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Hiking with your dog: What pet owners need to know

Dog goes hiking

Hiking can be a great way to get outside for bonding and exercise with your dog. Hiking isn’t for every dog, however, and there are a few things to be aware of before hitting the trail. How should you prepare for hiking with your dog? What do you do when your dog overdoes it? 

Table of contents 

Before you go 

Hiking with your dog can be an enjoyable way for you both to get fresh air and exercise. To make your hike fun and successful for both of you, some extra planning and preparation goes a long way. 

Is your dog up for a hike? 

Before hitting the trails, it’s important to first consider if your dog is in the right shape for hiking. If in doubt, consult your veterinarian about whether your dog is ready and able to hike with you.  

  • Puppies – You don’t want to take a puppy or adolescent dog on too strenuous of a hike until they have finished growing. Too much strain on a young dog’s growing bones can lead to pain and future issues with regular development. Veterinary experts from Preventative Vet recommend waiting at least one year before doing more rigorous exercise like difficult hikes or running with your pup. A good rule of thumb with puppies is to let them set the pace and respect when they are tired. 
  • Senior dogs – Older dogs have lower stamina and strength than a dog in the prime of their life, notes veterinary experts at Preventive Vet. These dogs are also likely to suffer from joint discomfort that can make strenuous hiking more harmful than beneficial for their health. Swimming might be a better activity for you and your senior dog. 
  • Brachycephalic breeds – Dogs with short snouts and flat faces, like French Bulldogs, Bulldogs, and Pugs, often have difficulty breathing. This can result in issues with getting enough oxygen during physical activity, as well as making them susceptible to overheating in warmer temperatures. Typically, these breeds require very modest levels of exercise so hiking is not the best choice for these pups! 
  • Physical training – Just like people, dogs need to build strength over time or risk soreness or even injury. Start with shorter, easier hikes and gradually increase the length and difficulty of your hikes. Monitor your dog for signs of fatigue, soreness, or paw pad tenderness and avoid hiking when the temperatures soar as heat stroke can happen quickly in dogs. 

Vaccines and preventatives 

Your dog should always be up to date on their vaccines before going hiking, particularly rabies and any vaccines that may be necessary in the specific area you plan to hike. Ticks, fleas, and mosquitoes also pose a risk to your pup, as they can carry some serious illnesses. Talk to your veterinarian to make sure your dog is taking appropriate parasite preventatives. 

Pre-hike training basics 

There are a few training skills that your dog should have practice with before hitting the trails. In addition to loose leash walking, basic obedience commands that can keep your dog safe while hiking include: 

  • Come 
  • Sit 
  • Stay 
  • Leave it – There are any number of delicious smelling objects on a trail and mastering “leave it” can prevent your dog ingesting something that could make them sick.  
  • Drop it – Similarly, “drop it” is a very useful command when your dog does pick up a smelly or dangerous object. 

Stay safe in the great outdoors 

You should understand and be prepared for potential medical emergencies that can happen when hiking with your dog. Keeping your pup safe will help ensure your outdoor adventure is fun for everyone.  

