7 Safety Tips for Hiking with Your Dog
Author: Amanda Brahlek
If you’re like other dog owners, you may be planning an upcoming hiking trip with your dog. As the weather warms up and summer unfolds, there’s no better time to hit the trails with your four-legged friend. However, going on an outdoor adventure with your dog does require a bit of planning and preparation. Before you head out on the trails, read these tips to keep your dog safe and keep the fun in your expedition.
Tip 1: Bring Plenty of Water
Dehydration is a serious health hazard for people and their dogs. However, your dog’s body temperature runs hotter than yours, and your dog will feel thirsty sooner than you. Your dog’s body relies on water to function. If your dog loses too much water from the heat of hiking and panting to cool off, they could experience loss of consciousness, organ failure, and even death.
Furthermore, standing water can contain blue-green algae, Nanophyetus salmincola (which causes salmon poisoning in dogs), and other contaminants that could get your dog sick.
Bringing along plenty of water and a collapsible water bowl can prevent dehydration and serious illness. Pack at least 8 ounces of water per dog per hour you plan to hike. Take breaks in the shade and encourage your dog to drink up.
Tips 2: Watch Out for Dangerous Plants
As you’re hiking, keep your dog away from unknown plants. Many wild plant species can be toxic to dogs. Other plants can contain thorns, barbs, sharp spores, or spines. And if that’s not scary enough, dogs can also have severe reactions to poison ivy and poison oak.
Never let your dog eat plants. They may wind up accidentally ingesting one that could make them sick.
To avoid getting poison ivy and poison oak, don’t let your dog walk on either. They both grow with three leaves per stem.
Foxtails, a relative of barley, pose a unique kind of threat. Their seed heads dry out during the summer months and turn into spikes, covered in microscopic barbs. Unfortunately, they are quite common alongside trails in the Western U.S. and can seriously harm unsuspecting dogs.
Once foxtail seed heads pierce a dog’s nose, paws, ears, eyes, they are nearly impossible to remove without a visit to the vet. Furthermore, they can cause severe infection, seizures, and even death.
Tips 3: Keep Your Dog On-Leash
Most dogs love the freedom of an open trail. However, the easiest way to protect your dog from snake bites and other wild animals is to keep your dog on their leash. While your dog may not get attacked by a wild animal, they may begin to chase one and become lost. Another unwanted outcome could be that your dog catches and kills a harmless creature.
Using a longer leash can give your dog more freedom while keeping them safe and secure. This is also courteous to other hikers (especially those with dogs that have anxieties).
Tip 4: Protect Your Pup from Pests
We often think of our dogs as having a built-in defense system against pests. And while a dog’s coat can keep quite a few bugs at bay, many are not deterred by your dog’s fur. Ticks, fleas, spiders, wasps, chiggers, and mosquitos are all happy to make a meal of your four-legged friend. Ticks, fleas, and mosquitos can all carry deadly, painful, and debilitating diseases such as heartworm disease and Lyme disease.
Protect your pup before you head out on your hike with natural products designed to protect your dog from bites. You should also keep your dog on prescription-strength flea, tick, and heartworm preventative for optimal protection.
Tips 5: Don’t Go Too Far
One mistake many dog owners make is going too far or too long. Judge the distance your dog is able to hike based on their age and fitness level. A dog that’s in average shape can hike about 5 to 10 miles in one day. They will likely be a bit sore the next day, but be no worse for the wear, overall. Dogs that are out-of-shape or struggle with joint issues should not hike more than a mile or a few miles. Checking with your vet is always a good idea.
Plan your route beforehand using trail maps. You can even visit to preview the length of the trail alone or with a friend before bringing your dog along. You can also judge if the terrain is going to be too rough on your dog’s paws.
If you’re unsure if a trail is too long or too rocky, opt-out. If you have concerns about length or condition after you’ve already begun to hike, don’t hesitate to turn around. Your dog’s health isn’t worth the risk.
Tip 6: Bring Emergency Supplies
Carrying a first aid kit can help you should a minor or more severe emergency arise. In addition to the items that come with a typical first aid kit, you can add some dog-appropriate items. Be sure to pack:
- A soft muzzle (even the friendliest dog may snap or bite if wounded)
- Styptic powder
- A thermometer
- Adhesive tape
- Non-stick self-adhering bandage
- Wound spray
- Milk of Magnesia (in case of poisoning)
- Large plastic syringes (to flush a wound)
- Treats (as a distraction as you examine a wound)
Tip 7: Don’t Skip Sun Protection
Finally, it’s important to protect your pooch from prolonged sun exposure and skin damage with dog-friendly sunblock. Dogs that spend too much time in the sun can experience sunburn. They can also develop skin cancer of the nose, ears, and areas on the back where the sun penetrates their fur.
A quick application of sunblock is an easy way to protect your dog’s nose and other vulnerable areas of the skin. Remember to reapply every few hours for maximum protection.
Wishing You Years of Happy Hiking with Your Dog
Our dogs make excellent hiking companions. They enjoy the great outdoors, and the exercise helps your dog maintain healthy muscle tone and mental health. Keep your dog’s joints in tiptop shape with a diet rich in collagen, glucosamine, and chondroitin. Natural Farm’s treats are a wonderful post-hike recovery treat. They’re packed full of collagen, amino acids, glucosamine, and chondroitin dog feel their best.