Coco's Musings

Hiking With Your Dog

By Coco the Cat

The powers that be INSIST I have to put at least one article on here for dogs. I don’t get it, but hey, I’m an agreeable cat so I’ll concede to at least one dog article per month!

This month, in honor of the cooling temperatures, I wanted to talk to you about taking your dog hiking. Hiking is a great activity for both you and your dog, and Northeast Florida is the home to some wonderful parks!

If you and your dog aren’t regular walkers or hikers or if your dog has any health problems, make sure to check with your veterinarian to make sure that your dog is healthy enough to take a good hike. Technically, the same thing applies to you too! Except you should check with your human doctor, not Dr. Esra! As always, if starting a new activity with your dog, start slow and build up to longer hikes.

Before taking your dog for a hike, make sure he or she is up to date on heartworm and flea and tick medication. Out in the woods you may come across fleas, ticks, and mosquitos, so it’s important to make sure your dog is protected! Ticks and mosquitos both spread a lot of different, nasty diseases, so you don’t want them on you or your dog! You should also make sure that he has a Leptospirosis vaccine. Leptospirosis can be spread to your dog from water on the trail, and you can catch it from your dog. It’s a nasty bacterium, and it can make you and your dog very sick. Thankfully, there is an effective vaccine available.

Some things to consider when hiking in Florida (or anywhere in the southern United States!). Keep your dog away from any water source! Florida is home to Alligators and a lot of venomous snakes, many of whom like the water! Alligators are ambush predators, and they will try to take your dog. Try to keep your dog at least 4 feet from any standing water to make sure everyone gets home safe and sound! The exception to this would be the beach! While I wouldn’t let your dog swim too far out because of the surf, wading and playing in the waves is a fun activity for both you and your dog!

It is generally best to hike with your dog in a harness or a head halter, especially if they pull on the leash. Pulling with the leash attached to your dog’s collar can cause difficulty breathing for your dog, and there is even research out there saying that it could damage your dog’s thyroid gland. When hiking in a park, it’s also better to use a six-foot leash, not one of the retractable leashes. Retractable leashes are hard to control, and if they get wrapped around you or your dog, they can cause serious injury. You also may not be able to get your dog back to you quickly enough if you come across another dog or a wild animal.

So now you know what to do to go out and enjoy the sun and the cool weather! Get out and check out all of our beautiful state parks and have a good time!