South Valley: a great place to walk

Greg Martinez, DVM, has worked at Gilroy Veterinary Hospital with Dennis Harrigan, DVM, for more than 30 years, and with Marc Van Every, DVM, for three years. Over the last 10 years, he has become very interested in the natural role of nutrition in treati

Our local communities are full of walking opportunities for pets. All it takes is a collar or harness, working leash and a dog with enough training to not trip or injure you.
The leashes sold in local pet stores—The Pet Stop, PetSmart, An-Jan and Petco—are no longer just a handle and clasp. The length of the leash desired can be fed out or changed with a touch of a button. Poop bags can be stored and dispensed right from the handle. Stray feces can be a health hazard and is just plain disgusting, so I’m happy to pick up droppings.
Walking our dogs allows them to enjoy a more interesting life. If your dog lives alone or has lots of energy, a good walk on the levee, romp at the dog park or walk along the trails at Mt. Madonna and Harvey Bear Ranch will allow them to see and smell new things—and get rid of excess energy. Always consider the trails and terrain, the temperature and your dog’s temperament or ability before venturing out.
The Mt. Madonna Sprig Lake trail is cool and shady on warmer days. You can avoid the heat with an early morning jaunt in the exposed foothills or asphalt covered paths. Rattlesnakes are present in our rocky foothills and love to bask in the heat of the day. (Having rattlesnake venom vaccine on-hand is a good idea in rattlesnake habitat.) Cooler morning walks are also important for older or obese dogs, or breeds sensitive to heat. Older dogs and those with mild medical issues or arthritis benefit from moving muscles, tendons and joints.
I occasionally ride my mountain bike at the Coyote Lake-Harvey Bear Mendoza Ranch County Park and see lots of dogs and humans enjoying the beautiful views. It’s always important to pack a couple water bottles and a CamelBak for a drink or dousing. Signs that your pet may be tired or over-heating is hanging back, limping, open mouth panting, tail “hung low” and shuffling or wobbly hindquarters. It is always a good idea to pause for a few minutes, offer water and see if a break makes a tired pet feel better. If, after a few minutes, they just don’t feel better, then a slow trip back with frequent water and rest is a good idea.
Maisy, my 16-year-old yorkie/terrier cross has a tail barometer. Up and wagging means all systems working and let’s go! Just up or horizontal, with a slow wag means she’s in the zone. If her tail dips below horizontal and straight back without side-to-side movement, she’s getting tired. Or when we see her tail tucked in between her legs, it’s time to carry her home. If you fear your dog is overheating, don’t hesitate to douse them with water.
If your dog starts to favor a leg, check the paws for a burr, rock, mud, thorn, foxtail, burn, cut or rash. You’ll usually spot or feel a small burr or thorn between the toes or pads. Occasionally some dogs will become irritated as grasses or pebbles irritate the soft areas of the foot. If they are red and irritated, a warm, soapy water wash, rinse and bit of antibiotic and cortisone ointment may help. An aspirin (not Tylenol or ibuprofen) may ease the pain of muscle soreness.
Runny eyes or itchy feet after a jaunt in the country can be due to contact with pollens, grasses or wind and dust. An antihistamine safe for dogs (Diphenhydramine, Claritin and Zyrtec) may help soothe eyes and feet.
If you see foxtails, avoid them. Always check your dog’s feet and coat for these sticky hitchhikers that can end up between toes, in ears, in the armpit or groin, up the nose or in the membranes of the eye. Repeated violent sneezing after a foxtail encounter can mean your dog has sniffed one up. Shaking the head and scratching at one ear or the other can signal that a foxtail has become lodged in the ear canal. I know some dogs sniff foxtails up then sneeze them out, or inhale and swallow them. If your dog suddenly stops sneezing, he may have sniffed the foxtail all the way through or it may be resting somewhere less irritating. Occasional sneezing after the intense episode is a clue the foxtail lodged somewhere else. A trip to the vet is advised.
Walking your pet can be great for both of you. It can strengthen your bonds and increase your enjoyment of the outdoors.
Greg Martinez, DVM, has worked at Gilroy Veterinary Hospital with Dennis Harrigan, DVM, for more than 30 years. Over the last 10 years, he has become very interested in the natural role of nutrition in treating chronic medical problems and to prevent future ones.

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