies, Australian shepherds and other high-energy breeds may want to play Frisbee forever but their owners should know better.
"You don't want to be throwing a ball or Frisbee unless maybe you're playing next to a lake," Ruple said.
When there's no cool water nearby, move playtime indoors. Doggie day care is a great option because it allows energetic pups to play in the comfort and safety of air-conditioning, Ruple said.
If there's no lake in sight, Labs, golden retrievers and water-loving dogs can have just as much fun standing or even stretching out in a kiddie pool. Just make sure it's the right size for the dog, and that he is supervised. Other dogs like to romp around misters to stay cool.
"Lots of dogs like to go swimming, which is great as long as someone is watching them," Morton said.
If they are comfortable in the water, know where the steps are and know how to get out, swimming can be fun and cooling. But don't leave them alone.
Rowdy, the Morris' three-legged chocolate Lab, once took a dip in a pool, then had a tough time climbing out because he couldn't get up on the ledge.
He hasn't been a big fan of swimming pools since, said Morris, who came to Rowdy's rescue.
If your couch potato would rather snooze than go outside, summer is no time to start a new exercise routine; wait till fall.
When it's really hot, some dogs tend to suffer more than others. Little, short-nosed dogs such as pugs, tend to get overheated, even in 80-degree weather. Older, obese dogs or those with heart problems should avoid going outdoors except for bathroom breaks.
In the end, it's best to listen to your pet.
"Don't push a dog beyond what he wants to do," Morton said. "If he wants to lie around, let him."
Jan Jarvis, 817-390-7664