Hiking With Your Pet: A Guide to Safe, Enjoyable Outdoor Adventures
Hiking isn't just a popular activity for people; it can also be an incredibly rewarding experience for your four-legged companions. Whether you have a cat or a dog, hitting a trail can create lasting memories and strengthen the bond between you and your pet.
However, venturing into the great outdoors with your pet requires careful preparation, the right gear, and knowledge about handling unexpected situations. Here, we'll cover the basics of hiking with your pet, essential things to pack, and how to handle injuries on the trail.
Before embarking on a hike with your pet, it's important to assess their fitness level and temperament. Young, active pets that are accustomed to physical activity will likely take to hiking. If your pet is older or has health issues, then you may want to consider shorter, less strenuous hikes. Also, consider your pet's temperament — an anxious or easily agitated pet may not enjoy new environments or people.
It’s a good idea to mention hiking at your next routine exam to get your veterinarian’s opinion on your pet’s ability to hike, as well as their recommendations for preventative measures against ticks, fleas, and other potential hazards. While at the vet, also ensure your pet is microchipped, in case they get lost. They can provide insights into your pet's health, offer vaccinations if necessary, and recommend preventative measures against ticks, fleas, and other potential hazards. Once you decide on a trail (make sure it’s pet-friendly!), ensure you have the contact information of a local vet or emergency clinics, just in case.
Hiking Essentials for Pets
Leash & harness — Keep your pet on a leash and ensure their collar has current contact info so they stay on the trail, which helps ensure their safety and prevents them from disrupting wildlife. (Consider a harness for better control and to prevent strain on their neck.)
Portable bowl & extra water — It’s important that you and your pet stay hydrated. Carry enough water for both of you, and bring a collapsible bowl or something like the Springer Water Bottle.
Trail snacks — Bring some treats to reward good behavior and provide a quick energy boost
Poop bags — Leave no trace? That definitely applies to dog poop.
Sun protection — Pets can get sunburned too, especially on their nose and snout. Apply pet-safe sunscreen to areas with thin fur or exposed skin.
A backpack — If your pet tires easily, you may want to consider a backpack so you can carry them in a pinch
Hiking booties — Protect your pet’s paws with hiking boots to help them handle rough terrain
Check out this Wall Street Journal article for more hiking essentials.
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Hiking Essentials for People
Water — It’s imperative to stay hydrated, and bring more water than you expect
Snacks — Be prepared with nuts, granola, fruit, sandwiches, and other foods that’ll keep you going, even if you take a wrong turn
Portable phone charger — Not all hiking areas have service, and if you’re roaming, you’ll burn through juice quickly. Bring a portable backup charger just in case.
Sun protection — While the trees often provide a lovely canopy of shade, you’ll also want to wear a hat and sunscreen for additional protection
Bug spray — Summer means all sorts of ticks, mosquitoes, and more
Handling Injuries on Your Hike
Despite your best efforts, accidents can happen — uneven terrain, unfamiliar sites and sounds, and more. If your pet experiences an injury on the trail, here’s our advice:
Stay calm — Your pet picks up on your emotions, so remaining calm will help keep them relax
Assess the situation — Evaluate the injury — a cut or minor injury can likely be addressed with your first aid supplies.
Seek veterinary care — For more severe injuries, it's best to end the hike and seek veterinary care. If your pet is unable to walk, you might need to carry them back to the trailhead.
Once you’re home safe from your adventure, you’ll want to ensure your pet gets plenty of water and rest (they may still be tired the next day!). If you live in an area that experiences a tick season, you’ll want to give your pet a full scan and remove any that have burrowed it — yes, even if your pet is on a tick prevention medication.
Hiking with your cat or dog can be an enriching experience that offers both of you a chance to explore nature and enjoy each other's company. With proper preparation and the right gear, you and your pet can make a whole load of fun memories. Simply remember to keep both your needs and your pet's needs in mind. Happy trails!