Dogs love camping, and perhaps you do too, but before you head out on an outdoor adventure together, be sure your pet is ready for the experience.
Here’s what to consider before planning a camping trip with your dog:
Be sure your dog is well trained to respond to commands
Recall and stay commands
DO NOT take your pet hiking, camping, to the cottage, or anywhere outdoors if he/she is a flight risk. Even leashed and harnessed dogs have been know to break away, so it is imperative your dog be well trained to respond to commands and will ALWAYS come when called. Your dog should also be trained to “stay” in order to prevent him/her from wandering off into dangerous territory and becoming lost and/or injured. If your dog has been known to bolt, he/she is not ready for an outdoor adventure or camping trip.
Drop it/leave it commands
Your dog needs to be well trained to “drop it” on command before he/she is ready to go camping and/or hiking in the woods. Curious dogs can go after anything. In the outdoors, your pet may come across poisonous plants and snakes, rodents, and wildlife carrying diseases. He/she could pick up rocks—or depending on the season, acorns and/or pinecones—that are serious choking hazards and can lead to blockages in the digestive tract that may require surgery. Drinking river or lake water that may be contaminated can cause your dog to become seriously ill. Immediate and effective responses to “leave it” and “drop it” commands can save your pet’s life.
Deaf and hearing-impaired dogs can be trained to respond to visuals, such as a flash light signal in the trees as a recall signal. Teaching hand signals to your dog is also an effective way to communicate commands of “stay,” “drop it/leave it,” and “NO.” NEVER let a deaf or hearing-impaired dog roam freely outdoors.
Read more about living with a deaf or hearing-impaired dog here:
Consider your dog’s age, stage of development, breed, and special needs
A puppy’s growing bones are fragile, and overexerting a young pup can cause joint and bone damage. Breaks during early stages of development can be very serious. By the end of the first year, the growth plates responsible for the full development of the limb bones have formed. Breaks and fractures that occur before the growth plates have sealed put the dog at great risk of deformities that will last a lifetime. Avoid putting your puppy in situations where he/she may be vulnerable to breaks and fractures, such as long hikes in the woods, canoe portage, or other strenuous exercise. How much exercise is too much for a pup? As a guide, five minutes for every month of your pup’s age. At four months of age, he/she can handle no more than 20 minutes, only twice a day.
Senior dogs with arthritis and mobility issues should also avoid long periods of activity and exertion to avoid injury and increased pain. Many senior pets need more rest, prefer sleeping longer, and have difficulty tolerating extreme temperatures.
Medical conditions should also be considered. Dogs with heart conditions will need to be closely monitored, especially during exercise and when temperatures soar. Diabetic pets require regularly scheduled meals, glucose testing, and perhaps insulin injections. Will you be able to monitor conditions and properly administer medications on schedule during your camping trip? If not, reconsider. DO NOT put your pet’s health at risk.
Pets with special needs
Brachycephalic pets, with a flat muzzle, often have respiratory problems that need to be taken into account with regard to physical activity and weather conditions, such as extreme hot/cold temperatures.
Blind dogs may find camping frightening if they are unfamiliar with the sounds and smells of the campsite. The changes in environment and routine may also be difficult for them. Be compassionate toward your pet’s special needs, and do not put him/her in a situation that could cause distress.
Puppies, senior dogs, and brachycephalic pets are all more susceptible to heatstroke. Before taking your dog camping and hiking, be sure there will be opportunities for your pet to escape the heat and direct sunlight. If not, your pet will be at serious risk. A cool shaded area is needed. DO NOT put your dog in a life-threatening situation.
Be sure your dog has up-to-date vaccines and preventative medications
Talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s vaccine schedule, and wait until your dog’s immune system allows for full protection against contagious diseases before taking your dog camping. Unvaccinated pets, puppies that have not had all their vaccines—and seniors and those having health problems that have not had all their boosters—should not be exposed to other pets and wildlife.
Do not forget preventative medications for fleas, ticks, and heartworm disease.
If unprotected, your dog is at risk of a number of serious conditions, including:
- Rabies, you and your pet are at risk when in contact with wildlife such as raccoons, skunks, bats, porcupines, foxes, coyotes, beavers, otters, field mice, groundhogs, deer—or any mammal that can carry the disease.
- Leptospirosis, affects mammals—pets, livestock, wildlife, and humans contracted being in contaminated soil, mud, or waters. Threats are greatest in the fall, and the disease is often referred to as autumn fever.
- Canine parvovirus, is contracted through exposure to other dogs or wild foxes, coyotes, wolves. High incidence occurs in dogs aged six weeks to six months.
- Kennel cough, affects dogs, including wild dogs—foxes, wolves, coyotes. Cats and ferrets can also be carriers.
- Canine distemper, is contract through contact with dogs as well as wildlife—foxes, wolves, coyotes, skunks, raccoons, weasels, badgers, wolverines, ferrets, and otters.
- Canine adenovirus, can be passed from direct contact with other dogs, foxes, wolves, coyotes, and bears.
- Lyme disease, is contracted through the bite of an infected tick. It is a threat when in wooded and grassy areas, dense bush, marshes, leave piles, and anywhere deer inhabit.
- Heartworm disease, can be contracted through the bite of an infected mosquito.
- Anemia and severe blood loss, are risks if your pet develops a serious flea infestation. Contact with other pets and wildlife always pose a threat.
Check to see if your pet’s microchip information is up to date
While visiting your veterinarian, ask to have your pet’s microchip scanned for correct and up-to-date contact information. In an emergency, you will be glad you did.
Talk to a veterinarian before taking your dog camping to be sure he/she is ready for the adventure. Once given the go ahead, we hope you and your dog have a great time in the outdoors together.
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