Southern California has so much to offer hikers and their four-legged companions. Many of our pets are excited to hit the trails and here are some important considerations to keep your pet safe!

Heat-related illness: Beware of signs including incessant panting, weakness or staggering, vomiting and disorientation. If these signs occur, your pet should be taken to a veterinarian. Please cool your pet with tepid water and use the air conditioner or windows of the car on your way to the veterinarian.

Acclimatization/Training: Allow acclimation to exercise and heat. The most heat-related hospitalizations occur on the first warm day of spring or summer instead of the hottest day of the year. Select a trail that matches you and your dog’s conditioning.

Trail Location: Avoid trails covered with sharp rocks, hot surfaces or adjacent deep drops. Ensure trails are shaded to prevent sunburn (especially pets with white, non-pigmented skin and coat) and consider dog boots to protect paws.

Hydration: Pack a similar volume of water for you and your dog, along with a collapsible water dish. A good rule of thumb is to use your own thirst to gauge your dog’s thirst. Avoid lake and river water which can contain organisms (Giardia, Leptospirosis) that cause illness.

Rattlesnakes: Rattlesnakes cause local injury (bruising and pain) or systemic signs (shock and neurologic deterioration). Keeping your dog leashed helps avoid envenomation. If a rattlesnake bites your dog, please keep your dog calm. Do not apply tourniquets, ice or attempt to remove the venom. Carry your pet to the car and visit the nearest veterinarian immediately.

Contact: Know the location of the nearest veterinarian and keep a charged cell phone in your pack for emergency situations.

Because of the severity of injury that can occur during hikes, please take appropriate caution for your pet. Consider consulting with your family care veterinarian for additional information.

Stephanie Istvan, VMD, DACVECC 

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