If you enjoy hiking and you’re a dog owner chances are your best bud often hits the trail with you. Not only is it a great way for you both to remain fit, but it’s a wonderful bonding experience for the two of you. While for the most part there are only upsides to bringing your furry pal along with you on the trail, there are some things you should consider regarding dog safety, assuming you haven’t already thought of them. Most responsible dog owners try and account for their pet’s needs as well as their own when hiking, but we don’t always think of everything. Here are some tips for you to bear in mind the next time you’re planning a hike.
Parasitic critters in the great outdoors are probably the biggest bane of the hiking experience. If you’re a seasoned hiker, you probably already bring along mosquito repellent, but you might want to give Fido a spritz, too. Assuming you have your dog on heartworm medication, you don’t have to worry about that, but just because they can’t get sick doesn’t mean they’re immune to the experience of being eaten alive by swarming pests of the blood sucking variety.
There are some excellent pump sprays that go on dry formulated for kids that work well. Just keep it out of their eyes when applying. Additionally, make sure your dog’s preventative flea and tick regimen is current and check your dog thoroughly for ticks after your jaunt.
Keep an eye on pets in hot weather when they’re exerting energy. Like people, they can overheat, too. If your hike is going to take several hours or the better part of the day, make sure there are plenty of opportunities for them to rest and that they have plenty of water. There are some great cooling vests and harnesses available for pets now that are lightweight and easy to bring along that don’t require refrigeration, should you need to use it.
If your dog does appear to be suffering from the heat, immediately place them in shade and slowly cool their body off with lukewarm or slightly cooler water. Gradually you can increase the coolness, but don’t douse them in cold water initially. If it’s really hot, unless your dog is conditioned to the heat, you should probably consider leaving them home.
Your dog’s paws are rougher than your feet, but they’re not Kryptonite. They can endure cuts, bruising and burns just like yours. That’s why it’s a good idea to check your dog’s paws whenever you take a break. When you do, gently spread their toes and examine them top and bottom. Sometimes they pick up sand spurs that get trapped in their fur. Make sure their pads aren’t suffering from any abrasions and gently apply pressure to them to make sure they aren’t bruised.
There are some well-regarded products you can purchase that mushers use on their dogs to not only treat their dogs’ paws but are said to give them a protective coating. You can also consider dog booties. These work well for hot surfaces and wear and tear from the trail.
Yup, dogs can get sick from the altitude. If you’re hiking up, up, up, keep an eye on your pet. Most dogs will have little to no problems keeping up with you without experiencing any issues from the change in altitude, especially the types of typically active dogs that would be included on a hike. Let’s face it, you’re probably not hiking with a pug or a Frenchie with brachycephalic issues or any other breed of lap dog.
Once you reach a certain level it may be another story if they become too playful. For instance, if you take them somewhere that’s already between, say, 8,000 and 10,000 feet and then you go for a hike climbing further in elevation they may begin to experience symptoms of altitude sickness if they start running around. Symptoms include excessive drooling, panting, vomiting, swelling of the face or paws and/or collapsing. If this happens, take them back down.
Safety Gear for Dogs
It’s a good idea to get your dog a glow-in-the-dark collar if you take them hiking. This way they’re easier to spot in low lighting should they get ahead of you or wander off. There are also beacons you can attach to their collars or harness (which also come in glow in the dark now) with different light settings that work well for locating them if you get separated.
Another good idea is to employ some kind of a tracking device beyond getting them chipped. There are a lot of collars designed with detachable pet trackers built into them and several locator devices that you can secure the same way you would a dog tag that work with an app that lets you see exactly where they’re at, saving you the hassle of contacting local pounds and shelters that hopefully would scan for a chip but don’t always.
While you’re accounting for you and your pet’s needs, don’t forget to bring along some sunscreen and first aid supplies like gauze, antiseptic, self-adhesive bandages and a pair of tweezers. The tweezers could come in handy for tick removal, splinters and sand spurs if they break off and leave the barb intact. Depending on the length of your hike, dog food or treats should be packed as well as a collapsible bowl for water. If you’re planning of staying the night, bring along a small blanket or pad for Fido to sleep on.
Also, check park and forest management rules for things like bringing your dog and whether they have a leash rule in place. For your pet's safety it’s a good idea to keep them leashed, but few people do. Lastly, make sure your pet is up on all of their shots, whether you’re planning on being a couch potato, just taking them to the dog park or going for a hike.