6 Common Dangers to Watch Out For When Walking Your Dog

iStock
iStock

Walking a furry companion on a sunny day has innumerable benefits for both dogs and their owners, something researchers have dubbed "the Lassie effect." Neighborhood strolls help meet weekly exercise recommendations and can even aid in lowering your risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis. For the pooch, regular walks can reduce their risk of illness and help keep their weight under control (though diet remains the most important factor in preventing dogs from tipping the scale).

While these excursions are almost always beneficial, there are certain hazards to keep in mind when venturing outdoors with your dog. We asked Stephanie Liff, DVM, owner of Pure Paws Veterinary Care in Manhattan, about some of the more common canine dangers encountered during strolls and what to do in case a good walk gets spoiled.

1. TREATED LAWNS AND PESTICIDES

Large dog lying in the grass.
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Dogs trotting through neighboring lawns will eventually encounter grass that's been chemically treated to keep it healthy or to ward off insects. If your pet rolls around on it, a contact rash might develop. "They might get itchy or you might see some vomiting," says Liff. If the dog’s skin seems irritated, washing in dish soap is a good idea: It cuts through the kind of oil-based products typically sprayed on lawns. If irritation persists, you can administer an antihistamine like Benadryl or contact a vet for further advice.

Insecticides are generally formulated to target insects, not mammals, but you should take care to keep your dog from ingesting rodenticides, which are blocks of poison found near bushes and intended to kill mice and rats. Rodenticides cause internal bleeding in pests and dogs alike. Lethargy, coughing, and weakness should be addressed by a professional immediately.

2. MARIJUANA

Sleepy bulldog
iStock

Relaxed state laws concerning marijuana possession are a likely reason the number of reported incidences of accidental ingestion in pets have risen in recent years. Dogs might be more susceptible to the effects of the drug than humans due to having more cannabinoid receptors. While woofing down a discarded joint (or an edible left out at home) is not likely to be serious, Liff says a dog's reaction depends on their size. "Most dogs typically don’t get ill but smaller dogs can experience low blood pressure and a low heart rate," she says. If a pet has indulged but acts normally, at-home monitoring should be sufficient. If he or she acts dazed or sleepy, get them evaluated. Treatment is usually just getting IV fluids.

3. WATER

Small dog drinking water out of a puddle.
iStock

Even if your dog isn't prone to vacuuming every strange object in sight, they might still want to stop for a drink at the nearest body of water. That can be a deceptively serious situation. Some ponds have blue-green algae, which is highly toxic to dogs and can cause neurological symptoms, excessive drooling, and gastrointestinal issues that need immediate attention. Drinking or wading in such water should be avoided. Also try to monitor your dog around saltwater, as fetching in oceans can lead to accidental ingestion, causing diarrhea and dehydration.

You want to be wary of standing water anywhere, Liff says. "Muddy puddles in parks can contain bacteria called leptospirosis, which can be fatal." There is a vaccine, but it's best not to let your dog drink from anything but water you carry yourself or a nearby tap.

4. GUM

Border collie on a sidewalk looking at camera.
iStock

Dogs coming across gum or candy should keep on walking. Many sweets are made with Xylitol, a sugar substitute that doesn't agree with a dog's digestive system. "The immediate effect is that it tricks the body into thinking it's sugar, causing hypoglycemia," Liff says. "They'll be woozy and weak. At a high enough dose, dogs can develop liver failure within 72 hours." If you suspect Xylitol consumption, get them to the vet. According to Liff, "we'll make them vomit."

5. BAGELS

Dog carrying a bagel in its mouth.
iStock

Thanks to coffee shops discarding their trash and people tossing aside half-eaten bagels for birds to enjoy, a dog stroll can expose your pet to a potentially dangerous breakfast snack. "Dogs cannot eat raisins or grapes," Liff says. "It's toxic to their kidneys." A lot of pet owners know this, but aren't mindful of stray raisin bagels that might be within a dog's reach. Even small amounts can cause vomiting, lethargy, and kidney failure. Vet care is necessary.

6. THE SUN

Two golden retrievers in a park.
iStock

We're bombarded with advice to slather ourselves in sunblock, and pets need some, too. Dogs with lighter-colored coats, Liff says, often have sensitive pink skin underneath that should be protected where hair is thinner, like around their nose. While there are pet sunblocks available, anything with zinc and that's PBA-free should be fine.

"Heat irritation from hot pavement is also common," she says. "It can burn their pads." Some dogs can tolerate boots for walking on hot surfaces. If not, some ice and moisturizing products to ease blistering will help.

Pet owners should also try to discourage dogs from eating poop, as it can contain parasites. And be sure to check them for ticks after being outdoors by running your hands along their body to feel for bumps.

If you suspect your pet has ingested anything potentially harmful, call your veterinarian or the Pet Poison Helpline at 855-764-7661. The latter charges a $59 consultation fee.

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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Squirrels Are Assaulting Porch Pumpkins Across the Country—Here's How to Stop It

Squirrels are looking to pumpkins for sustenance this year.
Squirrels are looking to pumpkins for sustenance this year.
Ian Lee, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

If you ever come home to discover a cherished Halloween pumpkin destroyed, don’t assign blame to any neighborhood vandals. This year, it might be the work of squirrels.

According to a series of news reports from around the country, the bushy-tailed rodents that once occupied a place of esteem as a pet for President Warren G. Harding have taken to assaulting and defacing pumpkins left out on porches for Halloween by using them as a source for food.

What makes this year different? There’s been speculation that fewer acorns might have squirrels foraging for food more than usual. Another theory is that reduced traffic in parks and restaurants as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic might mean fewer scraps for squirrels to gather.

In New York and Pennsylvania, a drought may be to blame. Charlie Todd, owner of Chamberlain Acres Garden Center in Southport, New York, told 18 News that a lack of rainfall reduced the amount of available vegetation squirrels normally dine out on.

Can this squirrel crime wave be stopped? A number of solutions are circulating online, from spraying pumpkins with soap and hot sauce to coating it with a sticky solution. But if a squirrel is desperate enough, it’s probably going to take what it can get. Some people leave out other snacks, like peanuts, to deter the squirrel from munching on the gourd, but leaving food out can attract other animals, too. If you have a prized pumpkin and fear its destruction, displaying it inside your home is probably your safest bet.