THOUSAND OAKS, Calif.— The National Park Service (NPS) is urging pet owners to think twice before hiking with animals after at least three dogs have died on local trails since July of this year.
“Keeping canine companions safe during a hike requires planning and a heavy-dose of realism,” said Ken Low, a National Park Service ranger at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. “Hikers need to ask themselves, is my dog’s physical conditioning and age appropriate for this outing? If I decide to take them, am I leaving early enough and do I have enough water?”
The National Park Service and local search and rescue teams in Los Angeles and Ventura County together have reported about a half dozen canine rescues in 2021. Most of the dogs were suffering from a heat illness. Some did not have enough water.
“Wait for cooler weather before heading out on a hike with your four-legged friends,” Low said. “We helped rescue two dogs from the Sandstone Peak area in the western part of our mountains on a recent weekend and it was over 90 degrees. People don’t realize that dogs can succumb to heatstroke in just 15 minutes.”
Hikers can check with their veterinarian to learn what their dog can handle. Some dog breeds make better hiking partners than others. The dog should also be evaluated to see if they are fit enough for the hike.
Young and old dogs might not be capable of keeping up on long, challenging hikes, and the burden on growing bones may be too much for puppies. Hiking in overly hot weather should be avoided, as dogs are more susceptible than humans to the dangers of excessive heat.
It’s also essential that you take water for your dog. Dogs don’t sweat the way humans do. Panting is their primary method for keeping cool, putting them at a higher risk of overheating than you when on the trail.
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area (SMMNRA) is the largest urban national park in the country, encompassing more than 150,000 acres of mountains and coastline in Ventura and Los Angeles counties. A unit of the National Park Service, it comprises a seamless network of local, state, and federal parks interwoven with private lands and communities. As one of only five Mediterranean ecosystems in the world, SMMNRA preserves the rich biological diversity of more than 450 animal species and 26 distinct plant communities. For more information, visit nps.gov/samo.