A Pet Parent's Guide to Caring for a Dog After a Hike

Author: K. Marie Altoby K Marie Alto Updated 12 min read

A Pet Parent's Guide to Caring for a Dog After a Hike

What is that one thing that you crave after a hike? A refreshing beverage? a bath? a nap? Do you ever bring your dog along? Ever wonder what s/he needs or wants afterwards?

A good long hike through nature can be a great source of therapeutic stress relief for us humans, and it's nothing short of an unmitigated adventure for your canine companion.

While your dog may be perfectly content to lounge around and nap, as a responsible pet parent, it's your job to check them over and care for them as needed.

The only question is, what should you do? What do you check, and what tools can you use to solve any little issues that crop up?

Given the low level of awareness on this topic, I decided to make this blog post some sort of a pet parent's guide to caring for a dog after a hike.

In this guide I discuss practical and easy to follow tips every pet parent should follow to help re-set their dogs after a hike.

Form top to toe beans, no pun intended.

I have also included a very short video on water intoxication. Did you know there was such a thing? This video is a must watch!

As usual my blog is packed with resources. For pet parents looking for more dog care guides, I have listed some great guides at the bottom.

First things first, before you plan any outings with your best friend, make sure s/he is fit for the challenge.

Before you embark on your adventure, it’s important to make sure that your dog is healthy enough for physical exertion. Her veterinarian should check for any health issues that may be aggravated by exercise.” - ASPCA.org.

Let’s dig in!

Give Them Plenty of Water

Water is essential to life. You probably work up quite a thirst while hiking and should carry enough water for a hike to keep yourself properly hydrated.

Running out of water can be surprisingly harmful, especially if you're hiking somewhere where it's hot and sunny.

The same goes for your fur baby! No matter how adventurous your pup is, dogs still need plenty of water, which means you need to be carrying enough water for your pup too, and offer them plenty of water to rehydrate both during and when you get home from the hike.

Giving Dog Water Image By Toe Beans

Just make sure not to give them too much water too quickly. If your fur baby doesn't know when to stop, make sure to give them water slowly for the evening.

Did you know that too much water can be extremely dangerous to your dog? As it turns out, an imbalance in electrolytes can be extremely dangerous, and lead to water intoxication.

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Dehydration followed by excessive water consumption can trigger it. Obviously, the goal is to not reach a dehydrated state, hence the breaks for water while hiking.

"Symptoms of water intoxication in dogs include lack of coordination, lethargy, nausea, bloating, vomiting, dilated pupils, glazed eyes, light gum color, and excessive salivation. Advanced symptoms include difficulty breathing, collapsing, loss of consciousness, and seizures." – The Wildest.

Check out this 3-min Video on Dog Water Intoxication:

Additionally, you should always pay close attention to how your dog is behaving for up to 24 hours after a hike.

In addition to water intoxication, there are all sorts of things that can go wrong, from an allergic reaction to an animal bite to heatstroke.

According to Veterinary Partner, some allergic reactions to certain plants such as mushrooms can start as late as 10 – 12 hours after contact.

It might be very easy to think the symptoms are related to something your dog ate at home and forget about the possible connection with the hike thus narrowing the number of possible causes.

After a hike, you want to do your best to ensure your dog is just happy and tired, not hurt, and have an emergency plan in place if something goes wrong.

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Give Your Dog a Solid Once-Over

A hike is often a lengthy experience out in nature, and dogs love to explore. They'll happily follow their nose through a patch of brambles, through bug-infested grass, and over sharp rocks.

Even the wind alone can be enough to leave your fur baby's coat tangled and matted, especially if they have longer fur. So, after your outing, it's a great idea to give your furry friend a solid examination.

You might be wondering when exactly, should I do this inspection? You have two options: immediately when the hike is over and you've returned to your vehicle, or once you're home and have had a little time to settle.

Examining Dog Fur Image by Toe Beans

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In general, it's better to inspect your pup sooner rather than later, so we recommend just after the conclusion of your hike.

If your fur baby picked up fleas while you were out on the hike, you don't necessarily want them jumping around your car or having time to linger at home.

You also want to make sure you can take them to the vet immediately in case you spot anything worrying, like a snake bite or major skin irritation.

Time is of the essence in many cases, so the sooner you give them a look, the better.

