Dog Hiking: 6 Dangers to be Aware of and How to Avoid Them
Dr. Simone Meyer
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With warmer weather just around the corner, you may be planning some upcoming adventures with your dog. Many dogs love accompanying their human family members on hiking trips, and hiking can be an excellent way to bond with your dog while enjoying the outdoors at the same time. If you’re looking for a fun way for your pet to get some exercise, dog hiking is a great activity!
Common Dog Hiking Hazards Pet Parents Should Know
Hiking may also bring some potential risks and dangers to your pet. By brushing up on these possible problems beforehand, you can make sure your dog is safe and secure. In the article below, you’ll find information about six of the most common dangers your dog may encounter on hiking trail, as well as what to do about them before you ever leave home.
If you’re questioning whether taking your dog hiking will be a good activity for your pet to do, you should always consult with your veterinarian. They’ll examine your dog to make sure that they don’t have limitations your should be aware of. Your vet will also be able to provide alternative ways for your dog to stay active, if necessary.
6 dog hiking risks every pet parent should be aware of include:
Bites and Scratches from Other Animals
When hiking, you and your dog may come into contact with wild animals. Although most wild animals are avoidant, there’s always a chance your pet may encounter an animal that wants to pick a fight—or wants to defend itself. When this happens, your dog is at risk of being scratched or bitten by that wild animal.
Most trails will require dogs to be leashed, but if you are in an off-leash area it is important that your dog has a reliable recall so you can be sure they will return to you if there is another animal in the area.
If your dog is injured by a wild animal, leave the trail right away and take him to the nearest vet or emergency vet for a full checkup. Before you leave for your hike, be sure your dog is up to date on their Rabies vaccination as well.
If you and your pet go hiking together when it is very warm out there, there is an increased risk for your dog to suffer heatstroke.
Pushing your dog to be too active in very hot and humid weather can cause this serious problem. Let your dog rest in the shade often, and provide plenty of clean cool water for both of you. Avoid going on dog hiking trips during the middle of the day when it is hottest outside.
If you are worried that your dog may be too hot, wet their fur down immediately with cool (not cold) water and get them to a vet right away.
Venomous Insect and Snake Bites or Stings
Insects and snakes may be present on hiking trails, and they may be venomous.
If your dog gets bitten by an insect keep a very close eye on them. If you notice signs of an allergic reaction, such as significant swelling at the bite location, swelling of the face or snout, difficulty breathing, or restlessness, then they should see a veterinarian.
If your dog gets bitten by a snake, leave the trail immediately and seek emergency veterinary care.
Falls and Other Acute Injuries
Dog hiking poses a risk for falls, broken bones, and other types of acute injuries for you and your dog both. Staying on marked trails can significantly reduce this risk, but there is still a possibility of your dog falling and getting hurt, especially on more strenuous trails.
Map out your trail ahead of time so you know where you’re going, and do not stray from the marked paths. Don’t let your dog off-leash in areas with steep falls, cliffs, or very overly rocky terrain, and be prepared to leave your hike early if your dog is injured.
If your dog does get injured, be cautious when handling them as they may be painful and could react unexpectedly. Carrying a first aid kit that has a cloth muzzle in it that fits your dog so you can safely move them as well as an emergency blanket that can be used as a sling or for warmth, if needed, is important.
Ticks and Tickborne Illnesses
Another potential problem for dogs on hiking trails is tickborne illness. Ticks carry many types of diseases, and a bite from one of these infected ticks can cause disease to spread to your dog as well.
Lyme disease is one of the most serious tickborne illnesses that can affect your dog on a hike. In some regions, Lyme disease is extremely prominent, and your vet will likely recommend the Lyme disease vaccine for your pet. Be sure to talk to your vet about topical tick preventatives or tick collars that can be used while hiking.
Additionally, make sure you check your dog for ticks every evening after you’ve been hiking. Carefully remove any ticks immediately upon spotting them and ensure that you remove the entire head. If you are not confident in at-home tick removal, please have your pet seen by a vet.
Exposure to Toxic Plants and Infectious Agents
Dogs like to scavenge in the wilderness so they could consume a toxic plant while you’re out on a hike.
Learn how to recognize toxic plants in your hiking location so you can keep your dog away from them—and so you can avoid them, too! In general, all types of mushrooms and berries should be avoided. If you know your dog frequently eats plants they find on hikes, consider altering your plans for your pet’s safety.
It is also important to avoid letting them drink from any standing water which can harbor infectious diseases. Best practice is to only allow them to drink water that you bring for them on the hike. You may also want to discuss the leptospirosis vaccine with your veterinarian.
Prepare for Your Next Dog Hiking Trip
Now that you’ve had a chance to learn about dangers for your dog on the trail, you can be more prepared before the two of you go hiking together. Taking the time to get yourself and your dog ready for the trip will ensure you have a great experience together!
If you have any other questions about your dog’s safety on hiking trips, talk to your vet for more information. The vet can let you know if there are any other problems in your region (or at your destination) that may require specific vaccinations or other preparation before you go.
The final key in preparing for a dog hiking trip is to know where the closest emergency vet is should you encounter an emergency situation. At VEG, we have locations all over the country with teams who are equipped to handle any emergency case that comes through our doors. When you call us, you’ll speak directly with an emergency veterinarian and your pet will always receive the care they need when you come to any of our hospitals.