The National Park Service is urging pet owners to think twice before hiking with animals after at least three dogs have died on local trails since July of this year.

“Wait for cooler weather before heading out on a hike with your four-legged friends,” says Ken Low, a National Park Service ranger at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. “We helped rescue two dogs from the Sandstone Peak area in the western part of our mountains on a recent weekend and it was over 90 degrees. People don’t realize that dogs can succumb to heatstroke in just 15 minutes.”

The National Park Service and local search and rescue teams in Los Angeles and Ventura County together have reported about a half dozen canine rescues in 2021. Most of the dogs were suffering from a heat illness. Some did not have enough water.

Hikers should check with their veterinarian to learn what their dog can handle. Some dog breeds make better hiking partners than others. The dog should also be evaluated to see if they are fit enough for the hike. Age is also a huge factor. Old dogs might not be capable of keeping up on long, challenging hikes, and the burden on growing bones may be too much for puppies. Hiking in overly hot weather should be avoided, as dogs are more susceptible than humans to the dangers of excessive heat. It’s also essential that you take water for your dog. Dogs don’t sweat the way humans do. Panting is their primary method for keeping cool, putting them at a much higher risk of overheating than you, when on the trail.