It’s a great time for a hike! The weather is warming up, the flowers and trees are blooming, and so many of us have been stuck inside so much of the last couple of months. Whether you want to find a trail that isn’t too crowded or just find a mountain and climb, it’s a great time of year. However, if you have dogs you plan to take with you, there are some things you might want to think about or be aware of before you go. The following article has some great insights to help you be prepared and keep your pet safe. The article is based out of Oregon, but all of the details are applicable to Colorado as well. Happy hiking!
By Monique Balas | Special to The Oregonian
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on June 04, 2014 at 12:42 PM, updated June 06, 2014 at 8:33 AM
Hiking is a healthy, fun activity for you to do with your dog, and the Pacific Northwest provides a gorgeous backdrop for Fido to frolic.
Yet forests, rivers and mountains are fraught with potential pitfalls and perils that can lead to tragedy for the unaware.
Here are some ways to make the most out of your hiking experience and enjoy a safe trek with your canine companion.
What to know before you go
First, ask your veterinarian if your dog is in adequate physical condition.
Taking an out-of-shape, overweight dog on a steep hike is bound to be an uphill battle for you both, especially if your pet is too pudgy for you to carry.
Dogs should also have a reliable recall (come when called), respond to basic commands and be well-socialized, As anal as that may sound, a good foundation in basic training can literally save a dog’s life.
A dog that turns back when you call him will dodge disaster if, for instance, he was about to unwittingly chase a chipmunk off a cliff.
Take precautions against ticks
If you’re hiking in a wooded area, think about protecting your dog – and yourself – from ticks.
According to state public health veterinarian Dr. Emilio DeBess, the tick habitat is expanding in Oregon, and more humans and animals are contracting Lyme disease as a result.
In 2011, there were 39 positive cases of Lyme disease among dogs in Oregon, compared to 57 cases in 2012; and 106 in 2013, according to the Companion Animal Parasite Council.
Lyme disease is transmitted by the tiny Western black-legged tick (or Ixodes pacificus) – about the size of a sesame seed – that lives west of the Cascades in elevations below 1,200 feet.
If you live or hike frequently in an area where Lyme disease is prevalent, DeBess suggests asking your veterinarian whether your dog should get the vaccine.
Bring sufficient water
A lightweight, collapsible dish or even a Tupperware container works well as a portable water dish, says Emily Keudell, assistant manager at The Hip Hound in Northwest Portland.
If your dog is panting excessively, stop for a water break.
Water is important not only to prevent dehydration, but also to prevent thirsty dogs from drinking from a stagnant pond.
Contaminated water could expose your dog to illness-causing bacteria and parasites, such as Leptospirosis, Giardia, or Coccidia, says Dr. Jennifer Betz of Sandy Animal Clinic.
If you’re hiking along the river, keep Fido away from dead fish, which could causesalmon poisoning disease, a potentially fatal condition caused by a rickettsial organism found in river-run fish.
Keep your dog on-leash.
In the steep terrain on many of mountain trails, leashes are the only way to keep your dog safe from falling off cliffs or being swept away in a fast-moving current.
Don’t use retractable leashes, though; if your dog falls off a cliff while wearing one, he can get a serious neck injury, Maczko points out.
Consider securing him in a harness, which enables you to lift him more easily.
Be cautious about wrapping Fido’s leash around your wrist if you’re crossing a ravine or slippery rocks, says David Hawkins, practice manager at Dogwood Pet Hospital in Gresham.
It’s a horrible thing to think about, but if your large dog slips in a precarious spot, you could go down with him.
Other potential hiking hazards include lacerations around the leg areas from sticks or rocks. Torn toenails caught on a branch, rock or uneven surface are also common, Betz says.
Soreness or burning on a dog’s paw pads can also occur, if your pet is unaccustomed to hard, rocky surfaces.
Slip on booties temporarily for areas with craggy terrain or snow. However, since dogs have sweat glands on the pads of their paws, they shouldn’t wear paw coverings long-term, Betz says.
Lastly, if there’s any chance your pooch passed through a patch of poison oak, ivy or sumac, clean him off with pet-friendly wipes and bathe him with soapy water when you get home.
Dogs are rarely affected, but humans who touch their fur can develop a rash from the oils.
Does all this information have you itching to take a hike? Then perhaps it’s time to round up Rover and hit the trail.
Before hitting the trail, make sure your dog is:
- In good physical condition
- Responds to basic commands
- Bring sufficient water for both of you, along with food and treats (they can come in handy to lure your pet or an off-leash dog looking for his owner).
- Don’t forget proper gear, such as a sweater for nights or colder temperatures.
- Apply tick preventative if you’re hiking in a wooded area.