A dog died just moments after hiking a favorite trail on Cowles Mountain Friday morning, and his owners want to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else's pet.
Heat exhaustion may have been the cause. The County of San Diego Animal Services told NBC 7 they'd have to perform a necropsy to determine the dog's exact cause of death.
Before starting the trail, the dog's owners noticed a sign warning hikers the trail may be too hot for dogs. They decided to continue anyway and started the hike with their dog, Hogan, around 10 a.m.
Their 4-year-old dog was a German Shepherd mix who couldn't get enough of the outdoors. Near the top of the mountain, the family decided to head back.
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"We finally turned around, and he was doing great. And then all of a sudden, it just hit him, and he was so tired," said Hogan's owner, Lexi Bouck.
Several hikers along the way were trying to help Hogan, but time was running out, and his condition was getting worse by the minute.
"He started bleeding really bad from his paws, so we put water on them," said Bouck.
The family also stopped numerous times on the way down the trail, but the heat was just too much for Hogan.
"You just saw his body collapse," explained Bouck.
The dog was rushed immediately to a veterinarian, but it was too late. He died shortly after that.
Hogan's family hopes others will think twice before taking their cherished pet out on a hike in this heat.
"He was having fun, but he's only four. You don't want to risk that because you lose them forever," Bouck said, holding back tears.
The owners aren't facing any charges at this time.
Health experts warn that constant panting and drooling are signs of heatstroke in dogs, but it's also important to not over-cool your dog in this situation.
They suggest not using cold water or ice, as that can trap heat in the body's core where it can cause the most damage.
County Animal Service officials have warned that dogs are much more susceptible to heat stroke than humans are. If you plan to bring a beloved pet on a hike, it's important to plan it out carefully.
If the ground is too hot for your hand, it will burn your dog's paws, said county officials. This is significant because dogs' only sweat glands are on their feet.
Be careful not to take your dog hiking at a hot time of day, especially if the dog is not used to that type of rigorous exercise. County officials said dogs could quickly succumb to heat exhaustion.
Visit the County parks trails online to check the terrain and know how long the trail is. Make sure you match the path to your dog's fitness level.
Some other tips to keep dogs safe on hikes include staying on the marked trail and bringing plenty of water. Be sure to pack a few doggie treats and search for shaded areas to take breaks occasionally, said county officials.
The family said there were volunteers walking up and down Cowles Mountain helping people and dogs with water. They told the family that four dogs have died hiking the trail this week.