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Hiking and backpacking with your four legged friends

One of the most important parts of including your dog in hikes is a good first aid kit
One of the most important parts of including your dog in hikes is a good first aid kit

With summer approaching fast, many of us are itching to get out hiking! Getting out with your dogs is a great way to get fresh air, exercise and strengthen your bond. I’m hoping to give you some tips and tricks to do it safely! 

When taking your dog hiking, ensure they are fit enough to make the hike you are planning, start small and work your way up to longer hikes. Do several day hikes before attempting a backpacking trip with them. Their paw pads need to strengthen up over time as well so take them out on some rough terrain. If planning on letting them carry their own backpack, this takes some practice as well. They can carry 10-30% of their own body weight in a pack. Start small and then work up to that weight. A pack needs to be well fitted and ensure it is evenly packed side to side. Again, test this out ahead of time to ensure there are no rub spots and be prepared to carry it yourself if needed. Don’t put anything in their pack that can’t get wet as they like to cool off in the water when hiking. 

Ensure you always have a leash and collar (or harness) with you. Your pup may be used to being off leash but they have to be well behaved and have good recall. You may meet other hikers and even if your dog is friendly, other dogs may not be. If someone else has theirs on a leash always put yours on a leash as well just to be safe. If they have a tendency to chase wildlife, they should be kept on leash at all times for your safety, their safety, and the sake of the wildlife. Something like porcupine quills can cut a hike short very fast. Dogs can be helpful with warning of wildlife but they can also be a wildlife attractant (for example cougars with smaller dogs). 

More careful planning on hikes must be done when bringing your dog. Don’t expect them to be able to make it everywhere you can make it so try to find out details of hikes prior to going. If going with a group, make sure everyone is ready to turn around if the dogs can’t make it. Plan ahead to make sure dogs are allowed on trials. Many places, such as some trials in the national parks, don’t allow dogs to stay overnight and some require dogs to be on leash at all times. Also remember that it can get cold in higher elevations so pack something warm for your pup on overnight hikes. 

Most places have water sources available but always ensure you pack adequate water in in case there isn’t. Lack of water will contribute to heat stroke when the weather is hot. Only fresh water should be used for drinking water. If not available, it should be filtered for them. Keep your dog from peeing near water sources to avoid contamination. Feces should be carried out or buried adequately as well.  

One of the most important parts of including your dog in hikes is a good first aid kit. Benadryl (same as the human variety) is important to have on hand for allergic reactions from bites, bee stings, etc. The dose is 2-4mg per kg. Calculate this ahead of time and write it down to be ready. Painkillers can come in handy as well. Human varieties are not safe so these need to be veterinary prescription drugs. An appointment can be made at the clinic and we can discuss options if you feel like you need some on hand for a big hike or hunt. Polysporin cream is also a must to apply to any minor scrapes. I also like to have bandaging material available – we are happy to sell you any material you may want to have on hand. Your first aid kit should also contain booties to help protect any paw injuries or if the trail is just very rocky. 

Cats are also able to go out and adventure with us. They need to be harness trained well at home as they can wiggle out of harnesses easily when scared. Keep initial outings short to ensure your particular cat is amenable to being an adventure cat (which not all are). 

Hope you get to enjoy lots of adventures with your pets this summer and let us know if you have any questions!