Camping with Your Pet

It’s always nice to get out of the city and go camping with your family and pets for the weekend! The first thing to know when going camping is if the campsite you are going to is pet-friendly. You can do find this out by calling and asking them. If they are pet-friendly, there are still many situations that can be potentially harmful to your pet. Tying up your pet on a long leash is good for keeping them from roaming around the campground but make sure they have shade they can lay in and have plenty of water, your pets can get sunburn and heat stroke too. You should never leave them unattended and tied up because of neighbouring loose dogs and/or wild animals in and around the campground (coyotes, bears, etc.). If you are leaving your campsite take your fur baby with you or keep them in an air-conditioned camper.

Cooking over the campfire is one of the best parts of a camping trip, but your pet might try their luck to get that juicy hot dog and burn themselves on the fire. Keep an eye on your pet when cooking around the fire or even the barbeque. There’s always lots of food to go around when camping and giving your dog the scraps from your meal like the fat strips off that steak they just tried to steal is another health risk to your pet as it can cause pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas, which results in a visit to your local vet for vomiting, diarrhea, bloating and stomach pain. Save your pet a stomach ache and throw the scraps in the garbage.

Mosquitos bother us and your pet. Some pets have allergies to them, which makes the bite sites turn to scabs. A common myth is that because we can put bug repellant on our skin, it must be safe for our pets. WRONG, human bug repellant contains DEET which is toxic to dogs, and your pet could lick off the bug repellant which causes them to ingest a toxin. A solution to the pesky mosquitos is using Advantix. It’s a topical liquid that you just put on their skin between their shoulder blades and repel mosquitos (fleas and ticks as well!).

Ticks are moving into Alberta more and more every year with the increasing temperatures. Ticks are active whenever the atmospheric temperature is 4 degrees Celsius or warmer. Most of the ticks we see in our clinic are from pets travelling to infested areas and picking them up, but there are some species here that their primary host is moose/deer/elk and when they walk into the campsite the ticks fall off and attach to your pet leaving them at risk of Lyme disease. We have many preventative medications available to prevent ticks on cats and dogs. Just call or come down to the clinic with your pet’s weight and prevent ticks from coming into your home.

Roundworms are ubiquitous. There is no way to stop your pet from getting worms and when your camping there are bird and rodent carcasses in forests that your pet will find which will give them worms. They don’t have to eat the animal (although that’s one way to get worms) just from smelling they inhale worm eggs which hatch later due to their new warm host. Other people bring their pets camping too, and worm eggs are passed from dog to dog through feces so even though you pick up your dog’s feces doesn’t mean everyone does.

Most dogs love swimming when you take them to the lake, but there are bacteria in the lake that can cause various infections. Ear infections: water gets into the ears of dogs, and the bacteria sits in the ear canal, and the floppy-eared dogs there isn’t much exposure to the air to dry the ear out, so water sits and inflames the ear and causing an infection. To prevent ear infections, clean the ears out with ear cleaning solution when your dog is done swimming. The ear cleaning solution is alcohol based, which kills the bacteria and also has a drying agent, so that prevents any wet irritation in the ear. Another type of infection dogs can get from swimming in lakes is skin infections that are called hot spots. Hot spots are very common, but they are very itchy and require antibiotics to get rid of. To prevent hot spots from lake/dugout water rinse your pet with clean water to ensure most of the bacteria from the lake is off your pet and then dry them thoroughly, so no water sits on their skin and festers an infection.

One of the most common cases that come into our clinic is dogs that are coughing and vomiting or dry heaving due to foxtails, burrs and thorns. When camping check your dog for fox tails on the body regularly, if not removed, they will lick them off, and they will stick in their throat and cause infection in the throat as well as pain. Remove these pesky plants before the problem starts.

Lastly, remember, a tired dog is an obedient dog. Taking long hikes during the day is not only exhilarating, but it tires your pup out so that instead of fussing or barking—a no-no in campgrounds—he’ll be ready for a peaceful evening. Have fun and take lots of photos!

Written by: Lisa Fox, RVT