Pet owners look forward to getting outdoors with pets as soon as the weather gets warm. These important considerations can make your pet’s time outside safer:
1. Decrease pets’ chances of having a run-in with an unfriendly animal or being hit by a car by walking pets on leashes. Pet strollers are a good option for getting indoor cats, rabbits and aging pets out for some fresh air and Vitamin D.
2. Assure pets are up to date on all preventive health care needs before spending time outdoors. Check the following list to assure your records are current:
A. Dog vaccines: distemper, parvovirus, rabies, kennel cough;
B. Cat vaccines: feline distemper, feline leukemia virus, rabies;
C. Vet-recommended flea and tick prevention: Check with your pet’s vet to see what products are effective and suggested in your area. These recommendations change frequently. Many products that worked for tick control last year arenot as effective this year;
D. Heartworm testing and prevention;
E. Intestinal parasite-control program: For dogs, this may be in the form of monthly heartworm prevention such as Sentinel, an oral tablet, which helps prevent new infections of roundworms, hookworms and whipworms, in addition to heartworms and fleas.
3. Whether you’re using a leash or not, don’t forget IDs. Always make sure that your current contact information, including your cell phone number, is attached to your dog’s collar or body harness. If for any reason your pet gets lost, a collar and tags and a microchip will increase the likelihood that he or she will be returned to you. Any pet can be microchipped easily during an office visit to the vet. If you add this form of ID to protect your pet, DO NOT forget to register the microchip number in the national database, and update your information regularly.
If you are thinking of going for a longer hike in the woods or more intense exercise, remember, a hiking trail isn’t your average walk around the block. Here are some helpful tips for keeping you and your pet safe on outdoor adventures.
l Extending leashes are great for open spaces, but if your walk is through more wooded areas, it’s best to leave the flexi-lead at home. Otherwise, you’ll probably spend more time untangling your dog’s leash from trees and brush than enjoying your walk.
l If your dog is well trained and trustworthy, and you want to give him the opportunity to enjoy some off-leash time on your hike, make sure the park rules do not require pets to be leashed at all times. Second, be sure that he responds reliably to your recall command — even the most obedient dog might run after another animal. It may be wiser to use a fenced dog park for off-leash time.
l Not everyone is fond of or comfortable with dogs. Some people get nervous around unleashed dogs. As a courtesy, have a leash on standby to clip to your dog when encountering other hikers.
l Before venturing out, take time to train at home. Teach your dog to come to you for treats whenever you pass by other walkers. After he masters that activity, teach him to come to you when another dog approaches. Get other pet owners to help you train your dog by asking them to walk past you with their pets, while you call your pet to you and give him a treat as a reward. Your dog will learn not to interfere with passersby.
l Remember to carry cleanup bags everywhere you walk, even the woods. Have respect for your surroundings, wildlife and fellow hikers by scooping up and carrying pet waste out of the woods, if there are no trash cans around.
l Pets and humans need to stay hydrated, so bring water for two and a collapsible pet bowl. Don’t allow your dog to drink from puddles, ponds, lakes or streams, as they may contain parasites, bad bacteria or toxins.
When your hike is finished, give your dog a thorough exam for ticks and parasites. Ask your vet to recommend a specific flea/tick comb to check your pet. (There is only one type I have found that works well).
Pay special attention to her feet, pads, belly, ears, and any skin folds and crevices. If you do spot a tick, I recommend keeping a tick twister to remove the parasite and all mouth parts immediately. I suggest using an essential oil called Purification on the tick bite area to help prevent any swelling and infection.
Be careful when removing a tick, as contact with its blood can transmit infection to your dog or to you. Clean the bite area and check it daily. If irritation persists, or if the tick was engorged with blood, contact your vet.
Dr. Cynthia Maro is a veterinarian at the Ellwood Animal Hospital in Ellwood City and the Chippewa Animal Hospital in Chippewa Township. She writes a biweekly column on pet care and health issues. If you have a topic you’d like addressed, please email ellwood firstname.lastname@example.org.