Connecting with nature can be rewarding and relaxing, especially with your four-legged friend by your side. But, camping with pets also can be a walk on the wild side if you are not properly prepared. Before you hit the trail or pitch your tent, check out these tips from Urgent Pet Care Omaha.

#1: Be prepared—pack a pet first aid kit

Anything can happen when you’re out in the elements, so include a pet first aid kit with your camping gear for minor injuries, such as scrapes, irritations, insect bites, and superficial wounds. A first aid kit can also help you temporarily fix your pet’s more serious issues (e.g., lacerations, large wounds, allergic reactions) until they can receive veterinary care.

Pet first aid kits can be purchased, or made at home. We recommend your kit includes:

  • Emergency contact information 
  • Extra pet food and medication
  • Pet records
  • Pet photos 
  • Gauze 
  • Non-stick bandage material and adhesive tape 
  • Digital thermometer 
  • Triple antibiotic ointment
  • Tweezers 
  • Eye dropper, oral syringe, or turkey baster
  • Muzzle
  • Extra leash 
  • Hydrogen peroxide (3%) or milk of magnesia, which can be used to initiate vomiting after toxin ingestion—only under a veterinary professional’s advice

Before you leave home, ensure you have the phone numbers, hours, directions, and locations of the veterinary facility and emergency center nearest your destination. Keep this information in your kit—along with the Pet Poison Helpline phone number—so you won’t lose precious  time should your pet need immediate care.

#2: Be aware of your surroundings—look for pet-hazards

Before you set up camp, stop for lunch, or cast out a line, look around for potential hazards, including:

  • Fish hooks — Fish hooks are frequently responsible for pet-related injuries and emergencies. At water’s edge, or on rocks, be alert for discarded fish hooks, which can become lodged in a dog’s paw pad and cause intense pain and lameness. Dogs who swallow a fish hook—when they mistake a colorful lure for a toy, or consume or play with a fish that’s still on the line—are at greater risk. Hooks—especially three-pronged models—can become lodged in the dog’s throat requiring emergent and complex surgical removal. 
  • Animal remains or scat — Animal carcasses or fish remnants can cause disease or injury. Wildlife waste can transmit parasitic infections and disease, including leptospirosis, to pets, who in turn can transmit the disease to people. If you see animal remains or debris, keep your pet moving.
  • Trash — Abandoned garbage, such as food wrappers, charcoal briquettes, raw or cooked meat bones, and leftover food, can make pets severely ill, or cause a gastrointestinal obstruction that requires emergency surgery.

#3: Stick together—keep your dog on a leash

The simplest way to ensure your dog stays out of trouble is by keeping them on a four- to six-foot non-retractable leash. Once your campsite is secure, you can provide them with some extra room to roam with an overhead tether system. Unleashed pets are vulnerable to common mishaps, including:

  • Wildlife interactions — Dogs can startle, injure, or kill wildlife. Predatory birds or mammals can prey on small-breed dogs, and wildlife, especially if their young are nearby, may attack curious dogs.
  • Lost pets — Pets can become disoriented in unfamiliar environments, and many become lost and are never found. Ensure your pet wears current identification at all times—preferably with a permanent microchip registered with your current information.
  • Tragic accidents — Free-roaming pets are often excited and blind to natural hazards on the trail or in the woods. Dogs can run off of cliff sides, slip down ravines, get swept away in a river, or be bitten by a snake.

#4: Keep your cool—protect your pet from the heat

Warm weather is a silent threat for people and pets—and, surprisingly, temperatures lower than triple digits can make for a tragic situation. In 70-degree weather, pets often are unable to regulate their body temperature, which can become life-threatening. When pets overheat (i.e., heatstroke), irreversible organ damage, seizures, and death can quickly follow.

While any pet is susceptible to heatstroke, brachycephalic (i.e., flat-nosed) breeds are at highest risk, because of their shortened muzzle and narrow airway. 

Heatstroke is a preventable emergency— stay vigilant, and follow these precautions:

  • Never leave your pet unattended in a vehicle or an enclosed, unventilated space.
  • Always provide access to shade and cool fresh water.
  • Take frequent rest breaks. 
  • Hike, run, or swim during the cooler hours of the day.

For more information on recognizing and responding to heatstroke, check out our previous blog post.

#5: Swim at your own risk—water safety for pets

Always assess water quality before your dog swims or plays in streams, rivers, lakes, or creeks, and do not let them drink from natural sources. Standing water can be a reservoir for dangerous bacteria, including leptospirosis, and zoonotic parasites, including giardia. Also, avoid algae-covered water—pets who swim in or drink from water containing cyanobacteria can suffer severe neurological damage, liver failure, and death. 

Finally, if your dog drinks or bites at water while swimming, watch for water toxicity that can occur when dogs rapidly consume large volumes of water. Acute water toxicity can cause electrolyte imbalance and require hospitalized treatment. Early signs include vomiting, enlarged abdomen, and lethargy.

Don’t let the great outdoors become a great disaster for you and your pet—pack smart, take precautions, and make some special memories. But, if things don’t go as planned and your pet needs emergency attention, immediately call Urgent Pet Care Omaha for timely and compassionate care.