As the summer vacation season approaches, many dog owners look forward to taking their pets with them as they travel to mountain lakes and wilderness areas. However, there are dangers that should be considered for dogs that venture into forests. These dangers include:
The main cause for concern is ticks. Some areas of wilderness are saturated with them, and they can attach to your dog under skin folds and in other less visible areas. Ticks can carry blood-borne pathogens that can affect the health of both dogs and their owners. Lyme disease, in particular, is carried by the deer tick, which is small and only detected by close inspection.
Symptoms of this, and many other diseases spread by ticks, are often not present for months after infection occurs, which makes treatment less effective than if it is begun in the early stages of infection. Dogs that are allowed to run in wooded areas, even in city parks, should be carefully inspected for ticks, and should be treated with a monthly topical parasite repellent.
Wild animals present multiple threats to dogs, because domesticated dogs have a predatory instinct, but little experience with non-domesticated species. Wild animals will fight when chased. Some animals, such as foxes and raccoons, have a high incidence of rabies and other contagious diseases.
Others such as skunks and porcupines will react with unpleasant defensive measures. Dogs that chase skunks will return home reeking with a foul odor from being sprayed, which is not necessarily dangerous, but can put a serious damper on your vacation. Porcupines react by releasing barbed quills that often become hooked into the muzzle of a dog that gets too close. An encounter with a porcupine often results in a trip to the animal hospital, where the quills must be removed individually.
An additional danger, especially for dogs bred for hunting, is that a dog may simply pick up the trail of an animal and disappear far into the forest. At best, this may force the owner to remain in place for days, until the dog returns. If extreme weather or a confrontation with a wild animal occurs, your dog may not be able to navigate back to the vacation spot.
Even though summer is not official hunting season, your dog may stray onto private property on which the owner hunts out of season. A dog running through the woods can resemble a wild animal when seen through dense vegetation and dappled light.
A dog owner must know their dog's nature and personality and take proper precautions before deciding whether to take their pet on vacation. If you will be going to a wilderness area, try out an urban wooded park first, to see how well the dog reacts to the intoxicating instinctual drives of their ancestors in the open woods. Also make sure that you have the contact information of a local pet clinic, like Grove Center Veterinary Hospital, in case anything does happen to your dog.