Hiking Safety Tips for Dogs

Emily Bebout, CVT
Veterinary Information Specialist 
Pet Poison Helpline

The weather is finally warming up and if you’re like me, you and your dog are looking forward to hiking through the wilderness and camping trips under the stars this year. While hiking and camping are fun for your dogs, it also poses some dangers. Many of them can be avoided and a with a little extra consideration and preparation your dog will be ready for adventuring!

Some vaccines that our furry companions get protect them from disease that other dogs carry and some protect them from diseases that wildlife carry. Make sure your dog’s Rabies vaccine is up to date. This way if they have any encounters with other furry critters they are protected. Lepospira is a bacterium spread in the urine of wildlife and can cause kidney failure. Dog’s can pick up this bacterium if they drink from rivers,

streams, or puddles where wildlife have been. Your veterinarian can best advise you if your dog should be vaccinated for Leptospira.

While hiking, your dog may pick up unwanted hitchhikers in the form of ticks which can spread diseases like Lyme and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. There are many tick preventatives on the market and your veterinarian can help you select the best one for your dog. These preventatives kill the tick before it can transmit disease.

Consider your dog’s athletic condition before hiking. Is it a young puppy that is energetic but won’t have much endurance or an older dog with arthritic joints? These younger and older hiking companions will need easier trails to hike.

Keep an eye on those heat indexes. Dogs don’t sweat like people do to cool off. They pant and when it gets above 85 degrees it gets harder for them to cool off. Watch for excessive panting, tacky gums, weakness, and muscle tremors which are signs of overheating. Pack plenty of water and stick to the shady paths. Brachycephalic breeds like Bulldogs and Boston Terriers have an even harder time staying cool and are happier to be left inside on hot days.

While your dog may enjoy life off leash, it is safer for them to be leashed while hiking. Many places have leash laws and this is done for their safety and yours. Your dog might do well with other dogs but not every dog on the path likes other dogs. Staying on leash also helps to keep your dogs safe from snakes, bears, skunks, and porcupines.

Happy trails to you and your furry companion this year!