What to Do if Your Dog Gets Hurt on the Trail

What to Do if Your Dog Gets Hurt on the Trail

Sometimes your dog’s favorite place to be is on a hiking trail in the backcountry with you. Like everyone else, it’s critical to take care of your pet to keep him healthy and prevent injuries on the trail. But, occasionally, the unexpected happens when you’re miles away from civilization, and your poor pooch gets hurt. Preparation is vital so that you can take care of your dog until you can get him to a veterinarian. It’s also vital to consider the risks that pets face when hiking in the woods. It’s important that you know how to treat possible injuries.

Preparation Before the Hike

Caring for human injuries is similar to canines, but dogs have a different anatomy than ours and also require some alternative care. A first aid kit for dogs is easy to make and doesn’t require many items. You can put the necessary medical supplies in with your first aid kit or simply carry what your pet needs in a plastic Ziplock bag. Keep it with your camping supplies, so you don’t forget it the next time you and your pet go for a hike.

Basic Necessities for a First Aid Kit for Dogs

Here are some of the necessary first aid supplies to stock your emergency kit with.

Medical Records

Print a copy of medical and vaccination records, as well as emergency contacts, to keep in your pet’s first aid kit. It will help to have this paperwork with you if you need to get your pet to an emergency vet as soon as you get out of the woods. Keep a hard copy of the medical records and put them on a USB drive that you keep with you, as well.


Keep specific medications in your medical supplies. It’s important to have antibiotic ointment on hand in case your pup gets a scratch or cut on the trail. This ointment acts as a barrier against germs and bacteria. Since even minor scrapes and cuts can become infected, it is critical to always treat them on the trail. Also, include saline solution to use as an eyewash, antihistamines such as Benadryl, and anti-inflammatory medication.

Hydrogen Peroxide

While hydrogen peroxide is great for cleaning minor cuts, it’s also helpful if your dog ingests something toxic. It induces vomiting so that your dog rids himself of the toxin. Never give your pet hydrogen peroxide without contacting a professional for the proper instructions. You can always keep a copy of the instructions in your first aid kit.

Blanket or Towel

Sometimes your pet may panic when they injure themselves. You can wrap them up in a blanket or towel to calm them down and keep them from biting you when you assess the injury. Choose a microfiber towel because they are super absorbent.

Grooming or Wet Wipes

Wipes are excellent for cleaning blood or dirt off a wound so you can see it. They’re great for accidents in the car and for generally keeping your pet clean—because dirt, debris, and feces are laden with parasites and bacteria.

General First Aid Supplies

General first aid supplies include:

  • Saline solution
  • Gauze
  • Tweezers
  • Cotton swabs
  • Bandages
  • Medical tape

You should also bring a collapsible food and water bowl, food or snacks, and poop bags. Bring a comfortable dog harness and leash for challenging trails when you need to keep your pet close.


Risks and Common Injuries to Look For

Once you have your first aid kit, you’re ready to hit the trail with your dog. There are several risks to monitor and prepare for while you’re out hiking.

Foot Pad Injuries Are Common

Dogs hike “barefoot,” so they’re susceptible to foot pad injuries. The most common injuries are bruising and abrasions. Treatment depends on the location and type of wound. Thoroughly check your dog’s paw and gently wipe the dirt and debris off with a wet wipe. If there’s a wound, flush it with clean water and bandage it with medical tape and gauze to keep it clean and dry.

Hiking can take a toll on your poor canine’s feet and, perhaps, the solution is a sturdy pair of dog boots. Many dog boots are made for high-performance and tough terrain. They’re often made of breathable mesh for maximum ventilation while keeping the debris and dirt out. Dog boots are perfect for the pup that goes hiking often.

Also, make sure to keep your pet in shape. If you’re going to hike frequently, regularly exercise with your pet. Canines who walk routinely are much less likely to injure their pads because they’re tough—like humans who walk barefoot and build up calluses. Either let your pet wear the boots right away or save them for later in the first aid kit.

Insect Stings

Our four-legged friends are curious by nature and love to sniff and paw at things. While their fur coats protect them from many things, they are prone to get stung by insects such as bees. Your dog may experience discomfort and redness or hives where they were stung. They may also experience swelling of their muzzle or face, regardless of where they were stung. Itching is a symptom that appears later.

If you can see the stinger, remove it with tweezers. Give your pet Benadryl or its generic version, diphenhydramine. The dose is one mg for every pound your dog weighs.

Strains and Sprains

Dogs are much more graceful than we are, but they can still strain or sprain a limb. While they have three other legs to support them, there are some ways to make them more comfortable until you can get them to a vet.

Some symptoms of a sprain include:

  • Completely picking up their leg or limping
  • Swelling of the injury site
  • Discomfort when you touch the injured area
  • Deformity—this is rare but could mean there are damaged ligaments or a broken bone

It’s important to remember that before you assume an injury is a strain or sprain, check their feet for a wound or foreign body stuck between their paws. These types of injuries are more common than sprains and strains.


There are first aid courses for pets that are incredibly useful if you’re going to go hiking with your dog regularly. You should know how to provide basic medical care to your pet while you’re out in the woods with them. Now you know what to bring and the risks to look out for when out on the trail. Here’s to happy and safe hiking with your dog.