Taking you dog for a walk is both great exercise and fun as most dogs have a natural curiosity for new and different experiences. Those walks can also be dangerous if you're not watching for these hazards.

Here are some common hazards dog owners in western Colorado should look out for while walking their four-legged friend on and off the beaten path.

  • Goat's Head

    Tribulus terrastris is despised by bicyclists for their ability to easily puncture a tire and tube.

    If your dog steps on one of these, the spines from the burr can puncture and get stuck in a paw creating a lot of pain.

    The spine can also break off from the burr making it difficult to see what is causing the pain.

  • Foxtail Grass

    The grass seed heads are barbed so they can easily embed into almost any part of your dog's body.

    Common areas where foxtails embed are the feet, ears, eyes, nose, and genitals. If left untreated, foxtails can cause pain, swelling, abscesses, and discharge.

    There have been reports of death due to complications from the seed heads working their way into a dog's lungs and brain.

    Avoid walking your dog in areas where foxtail is present. If that's not possible, check for foxtails and watch for unusual scratching, licking, shaking or rubbing which may indicate the presence of a foxtail embedded in that area.

  • Cactus

    The arid climate in western Colorado is perfect for cacti and while walking, it's easy to miss small ground level cactus until you or your dog steps on or walks through a group of them.

    Cactus spines (needles) create puncture wounds that cause pain and infection. In most cases, you can remove the needles yourself with tweezers or a hemostat.

    Expect some bleeding when pulling them out and make sure to treat the affected area with an antibiotic ointment immediately.

  • Temperature

    In extremely hot weather, the pads and other parts of your dog's feet can get burned. In extremely cold weather they can freeze.

    Also, dogs don't sweat the way humans do so you need to watch for signs of overheating. Always carry water and a small bowl so your dog can rehydrate.

    The evaporation from splashing or spraying some of that water on your dog will also help them cool.

  • Other Animals

    Most dog owners know or have heard what happens when a dog comes into contact with a skunk, porcupine, raccoon or other wild animals.

    As a reminder, make sure your dog is up to date on all of her vaccinations.

    Both restrained and unrestrained dogs can be unpredictable when meeting. The safe thing to do is keep your dog away from others he's not familiar with.

    If a fight breaks out, try to remove your dog by pulling him away by the hind legs or tail. Hopefully, the owner of the other dog is around to do the same.

  • Insects and Reptiles

    Ticks, fleas, bees, spiders, ants, scorpions and other insects can be hazardous to your dog's health.

    Bites and stings from insects aren't usually life-threatening but need attention. A preventative approach, especially for fleas and ticks may be recommended by your veterinarian.

    Depending on the species, snakes, lizards and toads can cause everything from mild illness to death. A watchful owner will help their dog avoid these.