Hiking and camping enthusiasts look forward to the warm spring and summer months, ready to explore all the beautiful nature trails and parks. Sharing outdoor adventures with your four-legged companion is the perfect way to bond with your pet, and ensure they receive adequate mental and physical exercise. However, you and your pet must be healthy and prepared to safely explore the outdoors. From infectious diseases and wildlife, to injuries on the trail, bringing your pet on a hiking or camping trip can be dangerous. Our Caldwell Animal Hospital team wants to ensure your outdoor adventures with your pet are safe and enjoyable, so we have compiled these five hiking and camping safety tips.
#1: Ensure your pet is healthy and prepared for time outdoors
Similar to people, it’s critical that your pet receives a veterinary wellness examination prior to starting any exercise program, or when you are planning an extended hiking or camping trip. Pets with underlying medical problems, such as heart disease or diabetes, may not be good candidates for a long hike or camping adventure. Our veterinarian will perform a nose-to-tail physical examination to ensure your pet can safely enjoy hiking or camping. They may also recommend a complete blood count and serum biochemistry test to check overall organ health, and rule out any underlying medical problems that could make hiking dangerous.
Spending time in the woods will also increase your pet’s chances of exposure to potentially infectious diseases and parasites, including the ones listed here. Ensure that your pet’s vaccinations and parasite prevention are up-to-date, and that you have a copy of your pet’s vaccination history if you will be camping overnight. Young pets are especially susceptible to disease and illness, because their immune system is not fully developed, and our veterinarian will also discuss when your pet can safely join you on a wilderness adventure.
#2: Check the pet rules for the park and trail
Many national parks have strict rules regarding pets on the trails or in camping areas, so ensure you check the park’s website for their pet policy. However, many national and state parks do allow pets to accompany you on your hiking or camping trips. Nearly all places require that pets be leashed to ensure their safety from wildlife, and vice versa. Your pet should have a fixed-length leash so that you have control should you encounter any wildlife, or other pets. Additionally, consider signing your pet up for the National Park Service B.A.R.K. ambassador program, which helps pet owners understand pet safety in our parks.
#3:Physically prepare your pet for a hiking or camping trip
Ensure your pet is physically fit enough to complete a hike or to go camping by slowly increasing their daily walks until they can comfortably walk for the period of time you plan to spend on the trails. Never force your pet to exercise, and use caution when hiking with your pet during the warmer months. Generally, if it’s too hot for you, it’s too hot for your pet, and you should limit physical activity to the cooler hours of the day. Brachycephalic breeds, such as pugs or French bulldogs, are at increased risk for heat exhaustion, and must be closely monitored during any exercise. Stop all activity and bring your pet for immediate veterinary care if they show any of the following heat exhaustion or heatstroke signs:
- Excessive panting
- Excessive drooling
- Difficulty breathing
- Bright red gums
- Vomiting or diarrhea
- Bruising without apparent trauma
- Muscle tremors
#4: Plan ahead for pet emergencies
Pet emergencies can happen any time, and if you are camping, or in the middle of a long hiking trail, getting your pet safely to the closest veterinary hospital may take time. A pet first aid kit will give your pet the best chance of recovery, should they be injured or become ill during a camping trip. Purchase a pre-made kit, or make your own. Gather the supplies listed here, and place them in a watertight bin or box to ensure they are kept clean and dry. Purchase a pet first aid book, or consider enrolling in a pet first aid certification course to learn more comprehensive skills. Additionally, ensure you include in the kit important paperwork, such as your pet’s vaccination and medical records, and the address and phone number of our Caldwell Animal Hospital, or the closest veterinary emergency hospital, if you will be out of town.
#5: Pack adequate food, water, and supplies for your pet
Like people, your pet will need several supplies, including adequate food, snacks, and water, while hiking or camping. If you plan on your pet carrying a pack, ensure a proper fit so that the pack does not inhibit their walking or breathing. Acclimate your pet to any pack before your trip, to ensure they are comfortable wearing, and walking with, a gear-holding pack. Like you, your pet will be burning extra calories, so provide adequate treats and take frequent water and snack breaks throughout the day. If you are hungry or thirsty during a hike, your pet probably is, too. Ensure your pet’s comfort and safety by packing the following supplies:
- Reflective collar, harness, and leash for overnight trips
- Safety light
- Paw protection such as booties, or Musher’s secret
- Portable water container, or bowl
- Cooling collar
- Pet coat, if temperatures drop overnight
- Pet food, water, and snacks—your pet may require more frequent, or larger meals, because of the extra activity
- Poop bags
Call our Caldwell Animal Hospital office if you have any questions about preparing your pet for a camping or hiking adventure, or to schedule them for an examination, to ensure they are healthy and current on their vaccinations and parasite prevention.