Here are the Dos and Don’ts to make the most of your next camping trip with Fido.
Whether you’re a seasoned backpacker or a casual car-camper, there are key safety tips that every pet owner should keep in mind when bringing their dog along on an outdoor adventure.
BluePearl veterinarians advise pet owners of the potential risks and offer preparation tips to keep dogs happy and safe this camping season.
“Dogs are masters of deception, so signs that a dog is ill isn’t always obvious. Being aware of your dog’s normal activities and behavior will help you recognize changes that indicate a problem,” explained Dr. Miryam Reems, emergency and critical care specialist at BluePearl in Tampa, Fla. “Limping, vocalization, loss of appetite, vomiting, panting, restlessness, and changes in temperament are all signs pet owners should look out for,” she added.
Things to know before you go:
- Locate pet-friendly campsites— Not all parks are pet-friendly, and even pet-friendly parks may have restricted areas like facility areas, hiking trails or boardwalks, lakes, creeks, streams, and ponds. Always check park and leash regulations. Most parks have a 6ft leash policy, but check your park for specific rules.
- Evaluate your pet’s health— As your pet’s main caretaker, you know them better than anyone else. Ask yourself: Can they meet the physical demands of the trip? For example, if you know your pet has trouble with long walks and you have to hike to get to the campsite, consider leaving your pet at home or boarding.
- Check the weather— If high temperatures or a heat wave is expected, it may be best to leave your pet at home or plan a safe, shaded, cool area to leave them during hikes. Excessive heat mixed with physical activity increases the risk of pet heat stroke and/or paw pad burns.
- Make sure all shots and preventive medications are current: Even if your dog is leashed while camping, they will be exposed to wildlife. That is why it is important that your pet is up-to-date on vaccinations and protected against fleas, ticks, heartworm, and other parasites. To provide some protection from insects, consider using a pet-friendly bug repellant. If the dog has been in a grassy or wooded area, check your dog thoroughly for ticks with a fine comb.
- Ensure proper collars and ID – Fit your dog with a secure collar and ID tags. It’s best to keep dogs leashed at all times on the campsite, but if they do happen to get away, ID tags will help get them back to you. Remember, dogs will be less likely to find their way back to you in an unfamiliar environment, so take extra measures like microchipping and registering your dog to ensure that they can be identified by someone when found.
- Never leave your dog unattended in a hot tent or car: Tent/car temperatures can rise quickly, especially during summer months. Never leave a dog unattended in a tent/car and make sure that your dog is supervised at all times, even if this means someone has to miss out on some fun. Consider bringing a crate and/or a portable fencing unit to help keep them contained and ensure their safety.
- Don’t allow them to drink or swim in standing or suspicious water: Dangerous bacteria can be found in puddles and slow moving rivers/creeks. Allowing your pup to drink or swim in these sources can lead to gastrointestinal issues, such as Guardia, and in more serious cases, death. Quality of water has become a national health concern in recent months with red tide and blue-green algae affecting humans and animals in various regions across the U.S. Check with the local officials to keep pets out of high-risk waters and bring clean drinking water and a bowl on trips that will be physically strenuous.
- Keep a safe distance from the campfire: Even a small spark from the fire pit can burn your dog. Avoid a trip to the emergency room by keeping them away from the campfire at all times.
What to pack:
- Extra Food and Water –Food, water, and bowls are the obvious, but if you plan on bringing your dog along for any strenuous activity make sure you bring extra. Just like you, your pet will be hungry from exerting extra energy.
- First Aid Kit – Be prepared for minor scrapes and cuts. At minimum, a good pet first aid kit will include antiseptic, bandages, and tweezers.
- Clean Towels – If you’ve ever been to a park with your dog, you know that towels come in handy. Whether it’s used to line your car or tent, or to wipe your dog down, you’ll likely be in need of a towel or two while camping.
- Tether and Stake – Many parks prohibit you from tying your tether to a tree. Bring a long leash or tether and a stake to put in the ground. This will allow your dog to explore the campsite in a limited and safe way.
“I often hear from pet owners, ‘My dog was normal yesterday. How can this happen so quickly?’ This is because dogs are masters at masking symptoms of sickness. If you have any inclination that your dog is ill, don’t wait. Bring them in to be evaluated,” remarked Dr. Reems.
Learn more about how to avoid pet injuries and insect bites on hikes with these expert tips from Dr. David Wohlstadter of BluePearl Pet Hospital, NYC.