Outdoors with Pets

Outdoors with Pets

There's nothing more fun than a jaunt outdoors with your pet. Here's how to make your outing easier and safer.

Before you go

Contact the area to see if a permit is needed and obtain one if you need to.
Learn about the available hikes in the area so you don't exceed your pet's abilities.
Check the weather, terrain, wildlife, and trail conditions. Pay close attention to the weather forecast as conditions can change quickly.
If you are going to use a pack for your pet, acclimate your pet to it first.
Pack extra food and water for your pet in case of delays.
If hunting is in season, make sure to put a bright orange or red scarf on your pet.
Even if you do not plan on keeping your pet leashed, bring a leash. You never know when you will need it.
Carry bear spray if you will be in bear country.

Enjoying the outdoors

Follow all rules.
Even if not required, we strongly recommend keeping your pet leashed to avoid its temptation to exploring motions and scents causing its escape.
If you are using a pet pack and going by creeks, seal the contents in bags.
Pack out everything you pack in.
Have your pet defecate off the trails.
Don't allow your pet to trample vegetation, dig, or chase or hunt wildlife.
Don't allow your pet to run up to people or challenge other pets.
Step off the trail to let horses or people pass.
Don't allow your dog to bark unnecessarily.
Watch for effects of heat and carry 8 ounces of water for every hour of planned hiking. Always give water.
Don't allow pets to drink from sea or surface water as it may be contaminated. Watch for symptoms of giardia such as diarrhea, abdominal cramps, bloating, and loss of appetite.
Avoid hiking from 10 a.m.- 2 p.m., the hottest part of the day. This is particular important in June through August.
Allow 1/3 of your total time to hike down and 2/3 to hike up.

National lands

Rules vary depending on the type of national land.

  • National forests. Pets generally not required to be leashed unless it is a designated wilderness area. Required to be on leash in developed recreation sites.
  • National grasslands. Pets generally allowed.
  • National historic site. Pets generally allowed.
  • National historical parks. Pets generally allowed.
  • National monuments. 6 foot leash generally required. Pets cannot be unattended at campsite, car, or trailhead. Pets allowed in campgrounds and picnic areas. Pets are not allowed on trails.
  • National parks. 6 foot leash generally required. Pets cannot be unattended at campsite, car, or trailhead. Pets allowed in campgrounds and picnic areas. Pets are not allowed on trails.
  • National recreation areas. Pets generally allowed.
  • National seashores. Generally not allowed on trails, but permitted on beaches.
  • National wildlife refuges. Generally allowed with leash on trails.


After any outdoor activity, check your pet for burrs and seeds.
Cactus, stinging nettle, and thorns - For obvious reasons, make sure pets steer clear of these.
Foxtails - These can be lethal if they get stuck in your pet. Make sure you check your pet from head to toe for these after coming inside. They can stick in pet's eyes, nose, ears, between toes, or in the mouth. Once stuck if left intact they will work their way in to your pet.
Mushrooms - Be careful. Many of these can be toxic to pets if ingested.
Poison ivy, oak, and sumac. - If your pet contacts, do not pet them until they have been bathed. Bath any pet that has contacted these with rubber gloves to avoid transfer to you.
Hazardous plants. The following are widely considered to be hazardous to pets and contact with your pet should be avoided.

  • Aloe Vera
  • Amaryllis
  • Autumn Crocus
  • Azalea
  • Begonia
  • Castor Bean
  • Daffodil
  • Dieffenbachia
  • False Jerusalem Cherry
  • Foxglove
  • Geranium
  • Hydrangea
  • Iris
  • Jack in the Pulpit
  • Lantana
  • Lily including Calla, Easter, English, and Lily of the Valley
  • Mistletoe
  • Oleander
  • Philodendron
  • Poinsettia
  • Rhubarb
  • Rosary Pea
  • Scheffelera
  • Tulip
  • Yew

Summer and warm weather

Be particularly careful if you have an old or young pet as they are more sensitive to heat. Flat-faced pets like Pekingese, Persians, and Pugs are particularly vulnerable.
Stay within your pet's heat tolerance and make certain to ease your pet back in to your summer exercise routine gradually.
Watch for signs of heat stress - flushing of inside of ears, heavy panting, thickened saliva, and thirst. If you notice these, reduce activity and cool pet down.
Heat stroke is a true emergency. Symptoms include difficulty breathing, high body temperature, rapid breathing, vomiting, and ultimately collapse. If you believe that your pet has heat stroke:

  • Get into the shade.
  • Submerge your pet briefly in cool (not ice) water or gently hose down or wrap in cool, wet towels.
  • Encourage but do not force water.
  • See a vet as soon as possible.

