4 Common Tips to keep your pup safe when hiking outdoors
Yea the weather is finally warming up and what better time to be outside than Spring and Summer and what better company can you have then to bring your faithful 4 legged best friend along! Hiking and outdoor activities with our K9 buddies are the best and make for some fantastic memories too. Some of my fondest recollections are being outdoors on the trail with my dogs. Not everything we do outside though is without hidden and sometimes danger in plain sight! But not to worry, here are 4 common issues to be aware of when you are out on the trail with your pups.
- Poisonous things and parasites
Let's be honest. Most of the time our k9 buddies are not that particular when it comes to finding things to eat that are in front of them. Eeew, might not look or taste good to us, but they don't really have that same filter. Dead birds, reptiles, small mammals like squirrels, even old animal poop are often found a long side the trails we hike and many times your dog will see and smell them before you do. Unfortunately, it's better if they don't eat from the free trail buffet. Those little dead critters can have parasites and other diseases and once down the hatch, well better to be safe than sorry and don't let your pup eat them at all. Drinking water can be another issue to be aware of...when thirsty and a puddle of water appears, your pup may also want to take a drink but beware just as we wouldn't want to drink water we know isn't safe we don't want our pups too either. Standing water can be filled with parasites and bacterial diseases and your best friend could be infected as well.
- Heat & Exhaustion
We all love to have fun and go, go, go but sun, exercise and excessive heat can be dangerous even fatal to your dog too. Us weekend warriors need to be mindful of our pups as well and remember to bring along sufficient water for ourselves and our dogs. And our best K9 friends won't always tell us they are tired either so we need be aware of some of the signs.
If your dog is lagging behind you, you should turn around and head back. Dogs generally should be keeping up with you or be slightly ahead of you. If your dog is falling behind, they are too tired. Also watch for trying to lay down frequently, labored breathing, and foaming saliva.
Certain breeds, and if you have one you already know this, are extra sensitive to heat and exhaustion. Most dogs with short noses, like pugs and bulldogs can overheat super quick.
Here are some initial signs that your dog may be getting overheated include excessive panting, increased respiratory effort, loud breathing sounds, and foaming saliva. Other signs include very red gums, altered mentation, lethargy or lagging behind (or trying to lay down), collapse, and seizures.
If you suspect your dog is overheating, you should try to actively cool them down with cool water, shade, fans, etc. You should also seek immediate veterinary care since overheating could be life-threatening.
- Falling from steep trails
Yes it can happen. Many dog owners love to let their dogs off leash when they are running or hiking up and down trails but there are hidden dangers that can be fatal to your pup. According to the Oregon Human Society, they issued a warning to dog owners to not let their dogs off leash due to dogs being killed from falls. Despite that warning in 2017 - 3 more dogs fell to their death on those same trails. Our pups are like us, excited to be out exploring so help them stay safe by keeping them on their leashes.
- Other Animals
Yes hiking is fun whether on secluded trails or on the beach but it is important to be aware of other animals and how to protect yourself and your dog from an altercation. Knowing the area you are planning on hiking is a first step in having a good time and staying safe. Are their bears or mountain lions? Usually you can find updates on any wildlife that has been seen at the trail heads. If you are in State Parks the Rangers will also post trail conditions and reports of any bears or other large predators spotted.
Some people like to attach bells to their dogs collars similar to cross country mountain bikers that attach bells to their bikes. This helps to let bears know humans are in the area. They would much rather avoid us than confront us! I remember years ago my husband and I would backpack in the Lake Tahoe forests and we also attached bells to our backpacks!
Also remember, cell phone coverage may be spotty or non-existent in your hiking areas. Make a note of the nearest emergency veterinarian care center. If you pup is bitten or injured try to get help immediately.
Dogs do not know how to avoid dangerous situations and will confront large mammals and we don't want that on a small hiking trail miles from the road. Also dogs are by nature curious. Most dogs are bitten on the face, mouth and nose by snakes as they sniff under bushes and explore their surroundings. Keeping your dog on a leash will help to prevent accidents.
The bond from hiking with our best K9 buddies are wonderful and something we all look forward to as a way to get out, exercise and explore our beautiful parks. Be mindful, stay safe and have fun. Love, Pam, Hannah & Joey
Works Cited: Britany Robinson, "5 Common Trail Dangers That Could Kill Your Dog", April 11, 2018.