Before you head out into the great outdoors, gear up and pack these essentials.

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couple surrounded by trees hiking on grassy trail with two dogs on leashes
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No matter the time of year, a vigorous hike makes for wonderful, scenic exercise for both you and your dog. However, it is important to be prepared for any dangers that you could encounter on the hike as well as additional safety measures that you need to keep in mind when hiking with a dog. Most of us are aware of the abundance of ticks but what about other concerns, like drinking out of streams or running into wild animals? We talked to Jennifer Freeman, DVM, PetSmart resident veterinarian and pet care expert, to get tips on how to hike safely with our dogs.

Bring your own water.

It may seem innocuous to let your dog drink from a stream or river along your hike, but Freeman says that you should avoid that. Bring your own water for yourself and your dog. Why? "Pet parents should keep a close eye on them as dogs are susceptible to ingesting the parasite Giardia. Water in springs, lakes, and ponds are frequently contaminated with the parasite," she says. "If your dog ingests Giardia, symptoms might include diarrhea, abdominal discomfort, and gas. Giardia can also rarely be transmitted from dogs to humans." Bringing your own water eliminates this risk.

Keep your dog on a leash.

If you are hiking in the woods, then a leash will ensure that your dog won't run off. You should stay along marked trails to reduce the risk of running into wild animals and remain hyper-aware of your surroundings. "Keep your dogs leashed to avoid them wandering too far off the trail which could also be dangerous," she says. "Chasing after a bunny or an encounter with a rattlesnake could all result in serious consequences."

Bring enough supplies.

You will want to bring a first aid kit, additional water to keep you and your pup from getting dehydrated, and plenty of treats and snacks. Hiking is a strenuous activity. You may not notice your exertion in the cooler weather, but you still need to prepare for rest, food, and water breaks. Freeman also recommends bringing along dog food with a bowl and any medications that you or your dog take.

Have Fido don hiking booties.

"Damaged paw pads are also something pet parents should be mindful of when taking their pups on hikes. Hiking terrain can be filled with sharp rocks, sticks, thorns, and even cacti depending on the region where you hike, which can cause irritation, punctures, or lacerations on dogs' paw pads," Freeman says. "A good idea is to bring along a pair of hiking booties to help protect your pup's paws from extreme heat or cold and rough terrain." For example, the Grip Trex Dog Boot by Ruffwear ($37.50, keep their paws warm and safe on outdoor adventures.

Do a health check ahead of time.

Before going on a long hike, you should make sure that your dog is up-to-date on his annual health checks and vaccinations. "Pet parents need to ensure their pet is protected against fleas and ticks, especially when spending time outdoors. Year-round treatment is ideal and there are a variety of products that offer protection," Freeman says. "You should always check yourself and your dog after hiking for any tag along ticks that jumped on for a free ride.  Pet parents should make sure that pets are also on a heartworm preventative since mosquitoes transmit the disease." And, if you plan on swimming, make sure to use a waterproof flea and tick treatment so that it doesn't wash off in the water.


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