A summertime hiking or camping trip is the perfect way to include your furry friend in the family fun. As you plan for your trip,  you may envision waking next to your pooch after a relaxing night’s sleep in the tent, or snuggling by the campfire. However, your dog whining all night long, or becoming injured on the trail, may shatter your idyllic vision. Preparation before your outing can prevent common mishaps, so our Kennedy Heights Animal and Bird Hospital team members are sharing their favorite tips to help ensure a smooth trip. 

#1: Take your pet on a trial run

If your dog has never been camping, a practice run can help work out the kinks. Make the experience as authentic as possible—set up a tent in the backyard, build a campfire, and sleep out all night. You will quickly discover whether your 75-pound dog jumps at every noise, or carelessly crashes for the night. If your dog does not pass the backyard campout test, they may be happier at home, despite your desire to include them.

#2: Research local pet rules and regulations

After packing and planning for weeks, your trip may come to a screeching halt if you arrive to find a “No dogs allowed” sign. Many parks have specifically designated pet trails and camping areas, so ensure you choose the correct location. Most parks also have leash laws, so avoid a fine or an abrupt end to your trip by bringing a leash or tie-out for your dog. 

#3: Plan ahead for pet emergencies

Many campgrounds and hiking trails are located off the beaten path, which adds to their allure. Remote sites may be 30 minutes or more from the nearest veterinary hospital, and if your pet suffers an injury while hiking or camping, you will need to tend to their wound until you can reach a veterinarian. If you do not have a pet first aid kit already assembled, gather the following items before you hit the road:

  • Muzzle
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Non-stick gauze pads
  • A roll of bandage material
  • Medical tape
  • Tweezers
  • Your pet’s medical records
  • Any medications your pet needs
  • The name, address, and phone number of the nearest veterinary hospital and emergency facility

Stow a small first aid kit in your backpack for hiking trips. For camping trips, a full-size kit will ensure you can deal with any emergencies that arise. 

#4: Keep your pet by your side

You don’t want to lose your pet anywhere, much less miles away from home where you may never find them. The best-behaved dogs can be easily distracted by a rabbit darting through the woods or the smell of hot dogs cooking over a fire, and wander away if not restrained. Keep your dog on a leash at all times, regardless of how well-mannered they are. Also ensure your dog’s identification tags and microchip information are up to date, in case they do become lost. 

#5: Protect your pet from local wildlife

Most wild animals will steer clear of your pet, but your curious dog can be injured if they stick their nose in a snake’s hole or cross a mother coyote with pups. To prevent an encounter with a dangerous animal:

  • Keep your pet on a leash at all times.
  • Do not let your pet sniff near bushes or under rocks, where a snake may be hiding.
  • Do not leave dog food out at your campsite, especially at night.
  • Take all trash to the dumpster, or store it in your car overnight.
  • Be particularly careful in the early summer, when wild animals may be protecting little ones. 

“Wildlife” includes pests such as fleas and ticks that can cause irritation and transmit dangerous diseases to your pet. Ensure your pet is up to date on flea and tick prevention before venturing out into the woods. 

#6: Keep your pet safe around the campfire

If your dog has not spent much time around campfires, they may not understand that they can singe their tail while walking too close, or burn their nose while trying to steal a roasting hot dog. To prevent a burn, keep your firebug on a leash by your side well away from the flames. Keep in mind that last night’s coals will still be hot the next morning, and can burn your pet.

#7: Practice good trail etiquette with your pet

No one likes a rude hiker, so consider others when hitting the trails with your furry friend.

  • Move aside as other hikers approach, and allow them to pass without your dog jumping on them.
  • If your dog reacts to other hikers or passing dogs, take them off the trail, grab their attention with a treat, and keep them calm until the other party passes.
  • Do not allow your dog to approach other hikers or dogs unless they request an interaction.
  • Bag any messes your pet makes, or bury waste at least six inches deep. 

We hope you have an enjoyable trip with your dog, but if they run afoul of a wild animal or burn their paw on a hot coal, we are here to help. Contact Kennedy Heights Animal and Bird Hospital for all your pet’s summer health care needs.