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Reduce Hiking Risks for You and Your Dog in a Coronavirus World


May 13, 2020
Categories: Travel Tips

Whether you’re taking a walk on your local trail or planning a series of longer hikes, is your dog ready to join you?

Just as you would take measures to minimize your health and safety risks on a travel adventure, you should do the same for your dog.

Here are nine suggestions to help you and your furry friend stay safe, healthy and minimize coronavirus contact while out on the trails.

Before You Go

 

Pre-travel health consultation

You know to check in with your travel health care provider four to six weeks before a trip. Even if you’re just crossing state lines for a hike, it makes sense to bring your dog to the vet for a pre-travel health consult. Make sure your pet is up to date on vaccinations and flea and tick preventatives. It’s also a good idea to be aware of any health problems, age-related issues or joint concerns. Not everyone has time to get a vet check before a hike, but get one as soon as you can so you can be confident your K9 buddy is ready to hit the trails.

Check for dog-friendly trails

Who doesn’t like dogs? Well, it’s hard to believe but there are some folks out there who don’t like a furry friend and prefer not to hike with them. The American Hiking Society has compiled a list of dog-friendly trails, including national parks, state parks and some city-specific locations. There are also websites detailing dog hikes in Europe or dog-friendly tours in Europe.

Even if your dog is welcome, be sure to say on groomed trails, preferably Class I or Class II terrain. Dogs are not technical climbers. Follow trail etiquette for hiking with dogs, such as leash laws and right-of-way.

Know the area

Preparation is necessary for traveling smart. You’ve researched your destination thoroughly — but do you know where the local veterinary office is? If your dog is traveling with you, it’s a good idea to have this information handy.

Pack a first-aid kit

You’ve got a first-aid kit for yourself, now it is time to add a few items for your pet. Consider packing extra gauze and bandages, pet-friendly antiseptic, tweezers, styptic swabs (for torn claws), paw salve and canine sunscreen.

Clean, filtered water

Don’t let your dog drink out of random puddles or stagnant water sources, or lakes and streams in areas where there are lots of cattle or campers. Water may be contaminated with pathogens, like kidney damage causing Leptospira, or parasites, like coccidia or giardia, which can trigger diarrhea, vomiting and weakness. Offer your pet clean, filtered water — the same water you drink — and pack extra. PreventativeVet.com suggests planning for one quart of water for every three miles of hiking.

 

During The Hike

 

Practice Social Distancing

Just as you’d stay six feet away from another human, do the same for your pet. Pull your dog’s leash tighter, or have your dog sit, as the other hiker passes. If there’s another dog, do the same. While it appears domestic pets can be infected — The Washington Times reported that two cats in New York tested positive for COVID-19 in April — but there’s no evidence to date of pet-to-human or pet-to-pet transmission. In the meantime, it is best to be on the safe side and social distance your dog, too.

Avoid heat stroke

Hike when it is cool. Find shade and allow your dog to rest. Keep an eye on excessive panting, labored breathing and increased anxiety. Know the signs of heat stroke in dogs. Remember, the health and safety of your dog relies on your good judgement.

Avoid hypothermia

Although dogs may have slightly higher normal body temperature than humans, they can still suffer from hypothermia. Prolonged exposure to freezing temperatures can lead to heart problems, kidney failure, frostbite and death. Avoid hiking near frozen lakes and streams. Beware of wet fur in a cold environment and bring an extra towel to thoroughly dry off your dog if it gets wet.

Avoid altitude sickness

How high is too high for your pet? High altitude is between 5,000 to 11,500 feet above sea level. Extreme altitude is between 11,500 and 18,000 feet. Specific breeds (those with a short muzzle) and older dogs (with underlying cardiac or respiratory issues) have a greater risk of altitude sickness. Some of the altitude sickness warning signs are similar to heat stroke symptoms, so it is best to take your time ascending, pause for rest, hydrate and watch your pet closely.


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