Traveling in Nature 

Many of us who travel to national parks, campgrounds, the wilderness and other outdoor recreational locations take our dogs along. Are you among them? To make the most of adventurous family outings, we need to know the do's and don'ts of traveling in nature.

It is a good idea to do some preliminary training at home. Go for daily walks and gradually build endurance. Increase duration and intensity, continually assessing your dog's abilities. It is also good to anticipate the type of activity you will be doing and to achieve the needed level of fitness. Make a trip to the vet and get a physical exam and clear bill of health for your dog.  

Prior to your departure, make certain you pack the necessary items for the activities you plan to do with your dog. Plenty of water, sufficient food and first aid, and life preservers for water activities are a must. Doggie backpacks are available so that your dog can share the burden of carrying the supplies.  

Avoid extreme activities during hot days as well as prolonged exposure to the sun. Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are common health problems. As I mentioned in a previous column, dogs do not sweat and therefore have limited defenses from heat. Depending on where you go, there are many dangers out there.  

Fleas and ticks are everywhere. Making sure your pet is protected from the pests is a must. Consider Lyme disease vaccination and verify that Rabies and Parvo/Distemper vaccinations are current. Of course, all dogs should be treated with Heartworm and intestinal parasite medications.  

Be on the lookout for poisonous bugs and snakes, and keep your dog in site at all times. Dogs are very curious. Encounters with aggressive wildlife such as badgers, porcupines and skunks are common. Check your dog periodically for injuries such as swellings, bleeding punctures and lameness.  

Ingestion of poisonous plants or poison ivy exposure, along with man-maid substances (insecticides, gasoline, alcohol etc.), are common outdoor hazards. Make a note that grapes, wild or cultivated, may also be toxic to your dog if ingested.

Sharp objects (rocks, nails, cans and broken bottles) and plants  (tree branches, twigs, foxtail and cacti) are frequent causes of injuries. It is important to brush and inspect the feet as well as the head area (mouth, ears and nose) frequently.

Accidents do happen. Falling down a mountain, getting hit by falling rocks and debris and drowning are only a few of the many reported accidents.  

If you notice embedded thorns, spines, foxtail, porcupine quills or other objects, remove them and disinfect the wound. If the object cannot be removed, go to the nearest veterinarian. Ice- pack insect bites, snake bites, bruises and blunt injuries. Be sure to clean and disinfect open wounds. Snakebites are major emergencies. Your dog should be rushed to the vet ASAP. Severe injuries, such as massive trauma from falls or large objects, as well as broken body parts, should be stabilized and medical attention sought as soon as possible.  

Finally, in the event your canine pal comes back from the bushes wearing skunk "perfume" (you will know...), wash the animal with skunk-off, tomato juice or diluted vinegar multiple times, then rinse well.  

Your pet travel pack should have a major and a minor kit. The major kit stays in the base camp or the car and the minor kit goes with you on the trail or any other recreational activity. Both containers should be compact, temperature resistant and water proof.

The major pack contains all the items your pet needs:

·          Dry food and treats in sealed packaging.

·          Feeding containers

·          Extra leash and collar

·          ID and Rabies tags if your pet is not microchipped

·          Blankets and towels

·          Brushes and combs

·          Your pet's records

·          Local veterinarian and emergency clinic addresses and phone numbers if available

·          Rope.

·          Water bottles

·          Flea and tick control and any other medication your pet takes

·          Skunk-off/shampoo

·          Thermometer

·          Muzzle

The minor kit includes:

·          Carry-on water bottle

·          Food/treats (as needed)

·          Extra leash/rope

·          Multi-tool Pocketknife

·          Survival kits (as needed)

·          First aid kit containing:

Now you are ready to travel safely with your pet. Being prepared for medical emergencies and the other predicaments your pet can get into while you're on the road can make the difference between a good time and panic time.

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