By Diana Bocco
Planning to go camping with dogs? The first step is making sure your pup is up to date on vaccines for rabies, distemper, Lyme disease and leptospirosis, and discussing flea and tick medicine for dogs with your veterinarian. And the next step is getting the right gear in order to ensure that your pup not only has fun, but also stays completely safe during the trip.
Here are 6 dog camping gear essentials you want to make sure you bring along.
An important piece of dog camping gear is a warm and comfortable place for you dog to sleep. A thick blanket, a second sleeping bag (folded a few times) or even a small foam mattress might be enough for your pup to sleep comfortably, as long as he’s young and ready to sleep basically anywhere. “If you want your dog to sleep on a blanket to add some cushioning, make sure you take it out in the morning, shake and clean it off well, and then store it until the evening,” recommends Dr. Robin Sturtz, DVM, program director at Long Island University’s Veterinary Technology Program in New York.
If you are camping with dogs that are older, or dogs that have joint problems, it is best to provide them with added comfort in the form of a travel pet bed, like the Carlson Pet Products portable travel bed. “Get a camping-grade dog bed if possible,” says Dr. Sturtz. “A cot is best; that is, something on a frame raised off the ground.”
Not only is a dog cot more comfortable, but it’s smoother and easier to clean than something you place on the ground. “A fluffy material looks comfortable but can quickly become a magnet for dirt and insects,” Dr. Sturtz says.
Fortunately, many of the items in your own first-aid kit can also be used for dog first aid if necessary. “Bandaging materials (except Band-Aids, which won’t stick on fur), antibiotic ointment, and blood clotting gel/powder all work great for pets too,” says Dr. Kent Julius, DVM, owner of Legacy Veterinary Hospital in Frisco, Texas.
Dr. Sturtz also recommends bringing Betadine (which is better for cleansing small cuts and wounds than peroxide), an emergency blanket in case of sudden foul weather or severe injury, and sterile saline eyewash to flush away debris. “If there’s a stick or particle that you can’t flush out, get to the veterinarian immediately,” Dr. Sturtz says. “And bring tweezers with a magnifying glass to remove ticks, thorns, pieces of rock or glass; remember to grasp the head of the tick as close to the dog’s body as you can get, so that the entire tick is removed.” You can also pack a tick removal tool like TickEase, which is a special tweezer tool that comes with a magnifier.
To ensure you are completely covered while camping with dogs, you can even get a first aid kit made specifically for pets, like the Kurgo pet first aid kit.
Making sure your dog’s leash and collar have a light-up or reflective covering is also a great idea, so you can keep an eye on him at all times. “If the dog decides to go into the bushes to investigate something, the light will help you extract him safely,” Dr. Sturtz says. “At night, a light that shows the dog and the path can help you avert hazards on the trail.”
For nights out camping with dogs, a flashing light on the collar is even more effective, as it cannot be confused with a light coming from a flashlight or other campers. “Lighted leashes you can turn on and off that have both a steady-state and a blinking light feature are ideal,” says Dr. Sturtz.
In a pinch, you can always improvise. “A headlamp attached securely to the collar would work well,” says Julius. “Even glow sticks attached to the collar ring work well as long as the pet cannot chew it or remove it."
It is important to remember to pack plenty of dog food and water when camping with dogs. “A water bowl is important, as some pets cannot drink enough from a water bottle,” Dr. Julius says. “And depending on the location, some outdoor water sources could be contaminated with parasites or dangerous bacteria.” To make storage of water for your dog easier, you can try dog travel bowls, like the Heininger WaterBoy, which allows you to store and serve water to your dog while on the go.
The same is true for making sure you bring your own dog food storage container with you instead of just buying dog food on the go or feeding your pup something he’s not used to. “This will help prevent the upset tummies from a change in diet,” Dr. Julius says. The Gamma2 travel-tainer can help store your dog’s food and feed him, so you can save precious car-packing space.