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How to Hike with Your Dog

January 6th, 2022 Posted in Uncategorized

I love hiking. It’s a great way to relax and enjoy nature. It’s a great way to stay fit. And it’s even better when I’ve got a dog along for company. Obviously many of you feel the same way, because I often encounter dogs with their owners while out on local trails or on the Bruce Trail.

I’m often asked what should be done to keep dogs healthy on the trail. Here are a few things I recommend:

1/ Make sure your dog is current on vaccinations. Wildlife can carry all sorts of diseases, such as Rabies, Canine Distemper and Leptospirosis. These are common infectious diseases in Ontario, and certainly in the Cambridge area. Some of these germs can survive in the environment, so direct contact is not necessary for your dog to get sick from wild animals. Also, we’re having more and more skunks, raccoons and coyotes in the city too, so your pets can even get exposed in your back yard!

2/ Talk to your veterinarian about a parasite prevention program. This part of Ontario is considered an endemic area for Canine Heartworm Disease. This nasty parasite is transmitted by mosquitoes. Treatment involves multiple injections of an arsenic-based medication, dangerous and expensive. Prevention, on the other hand, is safe and affordable.

Other parasites your dog might encounter include roundworms, hookworms, whipworms, tapeworms and Giardia. These are usually contracted if a dog consumes another animal’s feces, infected soil, infected water, or a small mammal such as a mouse.

3/ Keep your dog on a leash, or at least put her on a leash when you see other hikers or dogs on the trail. Your dog might be friendly, but the other dog might not be! And some people are terrified of dogs, so they don’t appreciate being rushed by a rambunctious pooch.

4/ Don’t exercise your dog between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on extremely hot days. Dogs can’t cool themselves by sweating like we can, so they are more prone to overheating than humans. And they often don’t know when to quit. So play it safe and choose to walk in the morning or in the evening, when the temperature is not as extreme.

5/ Make sure your dog has clean water to drink. Bring some extra for him, and a collapsible bowl to drink from. Yes, dogs can get Giardia (aka Beaver fever) from contaminated water like we can. So try not to let your pooch drink from ponds and streams if that’s possible. If not, make sure you get his feces tested several times per year for this parasite, for his health and that of your family.

6/ Deer ticks and Lyme disease are spreading. Ticks are even active in the winter, if the temps rise above 4 degrees C. Talk to your veterinarian about tick prevention products and use them year-round. Check your dog for ticks at the end of your walk. If you find one, bring your dog to your vet to have the tick removed, and to have it sent off for identification.

7/ Bring a first aid kit that includes items for your dog. I’ve put a list of suggested items in another article on this web page.  You’ll want to have some of the supplies in your pack, others in your car.
Yep, many of the items in your first aid kit are ok to use on pets. However, most human medications are not, so don’t give any without checking with a vet first! Why not program that number, and that of the local emergency clinic, into your cell phone before you head out?

Don’t forget that your veterinarian is your best source for pet care information. Together you can help ensure you and your dog have a great hike on every excursion!

Dr. Louise Langlais


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