Camping vacations can be such of the most rewarding vacations for family travel, and, of course, for many pet parents, “family” also includes pets. If you choose to take your dog or cat along on a camping trip, you’ll want to prepare early and make particular adjustments for traveling with an animal.
How to Prepare Your Dog For Camping
- Ensure that your pet is up to date on all vaccinations and medications prior to starting off on your trip. You could easily met up with unvaccinated animals on your vacation and you wouldn’t want your dog or cat to develop a disease.
- Prepare your dog for long walks and hikes while in the wilderness by beginning an exercise program long before you leave home. Walking every day, and gradually increasing times and distances will build your animal’s stamina and endurance without overexerting him. Start with just 5 to 10 minute increments walking at a slow pace, and then gradually pick up speed and distance over a period of one to two months. Not only will your pooch get in shape…so will you!
- If your pet has never traveled by car previously, he or she will need to become acclimated to riding. While some animals take to jumping up in the vehicle right away, others may need to just sit in the car for a few minutes until they feel comfortable.
- You’ll want to take along enough food and treats to last for your pet’s entire stay. Adding something new to your companion’s diet can cause stomach upset and diarrhea…nothing you want on a camping trip.
- Carry at least one gallon of cold water per pet per day while traveling. It can get hot in a vehicle when traveling over long distances and your pet will need cool water to rehydrate while on the road and on rest periods. Remember to schedule potty breaks for both humans and animals every few hours.
- Bring along your pet First Aid kit in case of emergencies. Your campsite may not be close to a veterinary clinic or emergency hospital. Having first aid supplies close at hand could possibly save your pet’s health or life.
- Bring along your pet’s crate for traveling and for use as a “quiet space” when camping. Most animals will require time to get away by themselves and relax on their own to feel really safe and secure out in the wilderness. Pack the crate with your pet’s bedding, food and water dishes, and – for cats – a small litter box.
- Always have your pet’s leash, collar/harness, and ID tags while traveling. If your animal should get loose either at a rest stop on at the campsite, you’ll want to have some way to identify him when found. You can also request your vet insert a microchip before travel as a means of identification in case of a lost pet.
Precautions on The Trail
- When walking around your campsite or along the trail, always make sure your pet is wearing his or her collar/harness, ID tags, and leash. It is far too easy for some dogs to take off running after a stray rabbit or squirrel and become injured or lost.
- Just because your pet is dog-friendly doesn’t mean other dogs along the trails or at the campsite feel the same. Keep your animal close by you at all times and don’t allow them to interact with other pets unless you can be sure the strangers are docile and willing to play.
- Wild animals can be a danger to your pet. Coyotes, wolves, bears and other prey-driven wildlife may see your dog or cat as food. In addition, should your dog attack a wild animal, he or she can be severely injured and possibly contract diseases such as distemper and rabies. Keep your pets close by your side at all times.
- Many plants, such as poison ivy, poison oak, and skunk cabbage grow wild in the forests and can be toxic – and possibly lethal – to your pets. Don’t allow your animals to wander around unattended and never allow them to eat something off the ground or trees.
- Heat can be deadly in the summer months. Make sure your pet stays cool and well-hydrated on long hikes by bringing along enough cool water for both of you. Keep a bowl of free-choice water handy at the campsite and, on particularly hot days, allow your pet to stay inside your motorhome or tent. Remember, sand and rocks can become just as heated in the sun as asphalt and concrete.
Special Considerations for Cats
If you choose to take your cat along on your camping trip, special considerations may be in order.
- Just like your dog, your cat needs all her vaccinations, medications and health certificate before you leave home.
- Most cats feel more comfortable traveling in a crate than roaming freely in a car. For your pet’s safety – and your own – kennel your cat when you travel.
- In addition to your cat’s food and water, don’t forget to bring a litter box and enough kitty litter to last for the duration of your trip.
- Keep a harness and leash on your cat when traveling and at your campsite for all the reasons your dog would wear such a device. If your cat refuses to wear a harness or a leash – and many won’t – then it might be best to leave her at home during your vacation and hire a pet sitter.