Warm weather is a natural draw for getting out and enjoying the bounties of summer before the next cold arrives in the fall. And naturally, our dogs want to get out and enjoy the warm weather, too. But a day out in the sun is only fun when everyone is comfortable. Before heading out to your favorite hiking trail, make sure you pack all the right supplies, for you and your pet, to be sure that the day ends as well as it begins.
Before You Go
Here are some important things you should first verify before heading out into the wild:
- Is your dog up to date on her vaccinations?
- Does she have her rabies tag on her?
- Is your contact info on her collar up to date (this also applies if she has a microchip implant; check with the chip manufacturer)?
- Does she have all the necessary preventatives for fleas, ticks, and heartworms?
- Is she in good health and free of any open wounds that could be vulnerable to infection?
If Lyme disease is endemic to your area, you might consider getting vaccines before heading out. And don't forget to do your research so that you know which potential hazards you might encounter. Ask your pet-loving friends and veterinarian for tips. You can also use the Internet to find out more about your area, download maps of the trails you’ll be taking, and even get in touch with your local hiking clubs, who can share their experiences.
The Day of Your Hike
Do not give your dog a large meal before heading out. You don’t want her to be weighed down or have an upset stomach due to vigorous activity. Take along some food and treats for snack and meal breaks, but keep the meals small. Save the full meals for when you are ready to take a long rest or when you get home.
Things to Take Along
You will need to have plenty of water, enough for you and your dog. This is a great time to mention that the best plan is to have your dog carry her own water, snacks and other supplies. Having her own backpack will not only make your dog feel useful, it will lighten your load. Dog backpacks are easy to find; check with your local pet supply or sporting goods stores.
Along with canteens or bottles of water, you will need a portable bowl, sealed bags of snacks and meals, wet wipes for cleanups, a towel, sunscreen, waste disposal bags, and a basic first aid kit with disinfectant, gauze, bandaging material, tweezers, scissors, insect repellant, cortisone, and whatever else seems reasonable, considering the environment you are in. You can find a list of items for a pet first aid kit and assemble one yourself, or you can buy one pre-assembled.
If your dog has close cropped hair, and/or a light colored nose, it is essential that you use sunscreen on her exposed skin. Light-coated dogs and dogs with light-colored noses tend to suffer from sunburn on these areas. Pay attention especially to the nose and tips of the ears, as well as other areas that are light-colored or sparsely covered. If your dog is likely to lick the sunscreen off, you will need to use a sunscreen product that is designed for pets, or that that is guaranteed not to be toxic, such as those made for infants and children.
Additional Safety Precautions
Always keep your dog on a leash for his safety, and do not allow her to drink from areas of standing water, since standing water often harbors parasites and other bacteria that can be harmful and even fatal to your dog. Always keep a keen eye for other animals, broken glass and debris, and rocky terrain. Any cuts or scrapes should be attended to right away. Some dog owners like to outfit their dogs in special hiking booties to safeguard their foot pads from injury.
Dehydration can easily occur in the warmer months, as well as heat exhaustion (conversely, hypothermia can occur in the colder months). Watch out for excessive panting and drooling, or stumbling, confusion or disorientation. If your dog has any of these symptoms, stop immediately and take a break until she has recovered. To prevent these conditions from occurring, stop for water breaks often and slow down when she appears to be breathing heavily.
Image: David J Laporte / via Flickr