There is little we can do to protect our dog from injuries when we go hiking, but we can be prepared to treat injuries, and we can also make sure he does not get sick due to heat stroke.
Basic things to consider even before we hit the trail are: the air temperature, the pooch’s fitness, and the length of the walk. To leave the house without preparation and without the necessary dog-friendly first-aid pack would be foolish, and may put your dog’s life at risk.
Dogs need to acclimatise to heat because unlike us they can only sweat through their tongue and paws. They get very hot very quickly and if you are not careful your dog may suffer with heat stroke. Learn how to remedy this and other problems arising from a hike with your dog.
Should you take your dog hiking?
There is nothing wrong with a dog hike especially if you own a dog with high energy levels! Hiking with your dog allows you both to enjoy the freedom of the open air, and there is a sense when you are walking that the pair of you are bonding.
But there are one or two things to consider before you hike. Most importantly, is your dog up to the task? And are you?
- Some squashed-face dog breeds such as the pug and boxer may not be able to intake oxygen as well as others. A hike with one of these types of dog should be kept short, and certainly not undertaken in the summer sun.
- Dogs that are overweight should also be given due consideration for shorter walks.
- Elderly dogs or dogs that are unwell are best walked in short bursts and over short distances.
A dog will follow its owner to the ends of the earth, and more often than not without due consideration for its own health.
If you notice your dog’s struggling to keep up with you, or you are concerned that your dog does not have the stamina for a long hike you should begin his walking sessions slowly. Start with short walks in cool weather and work up to long walks in hot weather.
Importantly, always bear in mind that a dog will overheat very quickly, and should rest in shade during the hottest hours of the day.
What do dogs need for hiking?
Be prepared: it is an age-old scout motto but it makes oodles of sense. Here are just some of things you should bring with you on a walk, and have at your disposal:
- A dog bowl
- A stout lead, harness and collar
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Mosquito and tick repellents
- Nit picker
- Poop bags, lots
- Water, enough for you AND your dog
How can I keep my dog cool while hiking?
It may seem like common sense but it is vitally important to keep your dog cool especially if you are hiking in the summer. Learn the signs of canine heatstroke before you leave the house. By doing so, you will be best placed to treat your dog if he falls ill.
Some of the signs of heatstroke include:
- “Hang dog” expression
- Excessive panting
- Foot dragging
- Vocal distress
Water and shade
You should in any case pause regularly with your dog whether walking in the summer or winter. In the summer, find a shaded spot to rest, and while there offer your dog water. If you sense your dog is becoming too hot you should rest for between 10 and 30 minutes.
Don’t hike if it’s too warm
In the height of summer the air temperature soars. How hot it gets is determined by where in the world you are walking, but even in the UK summer temperatures can reach 35 degrees.
It is NOT a good idea to hike with your dog when the temperature is at its highest. If you are desperate to get outdoors in the balmy heat then leave your dog at home (NOT in the car), and enjoy the time by yourself.
Squashed-face breeds do not tolerate heat, nor do dogs that have woollen coats (like the poodle).
If you hike when the weather improves keep your hike early for the sake of your dog. The hottest part of the day in the UK is around 2pm in the height of summer, but between dawn and around 11am the temperature remains cool enough for your dog to enjoy.
How old should a dog be before hiking?
It is best to wait until a dog is at least one year old before allowing him to join you on a walk. Even though some dogs look sturdier than others when they are puppies, their bodies are still quite young. That being said, it is worth beginning to train your dog for his hiking career when he is a pup. Take slow, short walks at first and build up to longer more strenuous ones.
How should I protect them from ticks and injuries?
You may not be able to protect your dog from every peril it encounters outdoors, but you can be fully prepared to act if your dog gets poorly. We have seen how best to treat heat stroke, but here we look at how best to treat ticks and serious injuries.
Ticks: How do I prevent my dog from getting ticks?
The best course of action when it comes to parasites such as ticks is to prevent their linking on to your dog. There are several products available to dog owners that kill ticks within 24 hours and repel ticks. Such treatments, which include sprays and creams, are designed to impregnate the dog’s skin to prevent a tick or mite from burrowing.
Always check your dog for nasty bugs after your walk. If you find a bug and you have some nit pickers to hand try to remove the bug yourself. Online, you can find some excellent ways to remove ticks and mites.
Paw injuries: How do I protect my dogs' paws when hiking?
You may be able to protect your dog from injuries to its paws by the use of hiking “shoes”, design for the avid hill-walking dog. If your dog does hurt its paws during the walk you may need to consider abandoning the walk and returning home.
Should your dog break a bone, you will need to return home immediately. Broken bones may become infected or may impinge blood vessels which may lead to further injury. Try to clean any wound you see around the break and carry your dog to safety.
You may notice your dog’s scratching itself excessively. Contact with poisonous plants and stings from wasps and bees cause an allergic reaction similar to that of humans. Use a hydrocortisone cream to treat the area.
If your dog eats something poisonous you will need to seek treatment as soon as possible. Do not induce vomiting because you may make things worse. Just turn around and head home as quickly as possible.
Hiking with your dog can be fun, but safe hiking it involves your vigilance, care and attention of your dog. You must be prepared and arm yourself with the equipment and products we have listed, especially if you intend to have a long hike.
It is also worth your while to find out what the local regulations are along your route. Some landowners do not allow dogs on their land even if the dogs are on a lead. Finally, when you get home, check your dog over for injuries, ticks, fleas and mites. If all is well, you and your dog can get some rest before your next big adventure.