Simple Ideas and Precautions to Take When Camping With Your Dog

I have so many great memories of camping with my parents as a child and have been blessed to have carried on our summer traditions with my own daughter and husband. A big part of our outdoor experiences has been our various dogs (sometimes even a cat or two)! Our dogs bring us such great joy and companionship, and camping with our pets should be no exception. With a few simple ideas and precautions you can ensure that this summer’s woodsy adventures are worry and injury free. Before we even get to the camping spot here are a few things we should look into:

  • Ensure to have your pet’s ID tags secure and updated.
  • A visit to the vet for flea and tick shots is in order.
  • It’s a good idea to set up your tent in the backyard a week ahead and have a practice camp with your pet so he feels safe in a new environment and also ramp up your physical activity in preparation for extended hikes, swimming and playing.
  • Make sure pets are allowed by the campground and ask where the closest vet is.

Even though you’re living out in the wilderness you still want to have some comforts of home and so does your dog. It’s important that they have some of their favorite things, whether it’s a blanket, a toy or food dishes. At most campsites you will have neighbors and you must take in their comfort level as well. If your dog is yappy, aggressive or socially awkward, he might not go over too well with your new neighbors. Take this into consideration and provide a secure tether for your dog and a muzzle if necessary. Dogs have a tendency to wrap themselves around any tree, table, car or piece of firewood,a good idea is providing a large secure playpen, and a playpen can be moved around to keep them out of the sun. Just like us, dogs should have their bed elevated and should not sleep directly on the ground all night.

They also need to be protected from the sun and heat. Just as you wouldn’t leave your dog in the car for hours on a hot day, don’t leave him locked in a tent, the outcomes are the same. A little pup tent or a child’s blow up pool are good ways to help keep both pets and kids cool. Also, ensure you have a safe place for your pet in case of loud noises or other things that may scare them such as thunder or fireworks. Definitely use their crate if they already have one or often they feel safe in the car as long as it’s not too hot. Now that you’ve set up camp, broke out the lawn chairs and stacked the firewood, you’re ready to relax! Not so fast – now you have to keep your eyes open and be watchful of what your pet’s getting up to. You have to watch them as you would a small child. Here are a few hazards to watch out for:

  • FOOD – We tend to be more relaxed and eat more junk food camping than we would at home. We leave food lying about, accessible to dogs & kids (the difference between these two is that dogs are much faster and sneakier). Dogs have sensitive digestive tracks and get sick much easier from fatty foods that are foreign to them.
  • GARBAGE – It goes without saying, keep it away from them. I have known dogs who have eaten whole cobs of corn, which got stuck in their digestive track and had to be surgically removed. We had a Beagle/Chihuahua mix that ate anything. Once we poured bacon grease in the bushes which was wrong, and of course he licked up the grease and ended up getting all sorts of stones and twigs in his belly. That was an expensive vet bill and put an end to any fun on that trip.
  • FIRE – Don’t throw food in the fire. Often it may not burn up entirely which is a dog attraction, but there may still be glowing embers in the fire and burn their noses, mouth or feet.
  • TERRAIN – Pick up as much sharp and harmful sticks and stones at your site and be careful of burning embers. If you wouldn`t walk on it, do you think your dog wants to? Dog booties are a good idea if you are experiencing rough terrain.

OK, you’re all set up at camp and now it’s time to check out Mother Nature. What dangers might lurk in the woods you ask?

  • INSECTS & TICKS – Short coated dogs are just as prone to mosquito bites as we are and should have their own insect repellent. Ticks are more common in the spring but are still a threat to your dog’s health. A tick vaccine or collar will help but you need to do manual checks and follow these simple rules:
    1. Check your pet daily (wearing latex gloves) for lumps under fur, in particular around the ears, legs & belly.
    2. With a pair of sharp pointed tweezers (or a tick remover if you have one), grasp the tick head firmly at point of attachment.
    3. With firm traction and going slow and steady, pull tick straight out – DON’T squeeze the tick body as it will squirt out more of the toxin.
    4. Clean skin in mild soap and water and save the tick in alcohol, recording date and area in case of illness
  • POISON IVY – Although dogs are not much affected by poison ivy, the oil that the plant secretes gets and stays on your dog’s fur and transfers to everything he touches or touches him (like you!) Wash him off repeatedly with mild soap or shampoo wearing rubber gloves.
  • WILD ANIMALS – Suffice it to say, stay away from them and keep your pet under control. If he is sprayed by a skunk, head to the lake for repeated washings with mild soap or de-skunk shampoo if you have it. Porcupine quills are best left to a vet to remove.
  • WATER ACCIDENTS – If you’re out on any type of boat or floatation devise, and away from the shore you should have a PFD (life jacket) for your pet, especially if your pet is out of shape or not used to swimming.
  • FISHING ACCIDENTS – Dogs are just naturally inquisitive and there’s a good chance that if they see a fish flopping around on the deck or a hook with a squiggly worm on it, they are going to investigate. It is certainly not uncommon for dogs to step on a stray hook or swallow fishing line with a hook on it. If this happens it’s best to get him to a vet ASAP. Never try to pull the line out of his mouth as this may cause greater damage.

Your best bet is to always have a first aid kit available for yourself and your pet. There are special first aid kits made especially for pets and at the very least have rubbing alcohol, tweezers, scissors and those stretchy roll up bandages which are great for wrapping around fur. In summary, don’t let this advise scare you away from camping with your pet. If anything, it should help make your outdoor experience even better. I have had so much fun over the years camping with my family and would never dream of leaving Henri and Bear behind, they are part of the family too! Have your hot dogs and S’mores, relax in the shade by the lake or tell stories by the fire – just remember to treat your pets as if they were your small children and you’ll have the best camping experience ever! (Can`t do anything about the rain though!) Happy camping!

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