Dog first aid: How to help your buddy when on the trail

Marion Fernandez

There are few better hiking companions than those of the four-legged variety. Our furry friends are always up for an adventure, and what’s more they don’t complain and they look darned cute while they’re at it. Dogs are great partners for on the trail, but it’s important to ensure that they stay happy, healthy, and ready for the next adventure. Knowing some basic first aid for your pooch is a must before you bring him into a new situation.

Just like you wouldn’t hit the trail without preparation, knowledge and basic first aid skills for yourself, you should make sure you know some skills for caring for your pet. Pet first aid is often similar to first aid for people, and will help keep your pet healthy and comfortable. Knowing these tips for keeping your pooch healthy will help to keep him around for many more adventures in the future.

Before Hitting the Trail

Where you go, your dog goes too. Taking your dog as you train for hikes will prepare your dog for what lies ahead on your hiking adventure.

It’s important to make sure your pet is healthy enough to join you on a hike. Know his capabilities. Just like you wouldn’t tackle a ten-mile trail without practice, your pooch should be alongside training while you gear up for big hikes. That way you won’t exhaust or overexert your pet and s/he will be physically capable of the trip, thus reducing the need for first aid.

Research the trail you will be hiking to make sure the terrain is suitable for your pet. Check the forecast, as you don’t want your pet to overheat or get cold paws. Pack enough food and water for both you and your furry friend to make sure they stay hydrated and energized. Many of the items in your first aid kit can be used for your pet, in the same manner, you would use them on yourself. Once you’ve done advanced preparation, you’ve given your pooch the best chance at staying healthy and happy on the trail.

What to do if your dog has heat exhaustion

 Exercise combined with a hot day can result in heat exhaustion in dogs. Signs of heat exhaustion will be excessive panting and signs of discomfort. Chances are, if you’re starting to feel overheated, then your dog may feel the same way.

Cool your furry friend down if they face over heating

If you think your dog is experiencing heat exhaustion, take a break from your hike to allow the dog to cool down. Offer water, but don’t let him gulp it so fast that he vomits. If you have water to spare or are near a body of water, cool your dog by pouring water over his fur to cool him down. Dogs don’t sweat like humans, so they pant with their tongues and cooling the pads of their paws can help reduce their temperature. Using alcohol pads from your first aid kit on the pads will help cool them by acting the same way sweat does by quickly evaporating.

What to do if your dog gets a cut or is wounded

There are many ways your dog can get injured in the wilderness, such as stepping on a rogue stick or a piece of broken glass or a sharp rock. If your dog ends up with an injury, gauge how severe it is and try to stop the bleeding. Your dog may not even notice a minor cut, and it can be cleaned up once you’re home if it stops bleeding and clots on its own. Clean with iodine or similar, and apply an antiseptic cream to help it heal. Make sure your dog doesn’t lick it off. However, if your dog is bleeding heavily then apply pressure with a clean rag or gauze until the bleeding stops. After the bleeding stops, clean and wrap the wound and head back from your hike and visit a nearby vet to make sure the injury isn’t too severe.

What to do if your dog is stung

If your dog has been stung by a bee, apply an ice pack, give antihistamine and make sure to remove the stinger.

Your dog may stumble upon any number of stinging insects while nosing around trailside. Using the tweezers from your first aid kit, gently remove any stinger that may be present. If you have an ice pack, apply to the area to reduce any swelling. Watch for any discomfort or unusual behavior. If your dog seems to be having an allergic reaction, it’s okay to give your dog an antihistamine, just know the correct dosage based on his weight.

Especially for stings to the nose and face, it is important to have the sting checked out to make sure there is no reaction that could inhibit your dog’s breathing. Knowing what kind of insect stung your pet can help your vet to properly diagnose it.

What to do if dog has fallen or broken a bone

If your dog falls off a cliff or rock, or breaks a bone, you must get to the nearest emergency vet immediately. Some injuries may not be obvious and it could be internal. Don’t attempt to make a splint for a broken bone, but attempt to keep the dog as still as possible to keep the injury from getting any worse. When in pain or scared, your dog may nip so be careful and if the dog is showing signs of aggression, try to muzzle him to keep yourself free of injury as well. Try using a blanket or towel to transport your pet.

Take precautions that your dog doesn’t bite the wounded area so that it can heal as quickly as possible.

Familiarizing yourself with some of the most common injuries and first aid incidents that can happen while you’re on the trail can help you to make educated and quick decisions following the event your pet is hurt. That way you’ll be able to get back to the trails sooner with your furry friend at your side.

It may seem like your dog is always ready for any adventure but you have to make sure that you are always ready to take care of any situation that may arise. So pack your bags with plenty of water and treats along with a first aid kit and hit those happy trails with wagging tails!

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