Be Prepared: 7 Dangers to Your Pet on the Trail
Dog lovers everywhere enjoy walking and hiking with their pets. But according to PetTech, a San Diego-based training center for Pet CPR, First Aid & Care, if you encounter any of the following scenarios, an otherwise pleasurable experience can quickly turn serious. Learn what they are, and how you can be prepared to help your furry friend.
1. Exposure to Extreme Temperatures
Extreme hot or cold temperatures can wreak havoc on your pet's body in many ways. In warmer months, your pet can experience heatstroke caused by warm or hot weather and high humidity. To cool themselves, dogs pant, passing cooler air over their gums and tongue—which serve as their “radiator.” But a short-nosed dog such as a Pekingese, boxer or pug is particularly susceptible to overheating as their “radiator” is too small in proportion to their body sizes.
Watch for these symptoms:
- Uncontrollable panting
- Foaming at the mouth
- Rapid heart rate
If the tongue is bright red, and you notice a capillary refill (gums should return to pinkish hue after pressure is applied) longer than 2 seconds, you should suspect heatstroke. Restrain or muzzle your pet, then bath or hose him or her down with cool water. Be sure to monitor your pet's temperature and transport to the nearest pet emergency hospital if necessary.
Prolonged exposure to severe cold temperatures present the risk of frost nip and frostbite. While frost nip is a first degree or superficial cold injury, frostbite is a third-degree, deep cold injury resulting in localized tissue damage. Your pet's ears, paws, scrotum and tail are most affected. Look for swollen, red, painful, hard and/or pale skin. In advanced stages, a dog may lose skin and hair in affected areas. It's critical to assess your pet from “snout-to-tail” after each hike for ice crystals or snow in the pads, paws and genitals. Suspected frost nip areas should be warmed slowly with wet, warm towels. For frostbite, keep body parts frozen and seek immediate veterinary attention.
2. Extremity Injuries
Most extremity injuries such as strains, sprains, muscle and tendon tears are common and result from overexertion. Watch for:
- Favoring one limb over another
- Pain or limited range and movement of extremity.
If you suspect sprains or fractures, first immobilize your pet, reduce activity and transport to nearest veterinary hospital.
3. Wounds & Trauma
- Compound fractures
- Blunt force trauma to pet's extremities
Muzzle or restrain your pet, then control any bleeding. Apply direct pressure to bleeding wound and bandage with gauze and a constricting hand/band. Wrap the gauze roll around the gauze pad and tie a knot where wound is. Elevate limb if it does not aggravate injury. Seek immediate veterinarian care if injury is severe; your pet may need stitches or X-rays. Many bleeding injuries can be life-threatening and may need medication to treat possible infection.
4. Insect Bites, Stings & Allergic Reactions
Inquisitive dogs stick their noses in many places—some where insects are hiding—and may get stung or bitten by ants, bees, hornets, wasps or spiders. If your dog develops a severe allergic reaction, it could be life-threatening. A sting or bite may not be evident. Watch for incessant licking and scratching, accompanied by localized swelling and redness at site. First, reduce pet's activity and keep him comfortable and quiet to prevent spread of toxin. Treat with Benadryl (or generic diphenhydramine) gel caps. For quicker absorption, puncture the gel cap with a safety pin and squirt liquid into pet's mouth. Before you hit the trail, consult your pet's veterinarian to determine proper dosage of antihistamine.
5. Poisonous Plants, Toxins & Parasites
Because most dogs eat anything, never leave your dog unattended while on the trail. If your dog ingests poisonous plants, infected animals or drinks water contaminated by parasites, it can be serious for your pet. Signs of poisoning include:
- Stomach upset
- Excessive salivation
- Breathing difficulties
- Loss of consciousness
In this situation, time is of the essence—your dog's condition can deteriorate rapidly. Try to determine the cause of poisoning and time of exposure. Collect a sample of the stool or vomitus and get to a veterinarian immediately.
6. Snake & Animal Bites
If you dare to tread in areas where snakes and/or wild animals inhabit, keep your dog on a leash and under control at all times to avoid any potential encounters. Whether venomous or non-venomous, snake bites are very dirty wounds that need wound care and antibiotic treatment. If you see one to two puncture wounds and notice severe pain, swelling and bruising, suspect snakebite. For venous bites, restrain or muzzle your dog and if no breathing difficulties are present, treat for shock.
For animal bites, try to clip the fur around the wound and clean it with plain water. Avoid using hydrogen peroxide or alcohol. A light bandage can be placed on the extremities to keep it clean. In both cases, get to veterinarian immediately. Consider consulting with your dog's vet on antivenin treatment. Also, you may want to take snake avoidance training.
Ticks are becoming a major problem nationwide. According to Dr. Julia Morrow with The Family Pet Mobile Veterinary Hospital in Ohio, tick numbers are increasing, presenting a leading risk to pets for Lyme disease. In 2016, says Dr. Julia, there were five times more confirmed cases of Lyme disease than in 2011-2015 combined. Using products like Bravecto, Simparica and Nexgard—which you can get from a veterinarian—for protection year-round reduces risk of Lyme disease. Dr. Julia advises checking your pet thoroughly after walking or hiking in wooded areas. If you see ticks, carefully pull off your pet. Consult with your dog's veterinarian for any additional treatment.
Preparation Is Best Defense
The information above contains guidelines for treating your pet in emergency situations. There's no substitute for thorough Pet CPR, First Aid education. Consider enrolling in a Pet CPR, First Aid & Care class to get in-depth training.
There are also a plethora of online Pet CPR/First Aid classes for your convenience. If you prefer onsite training you can register for Pet CPR, First Aid & Care training through Pet Tech and find an instructor near you. Northeast Ohio residents can register for training here.
Also consider carrying the below 6 emergency items in a water-resistant, lightweight dog walking accessory bag, such as the WoofPack, when walking or hiking with your pet:
- A pair of chopsticks or paint stir sticks (to stabilize a fracture, use as splints horizontally on each side of limb)
- Baby aspirin (for pain)
- Benadryl gel caps (with safety pin taped to back)
- Muzzle or restrain
- Gauze pads (for bleeding)
- 2 -3-4” rolls of gauze
Be prepared - don't risk your pet's safety while on-the-go.
Watch below as Vanessa Wentzel demonstrates how to easily carry pet first aid essentials. A certified instructor, Vanessa hosts Pet CPR/First Aid training in Northeast Ohio.