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Safety tips for exploring the great outdoors with your pet

March 20, 2019

The spring and summer months are an excellent time to have amazing adventures exploring the outdoors with your dog and maybe even your cat.

Ensure the experience is a positive one by taking steps to protect your pet’s health and minimize encounters with wildlife. Here are a few things to consider.

Before venturing outside, remember safety first

Side view of dog wearing collar id on a blue sky day outdoors

Before exploring outdoors with your pet, whether you’re going for a hike or planning an overnight camping trip, it’s essential to ensure your furry friend is as safe and healthy as possible. Here are some important tips to keep in mind:

  • Make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date for flea, tick and heartworm prevention.
  • Ensure that your pet is microchipped, has a collar with tags and is registered with the BC Pet Registry in case they venture off on their own and get lost.
  • Consider whether your pet can handle a long hike. Over-exercising a puppy can lead to joint and bone problems and long walks can also be tough on an older dog’s joints.
  • Ask your vet if it’s okay for your dog to carry a hiking pack. If so, let him get used to it and build up strength on short walks. Make sure that it doesn’t exceed 10% of his body weight.

Remember to keep pets on a leash

Black dog on leash in park looking up at woman

Keeping your pets on leash helps to ensure the ecological integrity of your surroundings as well as keeps our pets safe. When walking or hiking your pets outdoors, keep the following in mind:

  • Keep pets on a leash at all times on marked trails, including your cat. If you’re thinking of taking your cat outside it should be leash-trained, and comfortable wearing a harness, along with their age and fitness also being taken into account.
  • When walking outdoors with your pets, it’s important to be respectful of migrating shorebirds and nesting birds in the spring. Keep out of grassy areas along the shoreline where waterfowl build their nests from about April to June and watch for male ducks and geese guarding pathways near water.
  • Pick up and carry your dog or cat in a backpack if you encounter another pet on the trail or if kitty becomes tired at a particularly steep part of the trail.
  • Birds will defend their young, from people and animals passing too close to their nests. To avoid being chased or dive-bombed, by crows in particular, pay attention when you hear them cawing and change your route, keeping a safe distance.

Bear proof your campsite

Photo credit: Michael Beckett

Hungry bears emerge from their dens in the spring with their cubs so remember to be bear aware to keep both you and your pet safe while camping. To ensure your safety, do the following:

  • Seal away human and pet food or storing them out of reach. Use bear-safe food storage lockers and if there aren’t any available hang food by a rope from a tree branch.
  • Make sure the food is suspended 10 feet off the ground and several feet away from the nearest tree. Use the same methods to store other smelly items that can attract bears, such as toiletries, garbage, dirty camping stoves and recyclables. Items such as soap, deodorant and bug spray can also be kept inside your vehicle.
  • Hike in groups and don’t be afraid to make noise to avoid catching bears by surprise. Also, avoid hiking during dawn or dusk when bears are most active.

Protect your pet from health hazards

Tick on a dog

There are a number of outdoor health hazards that pet guardians should make themselves aware of before embarking on outdoor playtime with their four-legged friends. Consider the following:

  • Never let your pet drink from streams or ponds as these sources can contain infection-causing bacteria. Carry enough water on your person for both you and your pet.
  • Certain types of plants are toxic to cats and dogs. It’s a good idea to read up on which ones are harmful for your pet before venturing outside.
  • Check for ticks after spending time outside with your pet and if you see one remove it immediately. Be sure to look between the toes, around the tail, under the front legs, around the eyelids and in and around the ears and under the collar.

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