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Sunday, March 6, 2016

Spring is Almost Here!

Spring is on its way and many of us will be spending more time outside with our favorite furry trail buddies!  There is no better way to get exercise for the whole family and to refresh and recharge.  Here are some special considerations for our trail excursions.
Breed and age of our companion:
All our pets love being with us and they want to please us by keeping up and going wherever we go, but for some of our pets where we go and what we do may not be the best for their health.  Older pets who tire easily should be given moderate exercise.  If your pet seems tired or winded, give them frequent breaks, and be sure to carry plenty of water for them to drink.  Start off with small trips to gauge their tolerance and plan your trips accordingly.  Certain breeds are more athletic and have more stamina than others for hiking trips.  Labs, hounds, collies, and other athletic type dogs do better than others such as english bulldogs, boston terriers, chihuahuas, and even boxers.  Dependent on their size and even their muzzle shape- such as the boxers, bulldogs and bostons, our companions may be more suitable for shorter and easier trips.
On cool days our pets can go further and handle more challenging trails and terrain, however on warmers days you should always use caution.  When temperatures are above 75 degrees F it is recommended to choose trails with safe waterway access and plenty of shade.  It is important to check your pet's gums often and make sure they are not over heated.  Some signs of heat stroke in dogs that the average pet parent can recognize, per are:
  • Panting
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive drooling (ptyalism)
  • Increased body temperature - above 103° F (39° C)
  • Reddened gums and moist tissues of the body
  • Production of only small amounts of urine or no urine
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Irregular heart beats
  • Shock
  • Stoppage of the heart and breathing (cardiopulmonary arrest)
  • Fluid build-up in the lungs; sudden breathing distress (tachypnea)
  • Vomiting blood (hematemesis)
  • Passage of blood in the bowel movement or stool
  • Black, tarry stools
  • Small, pinpoint areas of bleeding
  • Changes in mental status
  • Seizures
  • Muscle tremors
  • Wobbly, incoordinated or drunken gait or movement (ataxia)
  • Unconsciousness in which the dog cannot be stimulated to be awakened
If your pet is in distress please follow these very important and life saving steps, and seek veterinary assistance immediately no matter how well your pet responds to the treatment - 
Early recognition of the symptoms of heat stroke is key to a prompt recovery. If your dog's increased body temperature can be linked to environmental temperature, such as weather, an enclosed room, grooming cage or exercise, the first immediate step will be to attempt to lower the body temperature.

Some external cooling techniques include spraying the dog down with cool water, or immersing the dog's entire body in cool – not cold – water; wrapping the dog in cool, wet towels; convection cooling with fans; and/or evaporative cooling (such as isopropyl alcohol on foot pads, groin, and under the forelegs). Stop cooling procedures when temperature reaches 103° F (using a rectal thermometer) to avoid dropping below normal body temperature.

It is very important to avoid ice or very cold water, as this may cause blood vessels near the surface of the body to constrict and may decrease heat dissipation. A shivering response also is undesirable, as it creates internal heat. Lowering the temperature too quickly can lead to other health problems, a gradual lowering is best. The same guideline applies to drinking water. Allow your dog to drink cool, not cold, water freely. However, do not force your dog to drink.

Environmental hazards, dangerous wildlife and external parasites:
When you are out an about with your pets, you expose them and yourself to poison ivy, poison oak and other poisonous plant life, poisonous snakes, other wildlife, mosquitoes, ticks, chiggers etc.  With all these things to consider you will want to acquaint yourself with the area you plan to traverse.  What wildlife might you encounter, what types of snakes are prevalent and how to identify them.  Carry with you protection against ticks and mosquitoes for both you and your pet.  A monthly preventative is highly recommended and a lyme vaccine in case of a bite from an infected tick for your dog is very important.  Always bring a long a little extra preventative for them in highly infested areas if you simply cannot avoid them.  Make sure to protect yourself with your own repellents and preventatives preventative - but never use them on your pets!  
Always keep your pets leashed in areas you are unfamiliar with or where you may be meeting up with other hikers and their pets.  Keep your pet in your sight and under control at all times.  Making sure your pet has good leash and manners with other dogs and people is imperative.  

Taking care of you:
Make sure you always wear appropriate clothing and foot wear.  Carry  plenty of fresh water for both of you every time and carry along a small first aid kit that can be used for both of you.  Some things to include are:
  • Alcohol swabs
  • Band-Aids
  • Vet wrap
  • Gauze
  • Antibiotic cream
  • Eye wash
  • Benedryl
  • Caladryl
Other things to bring along, especially on long trail trips are protein bars or snacks for you, and snacks or food for them.  
The three most important things to remember are to keep hydrated, cool, and aware of your surroundings -temperature and terrain.

Happy hiking everyone!

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