Backpacking Gear for Loki the Shiba Inu

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Over the past weekend, we took Loki with us on our first backpacking trip to Desolation Wilderness, CA. This isn’t the first time we’ve gone hiking with him up tall mountains, the tallest being Mt.Tallac also in the Tahoe area. Turning 2 years old this August, he has boundless energy and no trouble keeping up with us on long, strenuous trails. If you are looking for an outdoor dog, shibas are for you (but don’t expect them to follow commands anytime soon :P )!

Staying true to his shiba nature, he still doesn’t have the greatest recall in the world. Yet, we manage to keep him “off-leash” on long hiking trips after recognizing his preferences:

1) When its potty time, he pretty much ignores all and runs off to do his business, but always returns
2) He prefers to hike faster than us, but always stops to keep us in sight
3) On hot days, he runs off to find a water source to cool down, but always returns

With long backpacking/hiking trips, bringing the right gear for your dog is a must. Below is a list of my favorite products that we frequently bring for Loki.

1) Gulpy Water Dispenser – $8
The gulpy makes it incredibly easy for us to give Loki his water. It saves you the hassle of finding his water bowl, dispensing water, drying out the bowl, and packing it away. We love his gulpy!
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2) Bear Bell – $5
Doubles both as a bear bell, and as a location tracker for your dog is. Highly recommended if you hike in the wilderness and let your dog off leash.

3) Doggy Backpack – $40-80
If the temperature is relatively cool, we like to make Loki carry his own water/treats with a doggy backpack. It reduces the weight that we carry and tires him out a bit more. With backpacks, it is important to bring your dog to the store to try on the backpack. Relying on measurements alone can be difficult because you want to judge how comfortable your dog looks with his backpack on. At 29lbs, Loki fits the REI ultra dog pack pretty well.

4) Doggy boots – $30-60
If you are a serious hiker, you probably take your dogs on more difficult, rocky trails. This can really mess up your dogs paws. I’ve heard stories of hikers having to carry their dog mid-hike because their dog refused to move another inch. On our Mt.Tallac hike, the terrain was rocky near the summit, and Loki started showing signs of discomfort. This was when we decided to purchase doggy boots. Again, it is important to try out the boots in store before you purchase. The ones that fit Loki were Ultra Paws in XS. However, they did start sliding off after a while, so I am curious if there are better options.

5) Any 6ft lightweight leash – <$10
This only applies if you have shibas with not-so-good recall. We usually have him drag a short leash on trails, so that its slightly easier to catch him if necessary. On the end of the leash, we cut open the loop so that it doesn’t catch on rocks/branches. Works pretty well with Loki!

The view from our backpacking destination, Aloha Lake, was amazing :)
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A big dog trapped in a shiba’s body

I’m continuously amazed at the bold and stubborn personalities inherit in most shibas. Ever since Loki was a pup, he has never backed down from fights with other dogs, regardless of their physical size. This has led to quite a few scuffles with dogs who are equally as stubborn.

ler Loki likes Leroy. His ears pointing back shows signs of submission

Our house was packed with relatives coming over for thanksgiving last night. They also brought along 2 well-behaved boston terriers, Mack and Leroy. Boston terrier’s are quite mellow, but Mack wasn’t a fan of Loki’s excitement and started growling. Loki, never one to submit, responded by snapping forward to instigate a fight. Now boston terriers are quite powerful, and I have no doubt he could shred Loki apart if he wanted to. Instead, Mack backed down and started avoiding Loki because he was afraid! When my cousin picked him up after the fight, the poor guy was actually shaking! My entire family now thinks Loki is a bully =(

“Off-leash” shiba fun

“NEVER LET YOUR SHIBA OFF LEASH” they say. That is, unless your shiba is uncharacteristically obedient and actually listens to you. Loki isn’t quite there yet, but hes definitely getting better.

It wasn’t always this way. 6 months ago that we were still using 50ft leads on hikes to train his off-leash recall. On several occasions, we were both chasing him down because he was so distracted with the environment. Now that Loki is a bit over a year old, he is still independent but has learned not to stray too far way from us. So what did we do?

1. 50ft leashes to start. We went on many hiking trips using this leash, and he gradually learned that running far away = nono.

2. Dog beach. I was terrified the first time I let Loki completely off at the beach since dragging a leash around sand isn’t fun. But the thing is, there just aren’t many places they can run off to. We also brought beef jerky, the only treat that he goes crazy over. Works every time :) If worse comes to worse, bring a friend to help shorten the catching game.

3. Doggy backpack – It does a great job at slowing him on hikes. He gets more exercise, carries his own treats and water, and its harder for him to bolt at small animals. Just make sure to get it fitted in store before you purchase online, its a bit tricky!

Nowadays, Loki has graduated to a much shorter 5-6ft thin leash. We bought ours at target for under $5, the extra thin kind meant for tiny dogs. It is much lighter for him to drag around, but it still serves its purpose when we need to catch him.

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Side-by-side comparison with our flexi leash. I guess it doesn’t look too different, but it is much lighter than your regular 6-ft, 3/4″ leash for shiba-sized dogs.

