Take A Hike with Your Dog…and Yes, Even Your Cat!
Here are some tips and must-have hiking items to ensure the outdoor adventure is safe.
By Arden Moore – The Pet Health and Safety Coach™
If you have a willing dog, or a cat, the expression, “take a hike” has another meaning and conveys creative and positive possibilities of spending time in the great outdoors with your pet. Hiking is a great way to stay active and provide enrichment as well as some really good bonding time. It’s not uncommon to see dogs out on the trails because they make great companions. There is also a growing trend of people including their cats. Yes, you read right, feline hiking partners.
According to Emily Hall, founder of KittyCatGo, a website that offers safe ways and places to explore the outdoors with cats says, “I believe that enriching your cat’s life with adventure, big or small, will help to give your cat a more fulfilled, enriched life. Letting your cat experience the sights, smells and sounds of the outside world while harnessed and leashed brings joy and excitement to his or her life that he or she can’t experience otherwise. Sharing a special activity like adventuring together will grow trust and trust breeds a stronger friendship bond with your cat.”
For those who are seasoned hikers as well as those who may not be, this article will share some tips and must-have hiking items to ensure your dog or cat is safe while out on your adventures.
BEFORE YOU GO
As for up-for-adventure cats, Hall recommends training them at home to walk on leashes while wearing harnesses. She recommends being sure to offer plenty of praise and treats. If your cat seems to enjoy this activity, progress to have them ride in a cat-designed backpack and take small trips around your neighborhood before deciding if your cat would welcome a hike on foot in the woods or inside a ventilated cat backpack. “A lot of adventure cats view the backpack as like a second home, a safe space to be in while on a hiking outing,” says Hall. She also suggests knowing your pet’s personality and preferences. She has discovered that one her cats loves group hikes, while another prefers one-on-one outings with her on low-traffic hiking trails.
Before you set out on a long hike with your dog, Dawn Celapino, a certified personal trainer for people and dogs and founder of Leash Your Fitness recommends you get a wellness check of your dog by your veterinarian to make sure your dog is healthy and athletic enough to make the trek. She also has some advice for keeping your dog safe, while leashed as you don’t want him to race far ahead of you and potentially come in contact with a venomous snake or a beehive.
“For your dog’s safety, do not connect the leash to the collar because you don’t want to risk a neck injury,” she adds. “I recommend attaching the leash to the D ring on a front harness or body harness.”
As for my advice, I recommend that all hiking pets should sport collars with ID tags plus be microchipped so that can be easily scanned at animal shelters or veterinary clinics in case they get lost on a trail.
KEEPING TABS ON YOUR PET’S HEALTH WHILE HIKING
Keeping your cat or dog safe should be your #1 priority. Be sure to inspect your dog or cat from head to tail after a hike to look for any burrs, foxtails, ticks, cuts or injured paws. It’s also important to note that large, strong, healthy dogs may be able to carry some of your hiking gear and some dogs are game for hiking several miles at a stretch, but be careful not to overexert your dog. Offer plenty of water along the way and pay attention to these potential health warning signs:
- Drooping tongue or rapid panting: This is an early sign of overheating.
- Hesitation: Be on the watch if your dog is taking a few extra seconds before retrieving a tossed ball.
- Weight shifting: Pay attention if your dog is using different muscle groups to offset soreness.
- Staggered walking: This can be a sign of disorientation due to overexertion.
- Muscle tremors: These can happen for several reasons such as having eaten something poisonous, experiencing nausea, or it could be an injury.
- Limping: This can be due to injury or a foreign object in the paw. Check the footpads for cuts and bruises and legs for sprains or muscle pulls.
PACK A FIRST AID KIT
Accidents and injuries can happen. I highly recommend you pack a pet first aid kit and take a CPR course before making long hikes or camping trips with your four-legged travel mate. Knowing what to do in a pet emergency when you are miles away from a veterinary clinic, or even cell phone reception, can enable you to render immediate aid on site.
Both Hall and Celapino have taken my veterinarian-approved Pet First Aid 4U course and they make sure they also pack a portable, collapsible water bowl, bottled water, treats and of course, a first aid kit.
Here’s a list of first aid kit must-haves items:
- Instant cold compress
- Emergency blanket
- Vinyl gloves that are free of latex or powder
- Alcohol prep pads
- Antihistamine in gel form that only contains diphenhydramine for bee/wasp sting reactions
- Antiseptic wipes
- Rolls of non-adhesive dressing, gauze, wound pads, and tape
- Oral syringe
- Wood tongue compressor
- Saline eye wash
- Rubber tourniquet
- Styptic pencil to help stop bleeding nails
- Tick-removal tweezers
- Hydrogen peroxide used only to induce vomiting in pets, never to be used to clean a wound
- ZYMOX® Topical Cream or Spray to prevent infection or provide relief for itchy skin.
- Spare leash and harness plus a thick towel and a small flashlight
Outdoor adventures with your dog or cat is a great way to enjoy life, stay fit and have fun. My dogs, Kona and Cleo are always up for a walk, a long hike and even a weekend camping trip. Treating your pet to new sights, sounds and sniffs can be rewarding for both of you. Get the most out of your expeditions by focusing on your pet’s health and safety and hike on!
Arden Moore wears many collars in the pet world. She is a best-selling author, master certified pet first aid/CPR instructor, pet behavior consultant, host of the Oh Behave Show on Pet Life Radio and happy pet parent to a Furry Brady Bunch in Dallas. Learn more at www.ardenmoore.com.