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Is your dog ready to hike the trail?
Hiking season is upon us. As many of us are gearing up to hit the trails in earnest this summer we are looking forward to getting our canine companions out there, too.
Here are some things to think about if you are considering taking your pooch along on weekend-warrior expeditions.
You may have aged only another year since last summer, but a significantly larger portion of your dog's lifespan has passed for him. Don't assume that he is the same pup that pulled you up the Incline and wondered what was taking you so long. Arthritis, lack of conditioning and other health issues may present challenges that he can't tell you about.
A dog that is feeling good will usually keep up or lead the way, seemingly without effort. If your dog is dragging way behind you, he is struggling for some reason. He may have blistered pads, painful joints, or be overheated. He may need to build up his stamina to match whatever trail you're on.
If your dog is lagging, you need to stop and figure out why. Don't keep going and assume that he will catch up eventually.
Take a good look at your dog and consider how far you couuld carry him if he collapsed and couldn't, or wouldn't, walk. Plan your trail hike accordingly.
Heat stroke is always a possibility when exerting your body on hot days. Sweating is a much more efficient way to cool the body than panting, but dogs are stuck with the panting model, so take care to keep your dog cool.
Dogs with "smashed faces," like pugs and bulldogs, and dogs with any sort of respiratory impairment, like laryngeal paralysis, are prone to heat stroke on even moderately warm days. When dogs start diving for a shady spot, collapsing into the dirt and refusing to move, they likely are dangerously overheated. Stop immediately in a shady place and soak your dog's feet and neck in water to help him with some evaporative cooling.
Creeks and streams are great ways for dogs to rehydrate and cool off.
Keep your dog leashed in areas where leash laws apply. Your dog may be very friendly, but the dog he barges up to greet may not be, and the souvenir bite wounds he gets will not be pleasant. And the mountain biker who gets tangled up with him won't appreciate the broken arm. And the deer may not enjoy the stress of being chased.
Make sure your dog has a collar with some identification on it, or better yet, get him microchipped. People get separated from their dogs more often than you might think, and your dog can't tell people where he lives.
Pierce is a Colorado Springs veterinarian and co-owner of High Plains Veterinary Hospital, a Colorado Springs small-animal clinic. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.