You’re off on vacation and Rover, the wonder dog, sits on a cactus. To make matters worse, he surprises a snoozing rattlesnake. Yes, it’s that time of year, and outdoor enthusiasts around the country are heading into the wilderness and are taking their furry companions with them. But do you know the dos and don’ts of outdoor adventures with Rover? Here are some no-nonsense tips for avoiding disasters and making your family outings safe.
Exercise is great for all of us, but be prepared! For example, if your dog isn’t used to Frisbee jumping, serious knee and ligament damage could result. For any kind of activity, gradually build your pet’s endurance. Prepare for a long hike with short walks.
Plan your hiking time
Because if it took you two hours to reach the lake, it will take you two hours to get back. You just might have to carry your 65-pound pooped out pooch back down the trail!
Backpacks for dogs
Backpacks are a good way for your dog to carry its own supplies, but make sure the weight is appropriate for the dog’s size. Gradually get your dog used to the feel and weight before your trip. Do the same for life preservers when boating or swimming.
Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are very serious. Never, ever leave any pet inside a car in the summer. Even in the shade and with windows down, it may only take a few minutes for a car’s internal temperature to reach fatal levels. Dogs do not sweat like people-their excess body heat is expended from panting and from the pads of the feet. Ask your veterinarian for instructions on heat exhaustion.
Elderly and very young pets
These pets need special consideration for activities. Take care to keep them cool, well hydrated, and provide lots of relaxation time! Make sure your pet is healthy enough to take a trip with you. Consider a check-up before you leave.
Dangers on the trail
Trail dangers include cacti, sharp rocks, insects, critters, and rattlesnakes. Here is a quick reference:
- Ticks and mosquitoes. Check with your veterinarian about prevalence and prevention of Lyme disease and heartworm disease in your area or the area you are traveling to.
- Cacti, foxtails, and thorns. Some cactus spines are barbed. If the spine will not come out, see your veterinarian. Otherwise, clean the area with antiseptic and apply a topical antibiotic after removal. Foxtails (or grass awns) are the wheat-like ends of grasses that can cause infection if not removed. Brush your dog and carefully examine the toes, pads, and webbing of the feet. If the skin was pierced, clean with antiseptic and apply a topical antibiotic. Examine the ears, nose, and mouth. Remove any visible foxtails, clean, and apply an antibiotic to external areas only. Do not use anything in the mouth, nose, or inside the ear canal. If you can’t remove a foxtail, see your veterinarian.
- Rocks. Climbing on rocks can lead to a serious fall for your dog. If injured, immobilize and transport immediately. Sharp objects on a river bottom can slice foot pads, which bleed profusely. Clean with antiseptic and apply pressure until the bleeding stops. Do not use a tourniquet. Apply an antibiotic, bandage the foot, and keep it dry. See your veterinarian.
- Rattlesnakes! "Get your car keys," is the suggestion of Dr. Joe Trueba, hospital director of Pima Pet Clinic and Animal Emergency Service in Tucson, Arizona, whose clinic sees one of the highest numbers of snakebitten pets in the country. In other words, get in your car and drive! Do not use the cut and suck or ice methods, and do not apply a tourniquet! If you are in the company of snakes, the best treatment is to not park so far away that you can’t return to your car quickly. Very quickly!
- Skunks and porcupines. If your dog is skunked, use tomato juice, vinegar (one pint to one gallon of water), or skunk shampoo. With porcupine quills, removing them can be tricky and painful. Many dogs need to be sedated for this procedure, so you should get to your veterinarian as soon as possible.
- Poison ivy and sumac. Most animals do not react to these plants like people do, although their hair will hold the oils for a long time. People who come into contact with a pet will be affected.