As the weather turns warm again, we start to get the itch to go out and explore. Dogs can make great hiking companions with a little planning and preparation, and most enjoy getting out the house as much as we do!
The first thing you will want to make sure of is that your dog is adequately covered for fleas, ticks, and heartworm disease. Topical flea and tick medications such as Frontline Plus and Parastar must be applied 48 hours prior to getting wet, so make sure to give this a few days in advance. Nexgard, an oral flea and tick preventative does not have the same water warning, but still should be given in advance so that it is fully on board by the time you hit the trail.
Next, you should pack for your dog. A first aid kit specifically for your pet is a must. Things you may wish to have with you include bandaging material (non stick gauze pads, self adhesive wrap, and tape can all be helpful). Saline can be used to rinse both eyes and wounds, so having a saline eye wash can also be beneficial. Tweezers, scissors, and a tick removal device also may be helpful. Some dogs can snap when they are painful, so having a well fitting cloth muzzle may be advised as well. Stypic powder, a nail trimmer, and benadryl can also round out the first aid kit. Benadryl can be used for mild allergic reactions, bee stings, bug bites, and allergies while on the trail, but follow up with a veterinarian may still be required. Lastly, talk with your veterinarian. They may be willing to prescribe an anti-inflammatory pain medication to have on hand, and/or topical ointments for eyes or wounds. Human pain medications such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), acetaminophen (Tylenol), and naproxen (Aleve) are all toxic to dogs and should not be used. Having a local veterinarian/emergency veterinarian in the area where you are traveling ahead of time can help, as can having a copy of recent bloodwork and vaccine history for your pet.
Once you have a first aid kit assembled, next you should look at equipment for your dog. Having booties with durable treads can help protect paw pads when climbing on rough surfaces. They can also be used as a bandage in the case of a foot injury. Some dogs will tolerate a pack to carry their own supplies. Make sure you have a good fitting collar or harness, and an appropriate leash (most parks require a 6 ft leash). There are options for hands free leashes that attach around your waist to allow full range of motion while you hike. Have identification tags and microchip information up to date. Some people use GPS trackers for their pets as well. A tee shirt can help protect the pet from pests, sun, and branches, or there are specific vests made for hunting dogs to help protect their underside. A life vest is also recommended if the pet is going to be in any water. Lastly, for dogs that tend to run through the heavy brush, doggles, a pair of goggles for dogs, may be of use. A few other things you may wish to bring include towels or blankets, and a light source for the leash/collar.
Make sure to pack plenty of fresh water for your dog. They can get parasites such as giardia or infections such as leptospirosis from drinking water that has not been filtered properly. Have a collapsable bowl or water bottle for them to use. Packing a high protein snack or food is also important as they use calories and energy at a higher rate when out exploring. Lastly, make sure you have plenty of poop bags for the journey. It is not uncommon for them to have a few more bowel movements when excited and exploring new areas.
With a little planning, you can enjoy hours and miles of hiking with your pooch! Happy Trails!