The Hidden Dangers of Hiking with Your Dog Off Leash in the PNW

The Hidden Dangers of Hiking with Your Dog Off Leash in the PNW

Living in the Pacific Northwest is a dream for many outdoor enthusiasts who cherish the breathtaking mountains, rivers, oceans, and forests that surround us. Our furry companions often join us on these adventures, but the decision to let them roam off leash comes with significant risks.

While leash regulations exist in many areas within the PNW, some choose to disregard them, unaware of the potential dangers that lie ahead. Before your next outdoor adventure, it's crucial to weigh the risks associated with unleashing your dog. It's worth noting that while many of these risks are not eliminated when dogs are leashed, having them on a leash allows for immediate intervention and treatment.

The risks faced by off-leash dogs can be broadly categorized into two groups: trauma and hazardous ingestion. Identifying these risks becomes challenging or impossible if dogs are out of sight, even for a short period.

Trauma Hazards

Trauma risks include encounters with mountain bikers, spooked horses, and wildlife threats like bear or coyote attacks. Unanticipated reactions from other dogs or humans may lead to defensive measures such as bites, kicks, or even the use of pepper spray.

The terrain itself poses hazards, including the risk of falling down ravines or steep slopes. Jumping over logs presents the danger of impalement on branches, especially when the surroundings are densely wooded. Additionally, slipping into running water poses a threat, with potential consequences ranging from injury to drowning.

 Hazardous Ingestion

Toxin-related risks are diverse in the Pacific Northwest. Poisonous mushrooms like Amanita, including the notorious "death cap mushroom," can lead to organ failure and death in just a matter of days. Additionally, there are several other species of mushroom that may not result in organ failure or death but can cause severe symptoms and require hospitalization for your pet. These symptoms can include uncontrollable drooling, vomiting, profuse diarrhea, low blood pressure, and low heart rate.

In addition to PNW mushrooms, we also have a toxin amphibian, Taricha granulosa, also known as the rough-skinned newt. These gentle and slow-moving creatures produce a skin toxin called tetrodotoxin. If any part of the newt is licked and the tetrodotoxin is ingested, symptoms like drooling, vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain can start in as little as 15 minutes and last for several hours after the exposure. If not treated immediately, these symptoms can quickly progress to weakness, seizures, paralysis, and difficulty breathing which can lead to death within 4-6 hours.

As more of the population venture into the outdoors, some choose to do so under the influence of substances, such as marijuana, or narcotics. While these substances can be dropped and direct ingestion can occur, a more unpleasant toxicity occurs when contaminated human feces are ingested. Some of these substances are excreted by humans at high levels via the digestive tract resulting in rapid intoxication and potentially life-threatening overdose when ingested.

By living in an area with so much running water, the risk of salmon poisoning, or salmon disease, is prevalent. Since birds like hawks, eagles, and crows feast on salmon, fish carcasses can be carried miles from a water source and dropped. Ingesting even a small amount of raw salmon blood or flesh can transmit a fluke called Nanophyetus, carrying the bacteria Neorickettsia, that lead to severe clinical signs and, without treatment, a fatality rate of around 90%.

Leptospirosis, a bacterial infection commonly found in standing waters across the PNW, poses another threat. Dogs can contract these bacteria through contaminated and untreated water, leading to liver or kidney failure. The infection can also spread to humans through contact with infected urine, causing serious illnesses.

In the picturesque landscapes of the Pacific Northwest, the decision to let our furry companions roam off leash amid mountains, rivers, oceans, and forests brings with it significant risks. Despite leash regulations, some remain unaware of the potential dangers that lie ahead. Before embarking on outdoor adventures, it's crucial to weigh the risks, understanding that while leashing doesn't eliminate all threats, it enables immediate intervention. Living in this area adds additional risks, emphasizing the need for caution and leashing to ensure a safer and more enjoyable experience for both pets and owners in the PNW's natural wonders.

At L&L Animal Urgent Care, we've witnessed firsthand many of these situations, and want pet owners to know that we are here to help if they are concerned about potential exposure to these hazards – our experienced team is ready to provide guidance and care for your beloved pets.