National Walk Your Dog Week is October 1-7, 2015
Walking your dog is a great way to exercise both you and your pet! Here is some advice from the American Veterinary Medical Association on how to make walking your dog safe and enjoyable.
Make sure the dog’s collar or harness fits properly. This is important to prevent injury or escape.
Avoid areas where other dogs are allowed to roam unrestrained or places with heavy wildlife activity.
Free roaming dogs could attack your pet or be carrying a disease. Some dog walkers carry pepper spray as a last resort to ward off dogs that are aggressive. Remember to factor in the wind as the spray can unintentionally travel to you or your dog.
Consider the weather when contemplating a walk. A dog’s tolerance to heat and cold varies based on its size, body composition, hair coat, health and other factors.
Short nosed and overweight dogs seem to struggle more in hot weather. They may require frequent rests, shorter walks or a change in schedule to avoid the hottest part of the day.
In general, if you are warm, your dog is much warmer. Watch for signs of heat stress, i.e., panting harder, drooling, change in gum color, lethargic, staggering. These symptoms could lead to heat stroke and or death so consult your veterinarian immediately if your pet exhibits any of these signs.
Smaller breeds, dogs with thin or very short hair, very young and very old dogs are less likely to tolerate cold weather. Consider getting your dog a coat to keep it warm during cold-weather walks.
The temperature and condition of the walk path is important also. Hot sidewalks, roads and other surfaces can burn a dog’s footpads.
Icy paths can be a slip hazard. Broken edges of ice can be sharp enough to cut dogs’ feet. Stay away from ice especially when it is covering bodies of water.
If a walking path is cold enough, your dog’s feet could become frostbitten. If you are walking on snow or ice and there is salt or snow melting chemicals on it, walk around it or carry your dog over it as the chemicals can be harmful. During really cold days, dog booties may be a suitable option.
Limit your walks to safe areas. Avoid areas with very uneven ground or holes that could cause falls or trap feet.
Bring water for both you and your dog. If your dog can’t drink from a water bottle, bring a small bowl or a collapsible one. Even if you plan a short walk, you never know when something might delay you.
If you are walking at a dog park or dog run that has a water bowl, empty it and refill it before allowing your dog to drink from it.
Carry a pooper scooper or a bag for your dog’s leavings. Produce bags or the plastic bags newspapers come in are a great size for carrying along on walks. Simply put the bag over your hand, pick up the poop, turn the bag inside out and tie it.
Carry more than one bag just to be safe and make sure there aren’t any holes in the bag. Even small holes can make a big mess!
Always make sure your pets’ identification tags and rabies vaccination tag are up to date with your current contact information. Microchipped animals must be properly registered to be accessible in case you lose your furry family member.
by Elisabeth J. Giedt, DVM
Veterinary Viewpoints is provided by the faculty of the OSU Veterinary Medical Hospital. Certified by the American Animal Hospital Association, the hospital is open to the public providing routine and specialized care for all species and 24-hour emergency care, 365 days a year.