We love camping here in Alberta! We only get a few nice months every summer and many of us want to make the most of it. This usually entails bringing our furry friends with us. We usually bring first aid kits for ourselves, but do you pack one for your pets? From a weekend camping in the mountains or at the lake to a day hike, the proper preparation and gear are essential parts of a safe trip. Know before you go.
Before You Go
Know your pet! – You know your pet better than anyone else. If you think camping may pose a danger or threat to you or other campers, leave them at home.
Ask yourself how included your pet will be – Pets are family members, but if you plan on spending a lot of time participating in activities that are not pet friendly, you may need to consider alternatives like a boarding facility.
Does the campsite allow pets? – Some may have restricted areas, like park facilities, lakes, ponds, creeks and streams, and the backcountry.
Ask yourself if your pet is in good health – Are they in good enough shape to meet any physical demands of the trip? If your pet has trouble with longer walks and your camping spot requires a hike to get to, you might want to leave your pet at home.
Vaccinations – Be sure your pet is up-to-date on all required vaccinations and protected against heartworm, fleas, and ticks. Dogs can encounter a variety of wild animals while camping, even if they are leashed. Ask your vet about the area you’ll be camping in to be sure your pet is protected.
Collars and ID – Outfit your pet with the right collar and ID tags. Your dog should always be leashed at a campsite, but in case they get lost- make sure they have their best chance at getting back to you. Keep a collar with ID tags securely on your dog at all times. Even well behaved dogs can slip out of a loose collar and chase after a wild animal if they become too excited. Microchipping and registering your dog is an added measure you can take to ensure that you will be contacted if they are found.
Hiking on Trails – Many parks require your pet to be on a leash at all times. Always check park regulations if you plan on hiking during your stay.
What to Pack
- Collar, ID tags, leash/carrier
- Plenty of food and fresh water (don’t allow your pet to drink out of lakes or other standing bodies of water). This is a bit obvious, but don’t forget to pack your pets food, water and bowls. Find light or collapsible bowls, these take up less space and are easier to carry. Bring extra food if you’ll be doing any strenuous activity. Like you, your pet will be hungry from exerting extra energy and do not forget to bring snacks.
- Toys and games
- Brush or comb for removing debris from fur
- Tie-out- A long leash or tether is a great way to allow your dog to explore the campsite while you relax knowing they will stay in the area. Many parks will not allow you to tie your tether to a tree, so bring a stake to put in the ground. Most parks have a 6 ft leash policy, but check your park for specific rules.
- Dog life jacket (if you will be swimming or boating)
- Pet formulated sunscreen and bug spray
- Dog booties or shoes for inclement weather or hiking
- Pet first aid kit
- Antiseptic/ Rubbing Alcohol (To clean and disinfect wounds)
- Butterfly Bandages (To close wounds)
- Waterproof Surgical Tape
- Vet Wrap (Will stick to fur better than tape without pulling out hair)
- Tick Tweezers
- Ear cleaner and Eye wash
- Kwik Stop/septic powder (To stop bleeding)
- Sock (To put over paw if cut/injured)
- Name, Phone number and address to nearest Veterinarian.
- Poop bags- Pick up after your pets
- Towels- Towels will come in handy while you camp. From lining your car or tent to wiping off your dog, you’ll probably use your towel so much you might want to bring two!
While You Camp
Be mindful of restricted areas.
Understand your pet’s limitations and be mindful of hot weather, water, and wildlife safety
Be courteous to other campers by picking up after your dog, control barking and other noise.
Keep your pet on a leash. Some parks have a 6 ft. leash policy; check for specific rules.
Know where the closest animal hospital is. If anything did happen, this is one less thing to worry about.
Check your pet for ticks at the end of each day.
Keep a clean camp – pick up pet waste and stow away pet food to discourage nighttime raiders, like skunks, black bears, and raccoons
Bring your pet into your tent with you to sleep, or allow him or her to sleep in the car with the windows down a bit if it’s cool outside.
Plan for stops – if your family is stopping for lunch and it is a hot day, plan ahead so you can avoid having to leave Fido in a hot car. Leaving pets in hot cars can be lethal, even if it is only for a short time.
Keep an eye on your pet!
- It may seem obvious, but lots of camping accidents happen because owners just aren’t paying attention. Around campsites, make sure you clean off grills after cooking food, check campsites for items left behind by other campers that may pose a risk, check to see if there are other pets around, and always make sure you know the rules/regulations regarding on/off leash at the campsite. Plan on always maintaining supervision of your pet by having a buddy system (someone stays with the pet at all times).
- Especially important is keeping your eyes out for other animals, whether it be other dogs, horses or wildlife. Horse trails are popular in the Kananaskis area and throughout much of the Provincial campsites in the Rocky Mountains, and if your dog hasn’t had experience with horses, always look and listen for any riders on the trails. Porcupines, although cute, don’t love being sniffed out by dogs. Attaching bells to dogs is a great way to warn others of your presence so you don’t happen to startle any wildlife in the area.
- Watch out for vegetation that could make your pet sick. Mushrooms, berries and some flowers are poisonous to dogs if ingested. Also watch out for plants like foxtails that can become lodged in skin, nasal passages, ears or throat and cause irritation.
- Always make sure that your pet has access to shade and water – especially if they have been running around for extended periods of times. Although tents do provide shade, don’t leave pets in zipped up tents unattended – it can be similar to leaving pets in a car on hot days. Tarps and trees work great for shade!
Camping with pets can be an exceptional way to strengthen your bond and get fresh air and exercise. By practicing some safety awareness and planning ahead, you can help ensure the best possible time for your pet and others while recreating outdoors.
To keep your pet fully protected from all of Mother Nature’s pests and wild creatures, take time to inquire with your friends at Edgemont Veterinary Clinic to ensure all vaccinations and preventatives are current.