By Dr. Angela Gaeto, DVM, of the Helen Woodward Animal Center community in San Diego County.
Hiking is a fun summer activity that even pets can get involved with. There are a few basic things to remember when taking your dog out on a trail. First, consider your pet’s fitness level. If your pet only gets minimal exercise on a day-to-day basis, it probably will have a hard time with hours and miles of hiking. Dogs that walk or run on a regular basis will find this much easier and be able to keep up without serious fatigue.
Evaluate any medical conditions your pet is dealing with. Animals with heart disease or orthopedic issues may not do well going out for long periods of exercise. It is also important to consider the terrain your hike will cover. Dogs’ feet can get cut or burned from contact with rough surfaces such as rocky areas or hot asphalt trails. Dogs with more sensitive paws or ones that are not used to rugged outdoor terrain are at a greater risk.
Consider the environment of the hike. Many dogs are allowed off leash on trails but it might not be safe with the wildlife in the area. California is known for coyotes and rattlesnakes in particular. Encounters with either can be detrimental to your dog. Walking in the middle of the trail and avoiding letting your dog sniff under bushes or run off trail can prevent rattlesnake encounters. In general, coyotes avoid people, but if caught off guard they may attack a dog especially if the pet comes towards the coyote. Keeping your dog on the trail can prevent these meetings.
Finally, keep in mind the temperature when enjoying outdoor activities with your dog. Dogs can overheat quickly and do not have as many ways to cool off as humans. Heat stroke is a very serious issue and can be prevented by allowing your dog shade, water and rest during the outing.
Summer Food Safety
Many summer activities involve eating outside or in groups where dogs might have access to human food. Many meat items, hot off the grill or otherwise, may be unsafe for your pet. Both ribs and chicken wings are common party foods that are not safe for dogs. Both have bones that break easily, leading to their indigestion and possibly causing harmful bone shards to poke between the teeth and gums. Bones are not easily passed through a dog’s digestive system. This means they can sit in their stomach and cause digestive issues for quite some time. Many times, bones in the digestive tract or splinters lodged in the mouth require surgical removal.
A few other foods to avoid feeding dogs at parties due to their toxicity are macadamia nuts, grapes, raisins, chocolate, and onions.
Photo Credit: Donna Tomlinson (CC)