Your dog's company can enhance your experience of the great outdoors
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Hiking is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, spend time with your dog and wear him out, especially if he's the super-active type. It's quite possibly the most accessible activity you can do with your dog. Wherever you live, you probably have access to dog-friendly hiking trails within 30 minutes of home. We've gathered eight tips to help you both have the best hike possible.
1. Puppies can go hiking as long as you condition them gradually. Start with short hikes of a half-mile to a mile, and slowly work up to longer distances.
2. Watch the weather. It's not just flat-faced dogs who are sensitive to heat and humidity. Plenty of dogs wilt quickly, even in moderate temperatures of 65 degrees Fahrenheit. Any time the temperature exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit, it's too hot for most dogs to exert themselves. If you're going on a short hike near home, consider hosing down your dog before you leave to help him stay cool, or stop during the hike at a place where he can go swimming or get wet.
3. Bring plenty of water and a snack. For a day hike in optimum temperatures over moderate terrain, a quart of water and some cut-up boiled chicken or hot dogs (frozen the night before) should be enough to keep your dog hydrated and full of pep.
4. Because of the uneven terrain and changes in elevation, hiking is harder on the body than just going for a walk. Pay attention to your dog's condition, especially if he's a puppy or an old dog. You never want to see him panting heavily or unable to go on. Remember that dogs are lower to the ground and may not have the benefit of a breeze.
5. Keep your dog on leash so he doesn't disturb wildlife or other hikers. Accidents happen, though, so he should be trained to come to a whistle. The sound will carry over a longer distance than your voice if you get separated. He should also know and respond to the commands "sit," "stay" or "wait," "down," "heel" and "quiet."
6. Know how to treat injuries. You can find a pet first-aid course in your area through the Red Cross. Carry a first-aid kit that contains items such as bandages, antiseptic wipes and Benadryl (check with your veterinarian ahead of time so you'll know the appropriate amount to give if your dog suffers an insect bite or sting).
7. Tote that load. Your dog can carry his water, snacks, first-aid kit, a folding water dish and poop bags in a canine backpack. Before buying, check the fit to make sure it stays on securely without being too tight or too loose or restricting his movement. You should be able to comfortably fit two to four fingers between the straps and your dog's body. Features that can add to his comfort include a mesh back panel for ventilation and padding beneath the straps. Other conveniences you may appreciate are D-rings for attaching items to the pack, weather-sealed zippers, attachment points for the leash and a handle on top that allows you to hold onto or lift your dog if necessary.
8. Bug out. Protect your dog from fleas and ticks with an oral or spot-on preventive. If the local insect population is especially intense, you can try applying an all-natural citronella spray to his coat. Be aware that the effect probably won't last more than an hour, so you'll need to reapply it regularly.
Most important, have fun! See you on the trail.
Can change in
altitude affect pets?
Q: We're moving from Louisville, Kentucky, to Albuquerque, New Mexico. We know people can sometimes have issues with the altitude change, but what about our pets? We have two cats and a dog. -- via email
A: Humans and animals can experience physical signs when they go to a higher altitude. Albuquerque's altitude ranges from 4,900 feet to more than 6,700 feet in the foothills. Signs that altitude is affecting you include tiring easily, headaches and vomiting. Usually these symptoms don't kick in until much higher elevations are reached -- more than 8,000 feet -- but it's not unusual for people and pets to experience milder signs.
To ensure that you and your pets adjust without problems, it's best if you can drive to your new home instead of flying, says Julia Veir, DVM, an internal medicine specialist at Colorado State University. That will allow all of you to slowly acclimate to the change.
Once you're settled into your new home, limit physical activity at first to short, on-leash walks. Albuquerque has low humidity, so it's easy to become dehydrated, even if you're not sweating a lot. Be sure you and your pets drink plenty of cool, fresh water throughout the day. Encourage your pets to drink with a fountain -- cats, especially, enjoy lapping running water. Another good way to get water into them is to feed them canned food.
It's also a good idea to become familiar with the appearance of your pets' tongues and gums in Louisville. That way, you will more readily notice changes that might be related to altitude, such as having a blue tinge instead of being a healthy pink.
Take things slow, and you will probably find that you all adjust with little problem. Most important, establish a relationship with a veterinarian before problems crop up. -- Dr. Marty Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
How to pat the cat?
Stick to the head
-- Do you know how to pet your cat? In case you're not sure, a team of researchers at the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom has some advice: Cats prefer a nice head skritch -- especially at the sweet spot between the eyes or beneath the chin. They have lots of scent glands on the lips, chin and cheeks and may view petting in that area as a form of grooming. Avoid the base of the tail and the belly, or your cat is likely to give you a claws-out thwack with his paw.
-- We say it every year, but it bears repeating: Never leave your dog or cat inside a car during the day. The interior temperature rises quickly, even with the windows cracked. A 3-year-old English setter in Wausau, Wisconsin, died of heatstroke recently after being left for more than two hours on a cloudy, 66-degree day. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the owner faces charges of animal mistreatment, a Class I felony. If you can't take your pet into the business you're visiting, leave him home. If you're traveling, take turns staying in the car with the pet when making stops.
-- Looking for a new job? Business Insider lists the Top 10 places to work if you're a dog lover. If being able to bring your dog to work sounds appealing, send your resume to The Nerdery, a custom software solutions company; Eventbrite, a ticket and events marketplace; Indiegogo, a crowdfunding platform; PetPlan, a pet health insurance company; Payscape, an account payment services company; Specialized, a bicycle manufacturer; Glassdoor, a company review website; Procore Technologies, building construction management software; FastCompany, a media company; and Nestle Purina PetCare, a pet food manufacturer. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by "The Dr. Oz Show" veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. They are affiliated with Vetstreet.com and are the authors of many best-selling pet-care books. Joining them is dog trainer and behavior consultant Mikkel Becker Johnson. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker Johnson is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.
CAPTIONS AND CREDITS
Caption 01: Hiking is an opportunity to see nature through your dog's eyes and nose. Position: Main Story
Caption 02: Petting a cat is an art and a science. Position: Pet Buzz/Item 1