Safety tips for exploring the great outdoors with your pet | BC SPCA
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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

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


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.

Cats should be leash-trained, comfortable wearing a harness and their age and fitness should also be taken into account. If cats want to spend time outside but don’t want to be on a leash, consider building them a catio instead.

Remember to keep pets on a leash

Black dog on leash in park looking up at woman

Keep pets on a leash at all times on marked trails. Pick up and carry your cat in a backpack on your shoulder if you encounter a dog on the trail or if kitty becomes tired at a particularly steep part of the trail.

Be respectful of migrating shorebirds and nesting birds in the spring. Keep pets 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.

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. Start by sealing 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. Avoid hiking during dawn or dusk when bears are most active.

Protect your pet from health hazards

Tick on a dog

It’s a good idea to carry food and water for your pet with you on long hikes and never let them drink from streams or ponds as these sources can contain infection-causing bacteria. Certain types of plants are also toxic to cats and dogs.

Remember to leave no trace – pick up after your dog and bring a collapsible litter box for your cat as well.

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.