Environmental hazards cont’d
Water borne illness
While hiking most people filter or treat their water in one way or another before drinking or cooking with it. If you are planning to treat your water, do so in a way which is dog friendly. Dogs, just like people, can contract Giardia . Giardia can be contracted through infected water, soil, or direct contact with fecal matter. This parasite can wreck havoc on ones digestive system: diarrhea, bloating, cramping, nausea, and vomiting. It seems there are MANY different strains of this parasite and not all pass between species. Another water borne illness is Leptospirosis . This bacteria is most often found in warm, humid areas and stagnant water, such as ponds. Dogs with a higher likelihood of coming in contact with wild animals or urine have an increased chance of contracting this disease. BAD news is it can be passed from animal to human. Symptoms may not be immediately present or may surface and then lay dormant. Symptoms may include, fever, joint and muscle soreness, vomiting, decreased appetite, discharge from eyes and nose, and possible frequent urination. This disease attacks the kidneys, untreated it can do permanent damage. Treat your dogs water and reduce the chance of introducing the parasite to the body.
Dog related illness
Diseases are ever present in our life, when we have the ability to reduce the risks there is no reason not to. I have never had my dog treated for Kennel Cough but before we leave for the trail it will be one of the shots she gets. This will provide her with a defense in case we meet other dogs who are positive for it. Many kennels and boarding facilities also require dogs to be immunized against it, if unexpected dog care is needed it’s one less thing to worry about. I’d rather deal with this respiratory disease preventively then have her come down with a hacking cough that is highly contagious to other dogs.
Weather effects dogs just as it effects people. If you get caught in a snow storm you’ll want to be sure you have the proper gear to keep both yourself and your dog safe and warm. Dogs may originate from wild animals but they have been bred to fit specific needs, transported across the world to new environments where their genetic design doesn’t mesh with the climate. With no warning of where they are going they don’t pack the proper coat and are often improperly dressed. If you are hiking through snow with a Jack Russell or some other wirehaired breed, I hope you have a coat for them. They don’t have the undercoat which provides them with insulation against the cold. If your dog is shivering than they are in the beginning stages of hypothermia, just like a person. A dog’s normal temperature is between 100-102°F, if it is below 95°F for an extended period of time you run the risk of long term organ damage.
Warming a dog on the trail may seem like a difficult task. Dogs and humans alike need to have their body temperature brought up gradually. The first necessity is shelter of some sort where they can seek warmth away from wind. If being wet is part of the equation than drying them the best you can is a must. Wrap them in a dry blanket, space blankets are perfect for redirecting heat back to the source. Heat water and place it in a water bottle WRAP IT in fabric and place it near the body, under the legs against the belly is a good place, be sure it won’t burn. Provide warm water for them, adding sugar or broth of some sort may entice them to drink. If they won’t drink don’t force them. Be aware, hypothermia and frostbite can go hand in hand. Look for signs of frostbite, the most common places on dogs are the: ears, tail, pads of feet and scrotum. The skin will appear pale white or blue. As circulation returns it may become red and swollen, skin may even peel off. Due to lack of blood flow through damaged tissue the area will turn black and may eventually fall off. Do NOT attempt to rub or massage frostbite area to bring warmth back to it, instead use warm compresses. If EITHER of these, hypothermia or frostbite, occurs you should seek medical attention for your dog (or you).
Maybe snow isn’t a problem for you, instead you’re plowing along with horse flies buzzing you and wishing the temperatures would dip below freezing. Your dog may be thinking the same thing in between their attempts to eat the flies dive bombing their head. Dogs run a higher risk than people for hyperthermia, overheating. Dogs do not sweat, their main method of cooling their body is to pant. The lining of their lungs act, just as our skin does, as a surface to evaporate and carry warm moist air away from their body. Dogs with short faces have a harder time breathing and therefore more difficulty bringing their temperature down. Some dogs will naturally try to cool their body by seeking shade or laying in water, encourage your dog to do these things. If your dog is carrying a pack or has some sort of layer on their body that may be trapping heat be sure to remove it. Dogs who are overheating may be: panting heavily, acting sluggish or confused, be looking for shade or a cool place, gums may appear red or blue, may vomit or have a seizure. If their core temperature goes too high the possibility of permanent damage or death is present. Normal temperature is ~ 100 – 102°F, if their body temperature rises to 105 – 106°F heat exhaustion is a possibility, above that you are looking at heat stroke with can lead to brain damage or death.
Bringing the body temperature down gradually is very important. Get your dog into a shaded area. Pour cool water over their body, DO NOT submerge them in cold water as this may shock their system and cause blood vessels to contract making it more difficult for them to cool themselves. Pay attention to their feet and underbody as a means to cool them. Offer them cool water to drink, you may add an electrolyte solution* into the water to help them recover. Talk with your vet about appropriate amount of electrolyte for your specific animal. If your dog has suffered heatstroke take them to a vet. Although they may not be showing any discomfort they may have internal damage.
*Homemade Electrolyte Solution for dogs
1 Quart clean water (chlorine free)
1 Tablespoon Sugar or Honey
1 Teaspoon Salt
Having a premade mixture of sugar and salt in your first aid kit is an easy way to have electrolytes on hand for your dog