Warm weather and summer hours make for ideal hiking conditions that many will enjoy. Some will want to bring along their dogs too, so here are some tips to help make that safe.
First off, always make sure pets are welcome in the area you intend to hike. Some popular hiking trails, especially those that host multiple activities, do not allow dogs. Imagine if you will an off-leash dog chasing a mountain biker or a pregnant doe.
Are dogs allowed on- or off-leash? Again, check before you go. Some places allow dogs to run free and others do not. Good trail etiquette says keep your dogs on leashes at all times.
Plan to remove all your pet’s solid waste! Enough said.
Always pack along water for your dog. Off-leash dogs will often cover more than 10 times the distance that on-trail hikers may cover and their needs for water are greater. Use water from the same tap you water them from at home. Water at other locations may be perfectly safe but your dog may not drink enough because the taste is off.
In most locations, a gallon of water per dog per day is a minimum and more may be needed in more extreme climates. Remember too, dogs and humans also lose water through respiration even in cold environments, so bring water along every time.
Avoid letting pets drink surface waters. Surface waters where one may hike potentially carry a variety of risks from bacterial contamination, to toxic runoff and blue-green algae toxins that build up seasonally. You may have heard your veterinarian recommend a leptospirosis vaccination? That’s to protect from one risk found in surface waters.
This time of year, protect against heat exhaustion, drowning and other hazards. Indeed, pets can get heat exhaustion, especially dark colored animals. Know the signs and symptoms and be willing to rest if they seek shade constantly.
Know too that dogs can indeed drown. When hiking near rivers and swift streams, it is great to toss a stick and see a great retrieve. But make sure your dog is practiced at this in calm waters first and only dogs under the best voice control are safest in swift water. There are personal flotation devices made for dogs, too.
Pack along a basic first aid kit. Animals get hurt and having a first aid kit along can prevent a minor injury from being an aborted hike and a walk back carrying a dog. Injuries to the feet are the most common and include things like cactus thorns and porcupine quills, to cut pads to a ripped off nail.
A first aid kit does not have to be big or heavy. To know what to carry, seek out some of the many websites that sell pet first aid kits and consider their list of components. Also, ask your family’s veterinarian or their technicians. Chances are they have recommendations and they may even have tips for where you intend to go.
Finally, consider the geriatric dog. We all would like our pets to live forever but that won’t happen. Still we’d like to see them romp like they did as a pup and sometimes we take them out when we shouldn’t.
Old dogs will often perform like a champ with severe arthritis and other conditions because they want to please you. But upon return they will often suffer for a few days afterward. Adjust your expectations for an older dog with known maladies and let them be the retired champions of our hearts as they should be.
Powell is the public information officer for the Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine, which provides this column as a community service. For questions or concerns about animals you’d like to read about, email email@example.com.