Enjoy the scenery and have fun exploring, but always be aware of your surroundings. Knowing your dog’s behavior and the obstacles you many encounter on your hike may be life saving. You may never need the following information, but this knowledge may be necessary in an emergency:
- Never leave your dog in a parked car. Hyperthermia (very hot body temperature) or hypothermia (very low body temperature) can happen in minutes in a closed car, and can cause death very quickly. Leaving windows open is not much better, and adds escaping and theft to the risks. Hyperthermia and hypothermia can also occur while hiking in extreme temperatures. Brachycephalic (flat faced) dogs, such as pugs and boxers, are at higher risk for heat exhaustion because it is more difficult for them to get air in. Older dogs are also at greater risk, and overzealous puppies must be paced. Any dog who begins to pant should be put into the shade immediately. Use your cooling blanket, towel or piece of fabric that can be soaked with water to cool your dog if he is overheated. In extreme cases, you may need to get him to a veterinarian very quickly. Overexposure to the elements can kill.
- Know your pet’s prey drive. If he always goes after the backyard squirrels, groundhogs, birds, etc., there will be more of them in the wild, along with other more dangerous animals. Always be on the lookout for bears, coyotes, raccoons, foxes, and snakes. Your dog may smell or sense danger long before you are aware of it. Watch your dog’s behavior, and don’t ignore the warning signs he may be exhibiting. He probably wants to protect you as much as you want to protect him. The National Park Service website prepares you for bear encounters. Snakes generally like basking in the sun in rocky areas, areas near water, and on quiet roads. If you happen to be in Ramapo Reservation at dusk, it is common to see them crossing the paths as people and pets thin out. Keep your pet tethered closely to you away from snakes. Be aware and move away with caution. Snakes often travel in pairs, so you don’t want to move away from one, only to be confronted suddenly with another. The most common venomous snakes in our area are the timber rattlesnake and the northern copperhead. If your dog is bitten and you are able to safely take a picture of the snake, it will be helpful for the veterinarian or ranger to determine if an antidote is necessary. At least take note of the color and shape of the snake, but never approach it. Call ahead to your veterinarian to see if she carries the necessary antidote. Time may be critical, and you may be directed to another hospital if the antidote is not on hand.
- If your pet is bitten by any warm-blooded wild animal or pet, call your veterinarian. Besides treating any bite wounds, the state requires your veterinarian to administer a Rabies booster, even if your pet has been vaccinated. In our area Rabies is most commonly spread by the bite of an infected raccoon, coyote, fox, skunk, or bat. Stay away from these animals, especially if they seem overly friendly or sick.
- Does your pet try to eat everything at home? Threats are aplenty for “garbage gastritis” in the woods. Be aware of the temptations to your dog’s palate. Pets have been admitted to the hospital for eating rocks, getting sticks caught in their teeth, getting bitten by animals perceived as a snack, getting parasites from eating fecal matter, and getting Leptospirosis from drinking from puddles where infected wild animals have urinated. Some dogs are food driven, so be sure to have his own food on hand, and keep an eye on him at all times.
- Just like people, dogs can have allergies, too. If your dog paws at his face, has any swelling or difficulty breathing, he needs immediate veterinary care. He may have disturbed a bee or another insect and is having an allergic reaction. We recommend leaving the park and calling your veterinarian on the way.
Venomous Snakes in New Jersey – Be prepared if you see one of these snakes while hiking with your dog
Timber Rattlesnake - They have two color patterns: black or dark brown crossbands on a lighter background color of either yellow, brown or gray, and the other pattern is dark crossbands on a dark background, which can make some appear all black.
Northern Copperhead - They have an unmarked copper-colored head, and reddish-brown, coppery bodies with chestnut brown crossbands that constrict towards the midline.
This is Part 2 in a 3-Part Series. Continue reading Part 3 - After Your Hike: Before You Jump In The Car here.
You can find Part 1 - Before Your Hike: Preparations here.