Limit exposure to the sun and particularly avoid the hours from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.
Light-skinned and pink-nosed pets can get sunburn especially easily. Use sunscreen particularly on ears, nose, and any shaved spots 30 minutes before going outside. Special pet sunscreen is available.
Always provide shade and water. Remember that shade always moves.
Unless recommended by your vet, do not shave your pet's hair. The hair serves as insulation from the heat.
Do keep your pet's hair brushed so it can breathe. Also keep it clear of mats and tangles.
Change your pet's water more frequently as bacteria breed more rapidly in warm weather.
Let your pet walk through a sprinkler or a kiddy pool with a few inches of water. Never leave a pet unattended near a filled kiddy pool as small pets can drown in there.
Make sure any paved surface or sand you are going on is not too hot for your pet's paws.

Wildlife encounters

  • Big cats (cougars and mountain lions) - Maintain eye contact, try to make loud noises and make yourself appear as large as possible. Slowly back away. Throw sticks and rocks. Do not run away. If attacked, fight back.
  • Black bears - Do not run away from bear. Stand and face the bear, make eye contact without staring. Speak quietly and walk backwards. Do not block the bear's escape route. If the bear charges, stand your ground and spray with pepper. If the bear attacks, play dead.
  • Coyotes - Be careful as coyotes will often try and lure dogs into pack.
  • Insects - If there are biting insects in the area, apply a bug repellant to your pet. If a bee stings your pet and their face begins to swell or they experience trouble breathing, call a vet immediately.
  • Black Widow spiders, centipedes, and scorpions can all cause dangerous and painful bites to your pet.
  • Moose - If you see a moose, do not stare it down. Turn around and go elsewhere.
  • Porcupines - If your pet is attacked, make certain to remove the quills quickly as an infection can begin very soon. If possible, take your pet to a vet for quill removal. If you are not able to get to a vet right away, use wire cutters to cut all but one inch off the quill and then use a pliers to yank each out quickly. Make sure to check the pet's mouth for any you may have missed.
  • Rattlesnakes - If you hear a rattle, hold your pet back. Back away. If your pet is bitten get it to a hospital or vet with as little physical movement as possible – try not to allow pet to walk. Encourage bleeding.
  • Skunks - If your pet is sprayed, we recommend a solution of one quart hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup baking soda, and one tablespoon of dish soap. Mix well and apply all over, keeping away from eyes. Let soak for three minutes and then rinse. Follow up with a shampoo.
  • Ticks - Very small and can be hard to see - the size of a pinhead. Can carry Lyme disease and transmit to your pet within 36-48 hours of initial bite. If your pet becomes lethargic, feverish, lame, or experiences a loss of appetite, see your vet. Can also carry Canine Ehrlichiosis and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. Use preventative (collar, ointment, or shampoo) your vet has recommended. If in wooded areas, stay in middle of trails away from tall grass and bushes. Always check your pet all over after being outside in areas with ticks. Give extra attention to ears and area between toes. To remove a tick, use tweezers. Avoid leaving part of the tick in your dog or squeezing the tick. If tick was attached, clean the area with hydrogen peroxide and apply a topical antibiotic.
  • Toads - Contain toxins. If your pet bites a toad, contact your vet immediately.

Winter and cold weather

Be particularly careful if you have an old or young pet as they are more sensitive to cold.
Remember that you can exercise your pet indoors as well!
Be even more vigilant about using leashes during winter as snow and ice can cause pets to lose their scent and become lost.
Do not use metal choke or prong collars in cold weather. We do not recommend using them in any weather but pets can have health issues related to cold weather use.
For very little or short-haired pets, consider a sweater or other clothing.
Watch for hypothermia
Low body temperature, decreased breathing rate, shivering, weakness, and lethargy are all signs.
If you believe your pet is affected, move it to a shelter or inside and wrap it in a sleeping bag or blankets and gently rub. Seek veterinary assistance.
Do not use an electric heating pad.
Pets can get frostbite. Ears, legs, paws, and tails are the most common areas. Frostbitten skin is red or gray.
Use booties to prevent ice from forming between your pet's toes. If you do not use booties and ice has formed, paws can be dipped in warm water to remove.
Rinse your pet's paws when they have walked on surfaces with salt or deicers. If they have been on these surfaces, do not let your pet lick its paws before you rinse them.
Avoid having pets outside for prolonged periods when temperature is below 20 degrees.
Snow is not a source of drinking water. Make sure your pet has access to fresh water and use caution when placing metal bowls out in freezing weather as pet's tongues can stick.
Watch closely for antifreeze, spilled or stored. Very tiny amounts can be fatal in a very short amount of time. If you suspect your pet has ingested an amount, seek veterinary help immediately. Drunkenness or vomiting are two symptoms of this poisoning.
Be on the lookout for predators. Normally shy animals could come out for food.
Be careful around ponds, streams, and lakes. Pets can drown in water that is only partially frozen.
Avoid backcountry walks due to avalanche danger.
Dry your pet thoroughly after cold weather outdoor fun.
Watch out for dry skin. To help keep skin moisturized, cut back on baths, increase brushing, and increase fat in diet. Use a moisturizing shampoo in your pet's bath.


Incorrect or missing information? Please contact us and let us know.


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