Your pooch may be your best friend, and even double as your closest companion when you hit the trail for a hike. Whether you are going on a short day trip or a multi-day backpacking trip, your pet's health should be one of your top priorities. The following tip can help you keep your dog both safe and happy on the trail.
Tip #1: Avoid Dehydration
The addition of a simple collapsible water bowl is a must, even for short hikes. Don't allow your dog to drink from puddles, ponds, or streams unless you have first processed the water through a backpacking purifier. The same contaminants that upset a human stomach can also upset your dog's. Bring enough water for both of you, which following the common eight glass of water a day rule, means at least 2 liters of water for each. Stop every half hour or so for a drink. If you feel thirsty, your dog likely to be thirsty too. Heavy panting can also be a sign of impending dehydration.
Tip #2: Paw Protection
After dehydration, injury to the paws are the next biggest concern. Your dog's feet may not be toughened up to the trail, especially if they are used to walking n clean, paved roads. Dog booties protect their feet from injury. If there is wet or snow, it can also protect their feet from frostbite. Practice walking around the house with the dog booties on. Some dogs need to adjust to them or they will simply try to pull them off.
Tip #3: Pest Concerns
Fleas and ticks can be a major problem in the woods. Especially ticks, which can transmit diseases like Lyme. Your vet may recommend the use of a flea or tick collar if the pests are especially bad in your area. Whether you use a collar or not, though, it is important to still give your dog (and yourself) a thorough inspection with a flea comb after a hike. Keep a tick removal tool on hand so you can quickly get rid of any of the blood suckers you come across. Your vet may also recommend a Lyme vaccine, depending on the risk in your area.
Tip #4: Be Prepared
Finally, be prepared. Get a trail book on pet first aid and carry a first aid kit for dogs. Read through the book before you hike to ensure you know how to deal with the most common trail injuries, like removing bee stings, dressing minor wounds, or wrapping sprains. It's also a good idea to talk with your veterinarian before you go. They can show you the proper responses for some common trail incidents and give you advice that specifically pertains to your dog and their unique health and fitness condition. For additional info, contact a veterinarian.