Hot Weather Tips for the Working Ranch Dogs

Penning bulls – Taylor Ranch ©Copyright 2013 Hartnagle Archive:

Penning bulls – Taylor Ranch ©Copyright 2013 Hartnagle Archive:

When dogs get hot and tired they are at greater risk for injury. Water can boost a dog’s endurance by 75 percent, so plan ahead. Set up water stations when you are going to be working in areas long distances from water. This can be as simple as placing jugs of water in strategic spots so your dog can rest and cool down. Keep him/her adequately hydrated. Get in the habit of carrying a canteen of water (and some sort of collapsible container you can fold up and keep in your saddle bag). 

Heat Exhaustion  

Hardworking cowdogs cover way more territory than a horse does. Good dogs have a lot of heart and don’t quit easily. They can quickly become overheated in hot or humid weather. It can also happen on a moderately warm day working rough stock or bringing cattle out of the brush or rounding up a herd-quitter. 

Your dog’s tongue is the main way he expels heat. The hotter a dog gets, the farther out his tongue will hang. It will also get wider than usual in an attempt to get ride of more heat. His tongue and gums will get deeper pink and can become bright red. If you wait until your dog is in trouble, it may be too late. You need to pay attention. 


Signs of heat exhaustion include:

·   weakness / staggering or flopping down

·   muscle tremors

·   loss of balance

·   excessive panting

·   drooling and foaming at the mouth / sticky saliva

·   glassy eyes – confusion or not paying attention 

·   bright red or pale/white gums

·   runny diarrhea

·   collapse followed by death 


Any time you see these signs, your dog needs to be rested and cooled down without delay. Use cool water, but not ice cold. Extremely cold water can constrict the blood vessels and prevent the body from cooling (by causing the internal temperature to rise even further). Get your dog to shade (if nearby). Immerse your dog in a pool of water (if available). Otherwise pour cool water, underbelly (inside the dog’s thighs), the footpads, the neck (where the juglar vein is) and head. If your dog is too hot to drink water he may be in a life-threatening situation and needs immediate vet attention.

Importance of Diet

The value of a top quality diet cannot be stressed enough. Stamina is linked to metabolism – how efficiently a dog can convert food to energy which in part comes from genetics. Also, proper nutrition boosts performance levels. Carbohydrates power the brain and fuel the fast twitch muscle fibers used for bursts of energy such as sprinting to outrun livestock. Dogs use fat to fuel athletic performance the way humans use complex carbohydrates. Fat can also aid in preventing heat exhaustion and dehydration in working dogs.

“Working dogs should be fed a diet high in fat to optimize energy availability and high in protein to protect against injury. Carbohydrates should be supplemented at appropriate times to improve their storage. Remember, feed for energy and you will have energetic dogs.” – Energy and the Working Dog, by Angie Untisz DVM

Glycogen in the form of a high calorie supplement such as Maltodextrin (a small amount of powder mixed with water) or Purina Pro Plan ReFUEL bars are an excellent way to give your dog a quick boost of energy which is easily carried in your saddle bags. 

See also No Foot, No Dog:

Copyright © 2012 by Jeanne Joy Hartnagle-Taylor and Ty Taylor.

All Rights Reserved.