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Tips for Hiking with Your Dog

May 05, 2017

Hiking-Tips-Dog.jpgWith spring in the air, you may be spending more time outdoors with your furry friend. Hiking can be a wonderful activity that strengthens the bond between you and your dog. As the outdoor elements can be unpredictable at times, it’s always best to be prepared for the unexpected. Here are some safety tips for hiking with your dog to keep in mind.

Things to Consider Before Your Hike

  • How is your dog’s physical condition? Hiking is an energetic activity that requires your pet to be in a good, healthy condition. If you have not regularly hiked with your dog, check with your primary care veterinarian to see if it is appropriate for your pet.
  • Is your dog is a beginner, intermediate, or advanced hiker? If your dog is new to hiking, take things slow. A 5-mile hike to start with may be too strenuous. As the first step in training, consider slowly increasing the length of your walk times over a period of weeks.
  • Is your dog on parasitic prevention medicine? Hiking places your dog at risk of ticks, fleas, and mosquito bites. If your dog is not on preventative medication, they will need to be examined by your veterinarian, and be on medication for several weeks prior to your hike.
  • Are you familiar with the hiking trail? If the hiking trail is unfamiliar to you, know the park’s regulations and guidelines beforehand. Also, check with the park to see what wildlife and plants are commonly seen in the area.
  • How will the weather be throughout the day? When it comes to the weather, it’s always best to be over-prepared. A day may start off sunny, but have a sprinkling of showers throughout the day. 

Materials to Bring on Your Hike 

  • Water – Frequent water breaks will keep your pup hydrated and prevent overheating. Remember, dogs do not sweat so having ready water for them to drink is especially critical.
  • Food – Instead of feeding a large meal before you go, pack extra food to give your dog snacks during the hike. The snack breaks keep their energy levels up throughout the journey.
  • First Aid Kit – A proper first aid kit is one of the most important items you will need to bring. Many retailers like Walmart, Target, Amazon, etc. carry premade pet first aid kits. Whether you plan on buying or creating a kit, we recommend using AVMA’s Pet First Aid Supplies Checklist and Trupanion’s Pet First Aid Checklist to make sure you have necessary items.

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  • Collar with ID Tag – Is your pet’s ID tag information up-to-date? Remember to make sure they are securely fastened before starting on your hike. 
  • Leash – Even if your dog follows the “obey” command well, a leash should always be used on your hike. Wildlife or other hikers can appear suddenly and alarm your pet. A leash will help bring your pet close to you. Furthermore, some parks have a rule that all pets be leashed throughout hikes so it’s best to have a leash on hand before beginning your hike.
  • Dog Rain Jacket – Hiking in the springtime can sometimes mean unpredictable weather. Sudden rain showers can occur. For all dogs, especially smaller dogs or dogs with a thicker coat, a properly fitted rain jacket will help keep them comfortable and dry.
  • Dog Backpack – If your dog has never worn a backpack, get them acclimated to the feeling of wearing one a couple of days before your hike. There are many sizes available so be sure to pick on that is not too small or too large for your dog’s size. Dogs can carry about 10 to 15% of their body weight. Be sure to distribute the materials in your dog’s backpack so the extra weight is even on both sides.
  • Dog Blanket – Pack a weather proof dog blanket in cases of emergency. Sometimes bad weather can extend a day hike into an overnight one (you may also want to consider bringing a small tent that fits you and your dog). The blanket will come in handy to keep your pet warm throughout the night. It is also helpful for giving them a place to rest during breaks.
  • Towel – Bring clean towels with you in case you need to dry your dog, or in times when your dog gets injured. A clean towel to wrap around a wound until you can get to a veterinarian will be especially useful.
  • BootsBring hiking booties for your dog. These booties have a sturdier sole for better traction and protection for your dog’s paws. Putting booties on your dog’s feet can protect their pads from injury. You may also want to bring extra with you as many times a bootie can get lost during a hike.
  • Doggy Bags – Always leave as you came. Be a responsible dog owner and carry doggy bags with you to clean up after your dog. Keep the trail clean for the next hiker – they’ll thank you for it!  

Additional Tips to Keep Your Dog Safe on Your Hike

webmd-poison-ivy-oak-sumac.jpgBe aware of toxic or poisonous plants native to the area. Plants like poison ivy, poison oak, sumac, foxglove, Virginia creeper, and any variety of mushrooms you don’t recognize can be toxic to your pet–either through ingestion or from physical contact. You can also see a list of toxic plants from the Pet Poison Helpline’s website. Bookmark the list on your smartphone or print out a list of the plants so you can keep yourself and your dog away from these plants.

Avoid letting your dog drink from water found on the hike without first purifying or filtering. Puddles and streams can contain parasites and bacteria dangerous to your pet. Urine or feces from other animals (and humans) can contaminate the water causing pets to contract infectious diseases like leptospirosis, E. coli, Giardia, among others.

Risks are increased with:

  • Static water (e.g. tanks, reservoirs, wells, etc.)
  • Muddy water
  • Water containing algae
  • Puddles
  • Shallow, slow-moving streams
  • After recent rainfall
  • Any water near other pets and wildlife (such as near farms, pastures where animals graze/roam)

Fast moving water is generally safer, but filtering water is best practice. You can see a list of water purifiers and filters meant for hiking here

Things to Check After Your Hike

  • Check your dog’s body, paws (including in between toes) and around ears for any flea and ticks. If you bring a flea comb with you on the hike, you can use it to comb out these pests before your dog enters your car or home. Even if your dog is on preventative medication, it is a good idea to check their body for any scrapes or bites that might have happened without you noticing.
  • Monitor your pet to recognize signs of heatstroke promptly. Heavy panting, difficulty breathing, pale gums, dizziness, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, etc. are all signs your dog is overheated.

If you notice any of signs of heatstroke and/or significant behavioral changes, bring them to the nearest 24-hour emergency animal hospital like The COVE. We are equipped with a medical team trained in emergency care, as well as have the equipment to provide pets with critical care in our intensive care unit (ICU).

While we hope you enjoy many safe and memorable hiking trips with your furry best friend, should you need us for a medical emergency we are here for you all day, every day. No appointment is needed. Just give us call at (757) 935-9111 so we can prepare for your arrival or answer any questions you may have.

Happy hiking!


Category: Pet Health Tips