GRAND RAPIDS, MICH. - Camping is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, and it also can be a great way to provide exercise, mental stimulation and happy experiences with your dog. But, it’s important to keep basic safety tips in mind.
The experts at BluePearl Veterinary Partners provide seven tips for bringing your dog camping:
Always provide fresh water. Dehydration is one of the most common veterinary emergencies during camping trips, so providing fresh water at all times is essential. Consider buying a collapsible dog bowl with a carabiner that you can hook onto your backpack for easy access. Bring bottled water just in case fresh water isn’t available for your pup while you’re out hiking or exploring.
Keep your dog on a leash at all times. Chances are, you’ll be in territory that is unfamiliar to you as well as your dog. So keep all dogs on leashes, to prevent them from getting lost. Use a leash that has a fixed length as opposed to retractable leashes for better control of your dog. A leash also is the best way to make sure your dog doesn’t come across wild animals or toxic plants – especially at night. If you want to keep your dog close without using your hands, clip his leash to a carabiner on your belt loop. Before your camping trip, research what kinds of potentially dangerous wildlife is common in the area.
Bring documentation. It’s always a good idea to keep a folder with your pet’s documents while camping because you may need them to prove vaccines or inform a veterinarian in case of an emergency. You can find a list of important documents here. While you’re preparing your dog’s documents before your trip, make sure to double check that his microchip is up-to-date and active. Keep your documents in a waterproof plastic bag.
Use flea and tick prevention. Fleas and ticks are common in many areas of the U.S., especially in swampy and wooded areas. Make sure your dog is on a monthly flea and tick preventative, and consider bringing additional measures such as veterinarian-approved dog bug spray or a flea collar.
Bring a first aid kit. From minor scrapes to medical emergencies, a first aid kit is top priority in your camping packing checklist. You can purchase a first aid kit for dogs online or from a pet store, or you can consider making one yourself. Be sure to include tweezers in your first-aid kit in case you need to remove ticks or splinters from your pup. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the contents of the kit just in case you need to use them.
Research rules and regulations. Many campsites are pet-friendly, but it’s always a good idea to research your camping area’s specific rules. Common rules include leashing your dog at all times, cleaning up after him and making sure he is secured if you are away from your campsite. Some campsites require your pet to be up-to-date on vaccines too.
Watch the weather. You might enjoy camping during any weather conditions, but your dog is more sensitive to the heat than you are. If it’s too hot, your dog runs a higher risk of dehydration or burning his paws on pavement. If it’s too cold, your dog could get frostbite or suffer irritation from snow or ice. Look at the forecast a few days before your camping trip and bring any necessary supplies to accommodate for extreme weather. Be sure to research pet-friendly hotels before your trip, so you have a backup plan if the weather is too extreme.
Keep asking yourself, what could go wrong? For example, if you are getting ready to use a piece of hot dog as fishing bait, will your dog suddenly gobble it up? BluePearl veterinarians will tell you that many pets have wound up in the ER after swallowing fishhooks. That’s just one of the goofy but dangerous things that sometimes happen with dogs who are camping. So plan with your dog in mind. Will you cook over an open fire? Will you camp around other dogs? Does this trip involve scrambling over rocks or crossing a narrow footbridge? Picture your dog in each scenario and plan for their safety.
If your pet experiences a medical emergency on a camping trip, locate your closest animal hospital.
For more information on road trips or plane rides with your pets, check out our traveling with pets article.
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