Let’s dive deeper into what’s needed.

1. Brush Debris from Their Coat

One of the first things you should do is give your fur baby a solid brushing. There are several reasons for this.

  • It helps remove dirt and debris that gets trapped in their coat. Twigs, leaves, bits of stuck on tree sap, clumps of dirt; it can all get stuck to fur. Left unaddressed they’ll add to the décor of your home and can even irritate your pup’s skin.
  • It gives you an opportunity to get a closer look at your dog's skin, ears, eyes, and paws. While you're brushing your pup, inspect for any signs of bug bites, skin irritation, and other changes you haven’t seen before.
  • It's relaxing. Most dogs love being brushed, and taking the time to help relax them, after a hike that left them exhausted, can make the transition to nap time at home much easier.

I have two different brush options you can consider keeping on hand. The first is our all-natural boar bristle brush. This brush is ideal for dogs with smooth coats, especially short-haired dogs.

Not only will it help remove debris, but it can also stimulate skin oil production and help protect your fur baby from any irritation resulting from the hike.

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The second brush I recommend is a rounded pin brush which is great for dogs with thicker coats or double coats.

You’ll need this option for a pup with longer hair so you can ensure grass and dirt isn’t trapped deep in the coat.

Using the right tool for the right hair type is not only easier on you, but you’ll get better results.

Toe Beans Brushes Image by Toe Beans

If you’re anything like me, sometimes the brush you need isn’t where you are when you need it. Packing and unpacking a commonly used item can be a pain, that’s if you even remember.

So it’s not a bad idea to have a couple brushes on hand. That way you can keep one at home, one in your car, and even one in your hiking kit if you want to remove stuff that tangles in their fur as you go.

2. Check for Insects and Irritations

Another check to make while you're giving your dog a solid inspection is looking for insects and other signs of irritation.

You can begin the check during a good brushing, but if you have a thicker coated pup you’ll need to do a little more work by separating their fur to check their skin.

Pulling Out A Tick Image By Toe Beans

So first off, check for insects. Preventative flea and tick treatment is a must for all pups. Afterall, both of these annoying insects can be picked up on a simple romp through the backyard.

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The key here is proper and consistent use of your treatment of choice. I still recommend giving your pup a good check even when using preventatives.

While the meds might kill any fleas or ticks that try to nest on your pup, it won’t prevent them from hitching a ride into your house and setting up shop there.

If you live in an area that has more cases of Lyme disease, talk to your vet about getting your pup a vaccination.

Next, check for insect bites or stings. Biting ants, stinging wasps, and other insect irritations can leave your dog suffering, itching, or even infected in extreme cases.

Obvious swelling and large lumps may warrant a trip to the vet; smaller bites and irritations can be soothed with a cold compress.

You can also spend this time looking for signs of skin irritation. Poison ivy/oak/hemlock/sumac can all cause rashes. Stinging nettles can turn an extremely minor brush with a plant into a painful sting.

You may want to familiarize yourself with any unfamiliar plants you encounter on your hike. If you pup has an itchy rash, low dose Benadryl can help, but check with your vet first.

3. Check for Cuts and Scrapes

The final thing to check when you give your fur baby a comprehensive once-over is any sign of broken skin. Cuts, scrapes, animal bites, punctures; these can all happen when you're outdoors and exploring nature.

Cuts and scrapes are extremely common. Snake bites and other animal encounters are less common, depending on where you live.

Look for signs of broken skin, especially if a wound is still bleeding. For superficial cuts, applying a bit of styptic powder can help stop the bleeding and expedite the healing process, though you may still need to flush is with water first to make sure there's no dirt or grime caught in the wound.

Bandaging Hurt Paw Image by Toe Beans

Most minor cuts and scrapes will be fine. Anything like a snake bite, deep, or a larger cut (especially if it won't stop bleeding), should be looked at by a vet.

Otherwise, just keep an eye on your pup to make sure they heal, and your furry friend doesn't keep picking at the injury.

Don’t forget to check their toe beans!

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Soothe Their Aching Feet

After a long hike, you're probably dying to get off your feet. Your dog probably feels the same way. The difference is, you're wearing shoes, and they (usually) aren't.