  • Extreme temperatures – Dogs can easily overheat in warmer temperatures, which can lead to heat stroke and even death. This is particularly true for senior, overweight, and brachycephalic breeds. Too much time in the sun can also result in painful and harmful sunburn for your dog. Be sure to bring plenty of water and stay in the shade as much as possible and consider using doggy sunscreen. If you are hiking in a cooler climate, make sure your dog is well-equipped for the cold temperatures. Dogs’ paws can be particularly sensitive to the cold, so consider using paw wax or booties to keep them safe and comfortable. 
  • Paw pad injuries – Your dog also needs to build up some toughness on their paw pads to prevent ripped or sore pads from hiking over different types of terrain. Dogs can also burn their paw pads on hot surfaces, so it’s important to make sure they’re protected. Paw wax and booties can provide insulation from the elements and traction important for safely navigating terrain. 
  • Bites, stings, and other animal encounters – Your dog isn’t likely to be the only animal on the trail. The great outdoors poses risks of tick and other insect bites and stings, snake bites, and other potentially dangerous encounters with wild animals. Keeping your dog on-leash and on-trail is the best way to avoid disrupting wildlife. Check your dog’s fur for ticks after your hike by using a hairdryer to part their hair or a lint roller to capture any ticks they may have picked up.  
  • Toxic plants – Curious dogs can get into trouble by eating poison ivy, mushrooms, or other toxic plants while hiking. Other plant hazards include thorns, burrs, and foxtails which can become tangled in fur, imbedded in paws, or stuck in eyes or ears. Again, staying on-leash and on-trail is the best defense against dangerous plants. If your dog does encounter a foxtail, carefully remove it with tweezers immediately, as they can work their way into a vital organ and be painful or fatal. See your veterinarian if you think your dog has a foxtail that you cannot remove. 
  • Water hazards – Although a cool stream can be tempting for a thirsty dog, ponds, streams, and standing pools of water can carry parasites, bacteria, and other pathogens that can make your dog sick. Bring plenty of water with you instead and offer it frequently. Crossing streams and swimming with your dog can also be dangerous, so make sure your dog knows how to swim and consider having them wear a life jacket or harness you can support them with. 
  • Overdoing it – Avoid pushing your dog too hard while hiking. It should be an enjoyable outing for everyone, including your pup. Hikes that are too strenuous or too long can put your dog at risk of physical injury like broken bones or muscle strains, or inflammation that can lead to soreness and joint discomfort. Take breaks often for rest, water, and food. Monitor your dog for excessive panting, elevated heart rate, lethargy, or limping, as these are all signs that you should end the day. 

Hiking with pets packing list 

No matter the length and difficulty of your hike, there are a few things you should always bring along for your dog: 

  • Plenty of food and water, and any bowls they may need – The Veterinary Specialists of the Rockies encourage hikers to bring extra water for emergencies, recommending that you budget one quart of water for every three miles of hiking. You should also bring food or treats, depending on the length of your trip, to keep your dog energized and nourished. 
  • Poop bags – You should always pick up and properly dispose of your dog’s waste. Note that most trails and parks require hikers to carry dog waste all the way out of the area or provide trash cans for pet waste disposal. 
  • Leash and collar – Many dog-friendly hiking trails require dogs to be on-leash at all times. Keeping your pup on a leash can prevent them from wandering off the trail where they can encounter or disturb wildlife, or from injuring themselves on precarious terrain. Your dog should have identification tags on their collar at all times in case of emergencies and a microchip in case they get lost. 
  • Towel or bandana – Towels and bandanas can be versatile tools for hiking with dogs. Dry off your wet dog after swimming, dampen with water to cool off your hot dog, or use as a make-shift bandage in case of emergencies. 
  • Pet-safe insect repellant and sunscreen – If you are going to an area where bugs and or sun exposure may be a concern, consider bringing insect repellant and sunscreen for your dog. You should only use pet-friendly products, so check the label! 
  • Booties – As mentioned, booties can be helpful in situations of extreme cold, heat, and treacherous terrain. A hurt paw pad is a guaranteed way to end your hike. 
  • Doggy first aid kit – Be prepared for accidents big and small by packing a pet first aid kit. Basic supplies can include saline solution, antiseptics, antihistamines, tweezers, and bandages. 

How can ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA help if your dog overdoes it? 

Just like ours, dogs’ joints and muscles can become inflamed and uncomfortable after strenuous exercise. Following a hike, you may notice your dog limping, hesitating to climb the stairs, or struggling to get up from their bed. These are all signs that your pup is experiencing joint discomfort. Fortunately, ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA can help. 

ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA products are proven to be both safe and extremely effective in addressing and dramatically improving dogs’ joint discomfort. CBD + CBDA helps your dog by modulating their inflammatory response and perception of discomfort. For everyday discomfort, we recommend our chews, soft gels or oils. For occasional or situational discomfort, our high-potency Calm & Comfort will have them feeling back to normal in about 90 minutes.  

Getting outside and exercising with your dog can be fun and support both your health and theirs, so keeping your dog comfortable and mobile is essential. As always, consult your veterinarian if your dog shows signs of joint discomfort. For any questions about ElleVet’s CBD + CBDA products or how CBD can help your canine companion have the best quality of life possible with less discomfort, give us a call (844-673-7287) or send us an email ([email protected]).  We are here to help. 

Any health or medical information in ElleVet blogs is from a variety of public and reputable sources. This information is intended as an educational resource only and is not a substitute for expert professional care.