Dog Days in Aspen

6 Tips on Keeping Your Dog Safe and Sound in the Mountains

Read this advice from veterinarian Dr. Anne Cooley of the Aspen Animal Hospital before heading out.

By Cindy Hirschfeld July 5, 2021 Published in the Summer/Fall 2021 issue of Aspen Sojourner

What kind of dog-wildlife encounters should one keep an eye out for?

Our biggest concern is the coyotes. I’m really paranoid about little dogs with coyotes, who will snatch up a dog in broad daylight. If you have a little dog, keep it on a harness [for better control] and a leash on a walk.

Big dogs are still in danger; coyotes will start playing with them, then lead them off to the pack. Make sure your dog has good recall if they want to be off leash; training them with a vibrating collar can be life-saving.

We also see porcupine encounters a lot, especially in the spring and fall. Get your dog straight to the vet. If you start yanking on the quills, you’ll break them off.

Dr. Anne Cooley

Can dogs get giardia?

We do see it, but a lot of dogs that live here have built up some sort of immunity. There’s stuff in the environment here that’s so different than in most places. Keep a good eye on your dog during a hike; if you see them munching on anything in the woods, try to get them away from it. But some of it’s just going to happen.

Does altitude affect dogs?

Yes. The biggest thing we see is dogs that have underlying heart conditions, and the owners may be unaware. The best thing to do is to get those dogs back down to sea level. For 24 hours before coming and 48 hours after arriving, make sure your dog has lots of water intake, and maybe even make a wet food slurry to get more water in them. Every time one client arrives, they come straight here from the airport and get fluids for their dog.

How about dogs that aren’t used to hiking a lot?

We see a lot of owners from out of town who take their dog on a huge hike, and afterward they’ll say, “My dog can’t walk.” I’ll look at their paws, and the pads are blistered and peeling. Dogs that live here have built up calluses. Put booties on your dog, or start out for a mile at a time and check their pads for thinning or wearing down.

What about fleas and heartworm?

We do have fleas. There’s a weird misconception that we don’t have them, but Aspen is not in a bubble. In the last 10 years, heartworm has become a problem, even though we don’t have a lot of mosquitos. And for some reason we see a lot of hookworm here. The heartworm preventative also takes care of other parasites, like hookworm and tapeworm and roundworm.

Are there any unusual issues that dogs here face?

Pot toxicity. People love to enjoy our pot shops, but if they put things down or drop something on the floor, dogs will sniff it out. Don’t just flick your roaches on the trails. The most common phone call we get about this is, “My dog can’t walk; he’s really confused and disoriented.” Some people are embarrassed, but just be honest—we need to know. Let us hydrate your dog and dilute out the toxins.

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