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November 17th is National Take a Hike Day  Before you hit the trail with your dog, there are a few things you should know and consider. Here are a tips and tricks to make the most of your trail time. 

Pre-Hike Essentials: 

Start by making sure your dog is up-to-date on all its vaccinations and attach your dog’s rabies tag to its collar so that it’s visible. Then, clearly tag your animal with your name, phone number and address, and make sure their microchip information is up-to-date. If your dog is currently on any preventative medicines (i.e., for fleas, ticks or heartworms), make sure there are no wounds that could become infected. 

As always, if you’re unsure about whether your dog is in good enough health to join you on the trail, a trip to your veterinarian is a good idea to discuss your dog’s specific situation. 

Check the Weather Conditions : 

It’s always a good idea to check the weather before hitting the trails. If the weather forecast is predicting inclement weather, the safest option is to stay close to home. However, colder temperatures don’t necessarily disqualify your canine companion from coming along on the hike, in fact, many breeds like German Shepherds, Akitas and Alaskan Malamutes are built for the cold weather. Even if your dog isn’t specifically a cold weather breed, as long as you plan according to the anticipated weather conditions, you can still bring your dog along if you take the proper precautions. 

Choosing the Right Trail: 

Choosing a dog-friendly trail is important all year long, not just in the winter. But, with winter weather comes additional safety measures that should be taken. Some winter trails are just not appropriate for dogs, even if it’s a dog friendly trail. 

What are the Trail Conditions Like? 

How much (if any) snow is on the trail? Is your dog large enough to hike a trail with snow? Will the trail become dangerous for your pet if it begins to snow? How much of the trail is flat? Are there dangerous areas won’t be easy for your dog to navigate safely?  These are all questions that you should ask before embarking on your hike. Deep or powdery snow may cause your dog to sink, at which point your adventure will become less of a hike and more of an obstacle course. This can be become exhausting for your pet and can increase the likelihood of your dog sustaining an injury. 

How Long is the Hike? 

Are you confident your pet can hike the trail from start to finish? Stick to trails you are confident you and your dog can make it through, and also make sure that it’s possible to take a break if needed. When in doubt, take a practice run. This is a good idea especially if your pup is a new to winter hiking. Practice hikes help to train your dog and get them used to moving through ice, snow, water and other elements you may encounter during a hike, for extended periods of time.

Make Sure you Pack the Essentials:

When heading out for a hike with your pup there are a lot of items you could bring, but here are a few essentials: 

  • Leash, collar and/or harness: Even if some dog-friendly trails allow pets to be off leash, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have these handy, should you need them. 
  • Bowl, Water & Snacks: Just like a human, your pup will get hungry and thirsty on a  hike. Keep this in mind when considering the size of your dog and the length of your hike. They will be burning more calories than usual, so it’s a good idea to keep water and treats readily available. 
  • Booties, Jackets, Sweaters: Depending upon your dog breed and the temperature/precipitation of your hiking destination, dog booties or a jacket may help keep your dog warm and safe. Booties, or some sort of paw covering, will help your pet stay mobile by keeping snow, ice, mud, etc. from accumulating on their paws. A sweater or jacket will help short haired, single-coated breeds better handle colder temperatures and extended outdoor time. 

Safety First:

Be sure to bring along a first aid kit for you pet and yourself. Most of what you need for your pet will be found in your own kit. A styptic pencil will stop most minor cuts from bleeding quickly, and dog-specific aspirin is formulated so it will stifle pain without giving your pet stomach ulcers.

Items to include in your doggy first-aid kit can include:

  • A pet first aid book that will have basic pet first aid instructions, info for the nearest emergency vet, poison control, your regular veterinarian’s phone number and a copy of shot records.
  • Self-cling bandages
  • Gauze pads
  • Tape
  • Blanket
  • Peroxide
  • Ice pack
  • Tweezers
  • Antibiotic ointment

While hiking can be a wonderful activity for you and your pet, accidents can occur on while on the trail.  

Whether you’re heading out on the trail to celebrate National Take a Hike Day or just enjoy getting some trail time on a regular basis, these tips will help you and your pet be more prepared for what the hike may bring. Happy Trails! 

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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.

1 Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.