Trekking up beautiful mountain trails and exploring America's vast wilderness areas with your four-legged best friend can be an excellent way for both of you to get exercise while enjoying nature. But before you decide to head out on a long summertime hike, you need to make sure that your dog is ready for a big adventure.
Unfortunately, too many dog owners assume that their pets will be able to handle the rugged outdoors and its elements simply because they're animals. This belief could mean a visit to an animal hospital or even be deadly for your pets as, sadly, three dog owners in Little Rock, Arkansas recently learned when their pets passed away while hiking in the summer heat.
Will Your Canine be Fine?
The first thing you need to determine is whether your dog is suitable for long hikes. Certain breeds are just not bred to handle strenuous walks in the heat. Flat-faced dogs, such as pugs and bulldogs, are notorious for having breathing difficulties in hot, humid weather. Long-haired breeds and those that have been bred for cold-weather conditions, such as huskies, may also have difficulty hiking in hot weather.
Your dog also needs to be in good condition before you head out on a hike. Just like you wouldn't want to jump off your couch and run a 5K after years of inactivity, your dog shouldn't be asked to tackle a rigorous trek if it hasn't been exercising on a regular basis. If you aren't sure of your dog's condition or suitability for hiking, it's always a good idea to take your dog to an animal hospital for a quick checkup to ensure it is fit and in good health.
Prepare Your Pup
Once you determine that your dog is fit enough to hike, start by conditioning your dog with short walks. Then when your canine is finally ready to head out on your big adventure, make sure that you:
- Avoid walking during the heat of the day. In general, dogs don't handle the heat as well as humans. While people sweat to bring their body temperatures down, canines can only pant, which is just not as an effective way to cool down a body.
- Check the weather. If the day is going to be terribly hot, it would be better to postpone your hike. It's also important to keep an eye out for potential storms, especially if your pet tends to be afraid of thunder. A dog could break free and get lost if it were to become terrified by thunder claps.
- Always carry water and a collapsible bowl. Sadly, the owners of one of the dogs that died in Arkansas had not brought any water with them during their hike.
- Keep your pup on its leash. It only takes a second to lose a dog in the wilderness. A squirrel or a deer running across its path could cause your dog to take off suddenly, and it could then easily become lost.
- Bring rubbing alcohol. If your dog appears overheated, you can rub it on your dog's paw, which can cool it down faster than dumping water on it.
Dog Tired or Heat Sickness
If you notice that your dog is exhibiting the following symptoms, you should transport your pet immediately to an veterinarian hospital for treatment:
- Heavy panting
- Rapid or irregular heartbeats
- Muscle tremors
- Staggering or uncoordinated motion
- Bloody diarrhea
It is very important that you do not delay treatment if your pet is showing signs of heat stress. Your beloved pet's life could, unfortunately, be in danger if you wait.