June 29, 2017

Trail First Aid for Your Best Friend

By Jessica Williams

After our heavy winter snow fall, you might be itching to get out on the trails with your furry friend. Before you go, give yourself a safety refresher and make sure your dog-friendly first-aid kit is properly stocked.

Be Mindful of These Situations

There are some situations on the trail that dogs typically experience more than others. These include:

• A scraped or cut paw – This is more likely to happen in early season when a dog’s pads aren’t toughened by regularly hiking or walking. A cut paw may need to be bandaged or your pooch may need to be carried out.

• A bleeding or badly broken nail – A dog can break its nail climbing rocks or by catching it on something. Stop the bleeding with a clotting agent and then wrap the paw.

• Water-borne diseases – Puddles, lake water and streams can contain bacteria and diseases from wildlife. Dogs can get illnesses like giardia and leptospirosis so be sure to always bring clean, fresh water for them.

• Dehydration – Dogs often get super-stimulated when hiking and might not be interested in drinking. Take regular water breaks and consider adding a tasty water additive to entice them to drink.

• Allergic reactions – From bug bites to poisonous plants, there are things your dog may encounter that can cause an adverse reaction. Talk to your vet about medication you can give your dog on the trail if this happens.

• Tick bites – Ticks have been reported in almost every part of the Pacific Northwest, but they are especially common east of the mountains. Use a pet-safe tick repellant, avoid walking through brushy areas if possible, and check for ticks thoroughly after each hike.

• Wildlife encounters – Encounters with wildlife on the trail can leave your dog with a scratch, bite or worse. Always keep your dog on a leash, or very close to you using voice control, so you have a chance to spot other animals before your dog does. Know how to handle wildlife encounters, especially bears, cougars, goats and rattlesnakes.

First-Aid Kit

Whether you buy a first-aid kit for humans and add dog-specific items, or buy a separate first-aid kit for your dog, you should inventory the kit and make sure you have the important things your dog may need. Some of these include:

• An antihistamine such as Diphenhydramine or Benadryl (always check with your vet first before giving medication).
• Bandages made specifically to fit a dog’s paw like PawFlex;
• Dog boot to cover foot bandages (preferably waterproof);
• Styptic pencil or clotting agent to help stop bleeding;
• Vet Wrap or other self-adhering bandaging tape;
• Hydrogen peroxide and syringe to induce vomiting;
• Scissors and/or razor to cut fur away from a wound;

Be Prepared

The best tool you can bring to get through injuries and emergencies is your brain. Consider:

• Taking a pet first-aid and CPR class;
• Your dog’s limitations;
• An emergency and evacuation plan (if you need to carry your dog out);
• What you will do if you have to stay out longer than intended or overnight;

With proper preparation, you and your pup can have a fun and injury-free hiking season.

Jessica Williams is the author of a Seattle-based blog about hiking and traveling with small dogs and a pet-focused social media consultant. Visit her blog at: YouDidWhatWithYourWiener.com