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How to Protect Your Dog from Insects While Hiking


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Hiking is one of the best ways to enjoy the outdoors with your pup; getting exercise and exploring new places together can really strengthen your bond. But unlike a walk around the neighborhood where you can just grab a leash and go, hitting the trails requires more preparation. 

Besides practicing proper trail etiquette, there are also some crawling and flying dangers you should be aware of. In this guide, we'll explore some insects that you’ll want to steer clear of while hiking, plus tips on how to protect your furry buddy from them.

How to protect your dog from bees, wasps, and hornets

Bees can be found in woodlands, meadows, and other places where flowering plants abound. Wasps often build their nests in trees and hollow logs, while hornets prefer to nest in rotten logs and old wooden structures. Although honeybees, wasps, and hornets are mostly harmless, they will attack when they feel threatened. Moreover, wasps and hornets can sting multiple times, so it’s important to teach your dog to leave them alone when you’re outdoors.

If your dog has been stung, they may whine, paw at the affected area, hold up a paw (if stung there), and have swelling in the affected area. Most of the time, the irritation is mild and will go away within a day or so. However, pups who are allergic to bee, wasp, or hornet venom will require immediate medical treatment. If your dog is having difficulty breathing, vomiting, collapsing, or experiencing severe swelling, contact your vet right away.

Vet treatment for a moderate reaction typically costs between $100 and $300, while an overnight stay at an emergency clinic can rack up a bill of at least $1,500.

How to protect your dog from mosquitoes

Mosquitoes like to hang out in areas with standing water or vegetation, so be sure to take precautions when heading somewhere with ponds, swamps, trees, or bushes. Even puddles of rainwater can attract these pesky critters. 

If your pooch has been bitten by a mosquito, they will experience the same itching and red welts that you would, but these should subside on their own without treatment. Nevertheless, mosquitoes can also carry serious illnesses such as the West Nile virus, Eastern equine encephalitis, and more commonly, heartworm disease. 

It usually takes years before clinical signs of heartworm disease appear. The signs, which are most noticeable after exercise, include a soft, dry cough, shortness of breath and weakness. The cost to treat canine heartworms starts at $400.

How to protect your dog from fleas

Fleas tend to hide in many places outdoors, particularly in cool and shady spots such as tall grass, woodpiles, and debris. Flea bites appear as red, raised dots on your dog’s skin and are usually smaller than other insect bites. If your pup has a stronger reaction to flea bites, then the affected area will be larger. 

Unfortunately, flea bites can also cause more serious conditions in your canine companion, with the biggest concerns being anemia, tapeworms, and flea allergy dermatitis. Flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) is the most common skin disease in dogs in the US—those who are allergic to flea saliva will likely experience severe itchiness, scaly skin, hair loss, and secondary skin infections. Flea treatment and prevention products normally cost between $5 and $30 a month.

How to protect your dog from ticks

Ticks can be found in all parts of the United States, especially in the Northeast. They live in brush piles and tall grass, with many just sitting on the end of vegetation, waiting for a host that they can hop onto. Most active in the spring and summer, ticks are carriers of various ailments, including Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, anaplasmosis, and ehrlichiosis.

Lyme disease and anaplasmosis share many of the same symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, lameness, and joint pain. Dogs with Rocky Mountain spotted fever may experience fever, loss of appetite, and seizures, while canines with ehrlichiosis may suffer from nose bleeds, runny eyes, and poor appetite. When it comes to tick-borne diseases, the average cost of vet treatment is $1,500. 

How to protect your dog from fire ants

Fire ants are often seen in moist areas. They tend to build their nests around structures like the bases of trees and bushes, and will usually sting if their nest is disturbed. Symptoms of a fire ant sting appear within 15 minutes and include redness, swelling, and thickening of the skin. The affected area may become bigger and wider after several hours and can be very itchy. 

If your pooch is acting normally after being stung a few times, then there’s likely nothing to worry about; the sting sites should improve within 24-72 hours. However, if your dog was stung by multiple ants, they may have a severe reaction to the venom. Some dogs can also develop anaphylaxis from a single sting. If your pup is having difficulty breathing, not responding to your voice or touch, or having seizures, then they should be taken to an emergency clinic immediately. 

The cost to treat fire ants depends on the severity of your dog’s reaction, but a short hospitalization typically starts at $600.

Tips on How to Keep Your Dog Safe on Hikes

Don’t let creepy-crawlies keep you and your best friend off the trails. Follow these tips for a fun and safe time outdoors.

  • Use an insect repellent or preventive, and make sure it’s safe for dogs. Never use a human product on your pooch, especially if it contains DEET, which can be toxic to canines. Aside from applying the repellent directly onto your pup’s coat, you may want to soak their collar or bandana in it too for added protection. Topical and oral chew preventatives are available that cover fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and even some types of parasites. Applied once monthly, these are easy ways to keep your pup safe. 
  • Unless your dog has really solid recall and you have complete off-leash control, it’s probably best to keep them on a leash to ensure they don’t disturb any nests or stick their nose in places where insects usually hide. 
  • Always do a post-hike check. Before heading home, check your dog for ticks, fleas, and other insects. Inspect all parts of your furry friend, especially between the toes, under the armpits, and other hard-to-reach areas.  
Insects can cause more than just itchy bites in your dog. Protect yourself from unexpected vet costs by getting pet insurance before your next outdoor adventure!
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