Taking your pet along on your family’s camping or hiking trip? A brief trip to the vet can ensure a trip free of worry about pet health — and full of great outdoor adventure for you and your dog.
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If you’re thinking of hitting the trail with your pet, put a visit to your veterinarian’s office on your to-do list. A brief consultation can help you prioritize the preventive steps needed to protect your pet’s health and ensure a worry-free adventure.
Because before taking your pet into the great outdoors, you’ll want to take steps to protect against:
Fleas. Chances are your pet already uses monthly flea prevention. If not, start right away.
Ticks. “Ticks are by far the biggest concern,” notes Daniel O. Morris, DVM, chief of the section of dermatology and allergy in the department of clinical studies at the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pa. This is because ticks can give a number of diseases to pets and pet owners.
Scabies. This intense, itchy rash is caused by mites, which are often carried by foxes in the wild.
“Wooded areas and meadow areas are both good places for ticks and scabies. Fleas are really somewhat more of an urban problem,” says Dr. Morris.
You should check the product description on your flea preventive to find out if it also prevents ticks or scabies. However, you’ll have a hard time finding a product that prevents all three at the same time, which is why a trip to your vet is in order, says Morris.
What to Expect During a Pre-Trip Vet Visit
Here are some of the issues you can expect to discuss with your vet:
Preventive products. Your vet will recommend the right product for preventing ticks and scabies, taking into account your pet’s level of activity and where you plan to travel. If your pet is likely to be swimming on the trip, find out about whether you need to reapply the product and, if so, what dose is appropriate.
Early application. Most products are applied to a spot between the shoulder blades and spread from there, taking a few days to work, so it’s a good idea to apply them well before you pack the car and hit the road.
Overall pet health. Pets, like humans, can’t leap right from a sedentary lifestyle to running a marathon. Ask your vet whether your pet is up to the level of activity you have planned — or if you should create a training schedule in advance.
Medications. Don’t forget to bring any pills your pet takes daily. “There’s a lot of diabetic dogs out there — packing their medications is as important as packing our own,” says Morris.
Sun protection. Most dogs’ coats are enough to protect against the sun’s rays, but dogs with bare patches or de-pigmented noses should use sunscreen. And you know your dog best — a hound that lounges belly up in a sunny meadow for too long could get a bit of a burn there, too.
Heartworm prevention. Morris notes that heartworm preventative is recommended year round almost everywhere in the United States. However, if you have not been giving your dog a heartworm preventive regularly and are going to a place where mosquitoes are likely to be found, talk to your vet about what to do.
How to Look for Fleas and Ticks
Prevention is always the best approach, but you should take the time to do a visual inspection of your pet any time you go hiking or camping.
“One thing that I do think most people don’t know or understand is that, even with these reliable products, you can still find ticks attached to the skin. It takes them a while to die and fall off. The key is that they don’t engorge on blood and there is no transfer of the infectious organisms from the tick to the dog,” explains Morris.
Removing ticks from dogs is much the same as removing them from humans: Go slowly. Morris advises “gentle traction to gradually pull the head out of the skin and not leave the mouth parts. If you’re pulling with gentle traction for a few seconds to a minute, most ticks won’t be able to hold on.”
However, Morris stresses that a visual inspection and individually removing fleas or ticks is not going to be as effective in protecting your pet as using the right, veterinary-recommended preventive product.
If you’re following your vet’s instructions for prevention, your pet should safely be able to run or swim free.