It may seem like a natural thing: your furry family member in the great outdoors – what could be more enjoyable? Many pets take to camping like a Lab to water. But others…not so much. We have domesticated and trained our pets to be well-behaved in our homes, so to expect them to adapt to canvas walls and zipped doors is a stretch. Here are some tips to make your pet a Happy Camper:
Practice Makes Perfect
If possible, set up camp at home. Use treats and praise to encourage them as they get to know the new environment. From the tent, to camp chairs and head lamps, these are all new and curious items. Because staying in a campsite with hundreds of other campers can be like sharing a large room in a youth hostel, make sure your pet is well-socialized and well-behaved. Is there anything less relaxing than trying to manage a stressed-out pet in the great outdoors? Practice hiking with friends and their pets; or, arrange to meet a friend on a trail with their dog so you can work on distraction and redirection.
Camping takes a lot of preparation so that you can focus on nature instead of Googling the nearest convenience store. Make sure you are as prepared for your pet, if not more so.
Before you go:
- 1 Make sure your pet is up-to-date on vaccines, heartworm prevention and flea/tick prevention. Confirm with your Vet that they are healthy enough to participate in your planned activities.
- 2 Pack your pets’ medical information with a current picture in case you need to visit a Vet or, God forbid, they go on a hike without you. We HIGHLY recommend micro-chipping your pets AND registering updated contact information with your chip provider. It is far too easy to slip out of a collar or lose tags on a branch.
- 3 Confirm that your campsite and chosen hiking trails allow pets. Some may even have breed restrictions.
- 4 Locate the nearest emergency vet, but also pack a first aid kit for your pet.
Even the most well-behaved suburban dog can react differently (through fear or confusion) to a new stimulus. Keep your dog leashed or contained for their safety. Portable play pens or their crate (with shade) from home will keep them calmer. Hot tents, cars or Campers are not an appropriate place to contain your pets.
Pick up after your pet. Wild animals know to bury their poo, domestic pets do not. Be courteous to your fellow campers.
Bring distractions to occupy your pets while you are away from the campsite so that barking, howling or whining does not pierce the tranquility. Better yet, wear them out with a swim or a hike before leaving them on their own. Avoid bones or meat-infused Nylabones so you can avoid a wildlife party at your campsite. Also, put away their food after they eat to avoid the same issue.
Sometimes it may feel like you are taking the entire house in order to be prepared for all eventualities but when traveling with a pet, there are a few things you absolutely must have. Pets are naturally curious, bless their furry heads, and might get into this nature thing a little more that you anticipate (rotting carcass? Don’t mind if I do…) From campground grazing, to aggressive squirrel hunting… even drinking from puddles may do a number on their sensitive tummies. Here is our go-to packing list:
The Good Scout List for Pet Camping
- Food (extra for those days they burn more calories)
- Water from home (can use ice melt from cooler)
- Bowls for above (obviously… but also the most common item to leave behind)
- Towels, Bedding
- Favorite Toy(s) for comfort/distraction
- Pet-friendly bug repellent
- Brush to remove burrs and bugs
- Extra Leashes and Collars (with tags)
- Poo Bags
- Crate, Play yard, or tie-out
- Vet Records
The Eagle Scout List for Pet Camping
- Plain Rice, Low Residue Canned Food or Pumpkin Puree for upset tummies
- Benadryl for motion sickness
- Life Vest for water activities
- First Aid kit with Wound Wash, Saline spray, Tweezers, Nail clippers (for porcupine quills) gauze pads, Vet Wrap, Neosporin for very minor wounds (apply after washing thoroughly with soap and water), hydrogen peroxide for inducing vomiting AFTER you check with the ASPCA Poison Control Hotline (888)426-4435 and the contact information for the nearest emergency vet clinic.
- Enzymatic Spray or Shampoo for aforementioned rotting carcass or a skunk
The more prepared you are, the more relaxing you can do! Have fun out there!
--West Chester Veterinary Center
‘Tis the season for visiting relatives, and with the human/animal bond being stronger than ever, many people choose to include their pet in their travel plans over the holidays.
Before you head out, here are some Pro Tips for traveling safely with your pet:
Take to the Air
If you choose to fly with your dog, a health certificate will need to be written by the veterinarian within thirty days of travel. Please plan ahead and schedule an appointment because many veterinary centers are extra busy during the holidays. The health certificate’s purpose is to prove that your animal is free of any contagious diseases. Some airlines have regulations regarding rabies vaccine status, so check with your airline to make sure you have all the paperwork in order ahead of time.
Some airlines will allow smaller pets to board with you. It is recommended that you fly with your pet in the cabin as often as possible. It is much less stressful for them, has better temperature and pressure regulation, and allows you to keep a close watch on them while you are flying.