Do you trust your shiba completely off leash yet? How old is your dog?

Warning: DO NOT mix Trifexis with Ivermectin

Last night, we rushed Loki to the dog emergency clinic late at night. The incident occurred like this:

Around 8pm, I got home from work and found Loki resting by my boyfriend’s side (who slept for the past 8 hours). There was drool all over his pillow and he refused to get up (which is unusual). I picked him up and set him on the ground, only to realize that something was really wrong.

Symptoms:
– head bobbing
– fast heart rate
– drooling
– weak hind legs, keeps falling down
– unable to walk straight, tail down

As usual, here is a video to show you some of his symptoms. The symptoms I captured on film improved since I discovered his illness, so I wasn’t able to capture the ‘weak hind legs’ part (it is really obvious when you see it though).

A similar incident occurred back when we first got Loki as a puppy. This was when Loki was 5-6months old, and the doctor concluded “he ate too much or something poisonous” after running blood tests and xrays. The cure? Saline injection to keep him hydrated and his bowels moving.

Yesterday at 12:30pm, I reminded my boyfriend to give Loki his monthly dosage of flea medication (Trifexis). Nothing unusual there. Two weeks ago, we noticed Loki had an unusual bald spot around his right eye. A trip to the vet confirmed that he had demodectic mange, and the vet prescribed him a daily dosage of Ivermectin. So in addition to the Trifexis, we also gave his his daily dosage of Ivermectin 0.73cc by mouth. We should have known better. It was a mistake on our part for forgetting to ask about mixing medications. It was a mistake on the vet’s part for not asking about his medication history, or giving us any warning about mixing medications. It was just…bad.

mangeBeginning symptoms of mange: redness and baldness around his right (left in this picture) eye.

Its hard to say when the symptoms started occurring, especially since my boyfriend slept right after he gave Loki both medications. Based on the amount of drool on the pillow however, it looks like he was suffering for a while :(

A quick google on the internet showed that the cause was likely mixing Trifexis with Ivermectin. If you suspect that your dog ingested something poisonous, call the animal poison control immediately. The vet will diagnose your problem and give recommendations for next steps, and the call is $65. After the call, poison control recommended that we take Loki to the emergency vet to check his vital signs.

When we arrived at the emergency vet, they assessed Loki’s vital signs and concluded it was within normal range. Examination findings include:

Temperature: 102F
Pulse: 130BPM
Respiratory rate: 60BPM
Weight: 26.7lbs
Cardiovascular: no murmurs. Good pulse.
Abdomen: Non painful. No overt masses
Lymph nodes: within normal limits
Nervous: Cranial nerves normal
Mild head bob.

After his exam, the emergency vet came in and presented us with her recommendation. She wanted us to follow poison control’s recommendation – to leave Loki overnight to monitor his sodium level and run more blood tests. You know where this is headed right? $$$$$$$$$. If you have a dog, then you probably understand how expensive trips to the vet can cost. I don’t have dog health insurance because I set aside money every month for emergencies, and overall the cons seem to outweigh the pros. Anyone have recommendations? This was the initial estimate for his overnight stay:

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Blood tests. Sodium monitoring. Liquid injection. Activated charcoal. Lab work. Blah blah. On the low-end, at least $600. On the high-end, $1000. Before going to the vet, I had mentally prepared myself to shell out $500-$1000 for this vet visit. My boyfriend, a nurse at a busy medical hospital, thought otherwise. He was irritated that the vet neglected to give us options to choose from. When the vet came in, she said “We need to do this. And have him stay overnight. Its what poison control recommends.” To me, it was very straight forward. To my boyfriend, it was irritating that the vet did not discuss options and the pros/cons of each option.

When the vet technician came in with the $600-$1000 estimate, my boyfriend asked about taking Loki back home to monitor his progress instead. I’m not recommending that you do the same thing, but for our situation, it was based on the fact that:

1) His vital signs are normal
2) His illness had slightly improved since we first discovered
3) Boyfriend could stay up all night to monitor his progress. If needed, we could take him back to the ER

The technician had a quick chat with the vet, and came to the conclusion that yes, we could have this option. The result?

estimate2Taking him back home would cost $283. That is a HUGE difference. If we didn’t ask for an option, we would have paid 3x-4x as much.

I’m not entirely sure how effective giving him activated charcoal is. Given that we took him to the vet 9 hours after ingestion, would charcoal even absorb any of the medication circulating around the body? In any case, when Loki got home, he gulped 2 bowls of water and threw up a mess of black, charcoal’y liquid. 

As I’m writing this blog post now (the morning after), Loki’s condition looks much better. He isn’t wobbling or head bobbing anymore, and hes able to walk without falling over. We took him to his regular vet, and the vet said he appears to be doing well. Take him off ivermectin for 3 weeks, and start using it again until his skin clears up from mange. As for the flea treatment, she recommends getting off Trifexis (because of the adverse reaction) and using a topical treatment instead. And so we now have a package of Activyl.

Total cost of ER scare: ~$478
poison control hotline: $65
ER visit: $283
Vet checkup next day: $130

Let this be a lesson learned. ALWAYS double check with your vet on medication incompatibilities.