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Dr. Joanne Roesner, DVM, DABVP with Harvey at Pisgah National Forrest

Having just returned from a long weekend with my dog in Brevard, North Carolina, I can truly attest that animal family make wonderful travel partners. Like children, however, we need to be aware of certain accommodations for their safety and comfort.

Temperatures in summer can rise to levels that pose a danger to pets. Cats and dogs are what we call crepuscular species, meaning they have evolved to be active primarily in the dusk and dawn and to avoid hotter temperatures by taking a siesta in shaded burrows. Some species in the cat family are even completely nocturnal. When we impose human schedules — like planning an all-day hike — we need to help keep dogs cool. Spray mist bottles can be used to wet the head and torso of a hiking dog, and water should be packed to allow frequent drinks and hydration. Frequent rest breaks in the shade should be part of the plan as well. Dogs are natural sprinters, not distance athletes. In their zeal to please, many dogs will push their exertion into an unsafe range. 

Activities in nature pose other concerns as well. Fleas, ticks, chiggers and other external parasites abound and are health risks to both you and your pets. Before we traveled, I refreshed Harvey’s parasite prevention, so he would be safe on our waterfall-viewing hikes in Brevard. If you are traveling a great distance for outdoor fun, be aware of the specific risks in that area. Dogs going to the northeastern United States — even for short periods of time — should be vaccinated for Lyme disease. Effective immunization may take a month, so plan ahead. Travel plans to the Southwest may prompt vaccination for rattlesnakes.

Snakebites are always an emergency and often occur when dogs nose through brush unattended. In the Southeast, copperheads are our biggest concern. They are often found in areas around water. Although rattlesnakes are found east of the Mississippi River, they are less deadly than their counterparts in the West. It is often best to keep your dog on a long leash rather than allowing it to explore unhindered. This helps to prevent your dog from straying, as well as decreasing snakebite risk. Always be certain your pet is well identified and preferably microchipped with current registration before meandering in the hinterlands.

As a Golden Retriever mom and fanatic, I am also acutely aware of water hazards. Even capable swimmers can drown if caught in the current of a swift-moving, deep river. Ocean currents can be even more treacherous. Overzealous throwing of a buoy or a stick can send your dog into a situation where the distance is too long to safely swim. Dog life jackets are readily available and are a useful safety measure. Swift boat traffic, especially if drivers are consuming alcohol, are another obvious danger to swimming dog safety. If you swim with your dog in areas that are fished, be alert for fish hooks. Dead, stinky fish are a delicacy to your dog, fish hook and all. Not surprisingly, most hooks lodge in the mouth or lips.

When away for outdoor times with my dog, I always investigate local emergency care. Since I cannot call 911 for Harvey, I like to have contacts ahead of time, just in case. I also travel with a pet first aid kit and a selection of safe products for minor veterinary issues. Even minor diarrhea from eating something unknown can pose a challenge on a-four hour drive home. Most human over-the-counter antidiarrheals are unsafe in dogs, so it is best to obtain a product from your veterinarian ahead of time. If you would like a copy of our pet first aid manual, contact me through staff@lovinghands.com

Loving Hands Animal Clinic continues to offer free pet care information to the public through its Pet Care University. Their next offering is “Healthy Mouth, Healthy Pet (dental care)” by Emily McManus on Saturday, July 20 from 3 — 5 p.m. at Loving Hands Animal Clinic. For future offerings and events, check Appen News publications and Loving Hands’ Facebook and social media pages. 

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