Again, check with the airline to find out what their policy is. If your pet is larger they may be placed in cargo. In this case, make sure your pet has a comfortable, ventilated carrier that is airline approved. Make sure your pet has been out for exercise and has used the bathroom prior to placing him in the carrier. Ensure he has access to water while in the carrier, but food is unnecessary in most circumstances.
Another important thing to realize is that most pets traveling under the plane may sit outside the plane for up to an hour with the luggage before being placed on the plane. Thus, if the temperatures are not comfortable outside during this time, flying with your pet may not be a good option. Most airlines have regulations regarding what ground temperatures must be for pets to fly. This is also breed specific, for example, a husky would be fine outside in the cold for an hour, whereas it would not be a good idea to keep a bulldog outside in a crate in July.
Traveling with Emotional Support Animals
Pet lovers have long recognized the soothing power of our furry friends during times of stress, and travel by airplane can be highly stressful for many. Fortunately, airlines have begun to make it possible for pets to join their owners in the cabin as long as they meet the requirements and have the correct documentation. Please see your airlines’ website for specific requirements. Documentation usually includes (at the minimum) an ESA form, a letter from a licensed mental health professional, proof of proper training, health certificates for your pet, and a recognized diagnosis.
Many people request sedation for pets to travel. The most common sedation prescribed for pet travel is a tranquilizer called acepromazine. Acepromazine is a common tranquilizer that’s safe if used as directed. Your pet should have a full exam before taking this medication. The most common side effect of acepromazine, other than sedation, is a drop in blood pressure. As long as your pet is healthy and you follow proper dosing instructions, any effect on blood pressure will not be noticeable. If tranquilization makes you uncomfortable, you can also give Benadryl.
Benadryl should be given one hour before travel. This will make your pet tired and will hopefully help them rest. Benadryl wears off in about four to six hours. Another class of medication that may be prescribed is benzodiazepines, or valium-like medications. Most sedatives are safe for car travel when you will be keeping a close eye on your pet. However, sedation is not recommended for pets traveling in cargo, because they are not closely supervised.
Whether traveling with your pet by plane or car, many people choose to use a crate or carrier. This is the safest way to travel with your pet for long rides. If pets are not safely restrained, they may become stressed in the car and want to sit on your lap for comfort or can even get under your feet. As you can imagine, this makes for very distracted and dangerous driving.
It is important that the first time you place your pet in his travel carrier is not the first car or plane trip. Your pet needs plenty of time to get used to his crate before the travel date. Introduce your pet slowly to his crate with positive reinforcement (using food or praise) several weeks to months before traveling. Let him get used to it slowly in a positive fashion. Also, don’t forget to make sure your crate is airline approved. Many airlines have specific height, length and width requirements.
Finally, you will need to plan months in advance if you are flying to Hawaii. Hawaii is the only rabies-free state, and the rules to bring any animal into the state are exceptionally stringent. There will be a significant time and monetary investment on your part to be able to take your pet into the state.
Halloween is definitely a human holiday. It was not designed for pets. Think about it, your family smells the same, but looks completely different. Not only that, but there are strange people knocking on the door, there are people wandering in my yard, AND there are new smells in the house! (pumpkin spice, perhaps?)
Dress for Success
Yes, we find it adorable to dress up our pets up in crazy ways… but this is obviously not something they are used to, and can be traumatizing, especially if their owner is getting anxious or is pressed for time. Spend a few weeks prior to Halloween familiarizing your pet to pieces of the costume… when you and your pet are already relaxed.
No Treats for Pete’s Sake
PLEASE, make sure candy and wrappers are kept away from both cats and dogs. Not only is chocolate highly toxic, but the wrappers can be a hazard to both curious cats and dining dogs. If ingested they can cause obstructions in the bowels.
And if you wouldn’t let your kids eat their entire stash in one night, please make doubly sure that Pete doesn’t get a chance to either. Chances are Pete will not run to the toilet to vomit, while there is at least a small chance that your child will.
On Beggar’s Night, find a safe place for your pets where they are comfortable and not disturbed by the constant activity. With a “revolving door”, it can be hard to keep track of a “runner”. Or a curious kitty, or a friendly beagle. If they accompany you around the neighborhood, be aware that the sights and sounds are out of the norm for them. Avoid extendable leashes as there are far more decorations to get tangled around.
If you follow these 3 simple safety tips, Halloween can be more “Treat” and less terrifying. We would love to see you here visiting with your pets in costume to take advantage of our Fall-Themed photo booth… instead of for a Halloween emergency.
Bring your pet in costume in October and receive a Treat from us…$5 off any service! (After first following our tips for desensitizing your pet to a costume, of course!)