Shoes solve the problem of potential injuries from stepping on sharp, hot, or abrasive surfaces, but a tough hike may leave your pup’s toe beans sore or even raw.

A great option in this case is to apply a moisturizing paw balm. The Momma Knows Best USDA organic paw balms are meant to soothe tired feet, ease sore, scalded, cracked, or scraped toe beans.

Applying the balm will give you furry friend a little toe beans massage, and what’s not to love about that?

Holding Dog Paw Image by Toe Beans

Remember, your dog walks on those feet all the time, and they don't have the luxury of putting on shoes unless you do it for them.

Their paws may seem tough especially when their little toe beans are callused over, but that tough skin can crack and bleed causing pain.

It’s important to stay aware of your pup’s paws condition by checking them for abrasions and applying a moisturizing paw balm as needed.

Consider a Deodorizer or Bath

Dogs don't need a bath every day like we do. But you can still give them a rinse down after a hike, especially if they spent a lot of time rolling in the dirt, playing in dirty water, or otherwise building up grime. You also have a few other options.

If your hike was relatively leisurely, you can try out a deodorizing spritz or a doggy dry shampoo to cover up the smell of active dog until it's time for their next bath. This can work fine if it's only going to be a day or so, and your dog didn't get up to anything too dirty.

Drying Dog Off Image by Toe Beans

If your hike was a little longer and your dog got dirty, you can rinse them down with warm water and save a full bath for another day. A good rinse will wash off dirt, and can make it easier to look and feel for insects and scrapes.

If your fur baby found the grimiest, nastiest pile of unidentified grossness to wear as a costume, or otherwise found something rank to work into their fur, you'll want something a little more intense.

A full bath will probably be necessary, no matter how proud your pup is of their new odor. Just make sure to use a shampoo for dogs and to avoid human shampoo.

Visit the Vet if Necessary

You should always have an emergency plan in case something goes wrong on a hike. Accidents happen even for most cautious, best planners.

Anything from a bee sting to a snake bite to getting a leg caught between rocks and breaking it can be devastating.

Knowing the closest emergency vet or the fastest way to your vet, having a kit to help carry your dog out if necessary, and having first-aid items on hand can all be extremely valuable.

Visiting The Vet Image by Toe Beans

As the saying goes, hope for the best, but plan for the worst. Most hikes are going to end positively, but it’s best to be prepared in the event one of those “one in a million” things happen.

If you're concerned about something like a large lump or bug bite, but it doesn't seem enough to rush your pup to the vet, then give them a call instead.

If you have an established relationship with your vet, ask if you can send a picture of the issues to get an idea if it’s a watch and see kind of situation, or if an in-person (in-pup?) visit is needed.

Make Future Preparations and Adjustments

After a hike is the best time to make notes for things you want to change for the next time you go on a hike.

Hiking With Dog Image by Toe Beans

Ideas might include:

  • Getting boots to protect your dog's feet from the environment.
  • Putting together a first-aid kit for both you and your fur baby.
  • Getting an extra water bottle or a more convenient bottle to use for your dog.
  • Restocking your waste bags, so you can leave your trails as clean as they were when you got there.
  • Stocking up on snacks to restore your dog's energy on a long hike, especially if they might otherwise miss a meal during the hike.

There are plenty of different things you can do to prepare for a hike, to make it more enjoyable and to have on hand “just in case.”

But it can be difficult to predict what you might want until you've done it, especially if it’s a brand-new destination. Take notes on your phone or carry a waterproof notebook to write in and make adjustments to your kit before you go out next time.

Do you have any stories of your favorite hike you've gone on with your furry friend? Was there anything particular about that hike that makes it your favorite? Do you think your fur baby remembers it as fondly as you do? Be sure to leave all those stories down below! I'd love to hear all about them.

Additionally, if you are feeling like getting a little special something for your fur baby that is made right here in the USA, 100% pup safe, USDA certified organic and brought to you by a US company, check out Toe Beans boutique online pet supplies store!
K Marie Alto
K Marie Alto

K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer, and co-founder of Toe Beans, a proud American family-owned online boutique pet supplies store focused on the improvement of the life of furry family members via pet parent education, better products, and advocacy. She has over 20 years of experience as a pet momma. She loves sharing her personal journey and experience as a pet parent via her blog and Facebook page where she currently has more than 50K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-). Read more

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