As the summer season approaches, many Americans are looking forward to long weekends spent outdoors at a campsite. While we enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery of the many state parks and mountain recreation areas, veterinarians and veterinary assistants recommend taking a few extra considerations if you plan on bringing your four-legged friend with you for the adventure.
Exercise – Is your dog an experienced trail hound? Even big sporting breeds like Labrador retrievers may not be physically fit enough to handle an 8-hour hike over rough or steep terrain. Get your dog used to longer walks and increase physical activity gradually. If your dog isn’t experienced or physically active enough to maneuver through areas which may require jumping or climbing, start working on these skills before your trip to decrease the risk of serious knee or ligament injuries.
Heat – While you are on the trail, monitor your dog for signs of exhaustion. You do not want to end up carrying your 60+ pound dog back to the campsite! As physical activity increases, water requirements increase as well, so remember to bring plenty of water for both of you and avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day.
Wildlife – There are many threats to your dog’s health in the great outdoors. Aside from the obvious dangers like snakes, there are many invisible threats. Drinking from streams and rivers is a common cause of Giardiasis in dogs, and in many areas, deer ticks carry Lyme disease. Sharp rocks can cut paw pads. Thorns and foxtails can easily become embedded into the skin, mouth, ears and eyes. It is a good idea to pack a small pet first aid kit along with your own first aid kit when preparing for your trip.
Work on basic obedience commands (I.e. “sit”, “stay”, and “come”) and consult your local veterinarian for recommendations about any special vaccines or preventative medications to help protect your dog while camping. Know where the closest veterinary hospital is and keep the phone number of your local veterinary assistant handy, just in case an emergency arises.