Hiking Hazards, How to Keep You and You’re Pet Safe.
By: Dr. Ben Davidson
If you are anything like me, you love exploring this wonderful wilderness that surrounds us. If you’re reading this, you must love taking your faithful four-legged companion with you. There are a few things you can do to make the hiking experience much safer and more enjoyable for everyone. Most importantly is controlling the severe elements that we experience on our treks. In our area, these include the heat and the dry climate. Our pets tend to walk at least 50% further than we do, running ahead, circling back, and chasing that chipmunk off the trail. Between the extra exercise and their hair coat, they get a whole lot hotter than we do. Try to hike in shaded areas, with water around to cool off in. Try to leave early enough to avoid the hottest part of our day, the afternoon. Make sure you bring plenty of water and a good drinking bowl for them. Even if it’s a cool day, they need plenty of water.
Hopefully accidents and injuries won’t be a problem, and a few careful steps can prevent a lot of them, but just in case, a few simple additions to your first aid kit are a good idea. The most common injury we see is pad wear, or blisters on the bottom of their feet. Just like us, if their little feet aren’t accustomed to long walks, they can get very sore, or crack and blister. Try to get your pet back into good shape before you take off on that long walk. Also, wet feet are more prone to injury, so if you are hiking up to some beautiful alpine lake, make sure you plan on letting your pup dry out before heading back down. It’s hard to prevent little nicks and cuts from them running through the bushes and jumping rocks, but if it is possible to avoid those situations, it’s probably a good idea. Exercising a little caution and moderation, especially early in the season can also prevent injuries such as muscular and ligament strains, sprains and tears. Like I said, some basic first aid may be necessary for some of the unavoidable problems. A pair of tweezers for cactus, foxtails, or other thorns is useful. Superglue or any commercially available tissue adhesive can quickly repair a small cut on the fly. Saline eye flush (not a medicated Visine type product) is helpful in case they get something in their eye. There are some really nice pet first aid kits available at the pet stores or at the large sporting good and outdoor stores.
Finally, just know where you are hiking. Do a little research into what toxins and wildlife you might encounter. If you’re headed off to the east, or just locally, you need to be aware of rattlesnakes. Up in the mountains it’s not as much of a threat, but still, if you hear that suspicious rattle, get Fido back to you and walk on bye carefully. Flea, tick, and absolutely heartworm prevention is important when out in the elements. There are certainly other predators out there, and although these incidents are incredibly rare, it’s important to keep an eye out. If you are a horticulturalist and without question know the difference between toxic and safe plants, you are in a great place to go hiking. For the rest of us, don’t let your pets eat plants out there. They may be unsafe both in toxins and also by causing GI upset or obstructions.
Everybody have a great hiking season!