Safe camping with your dog (part 2)

Following on from part 1 of our blog on safe camping with your dog, here is part 2. We hope that you enjoy and welcome any feedback.

You need to ensure that your dog will be under control at all times on a campsite or in the countryside.  A dog’s antisocial behavior on a campsite could see you ejected, chasing livestock could result in a dog being shot by a farmer and unrestrained exuberance could lead to dogs running off cliffs, being swept into rivers or becoming trapped in pot-holes.  If your dog will not reliably recall then it must be restrained on a lead when out walking.

On the campsite restraint can be provided by tethers which are best attached to harnesses and should include elasticated sections to avoid jolts and jerks. Some harnesses double as travel restraints by clipping into seat belt anchors when travelling in cars.  Beware of harnesses in very hot weather because they could encourage your dog to become over heated.  Collapsible cages or crates are secure and some can be used in cars to restrain dogs when travelling their plastic bases can also protect tent ground sheets from punctures from sharp nails.  Temporary enclosures made with free standing linked panels are also a potential solution to restraining dogs on camp sites but they tend to be large and cumbersome so may not be suited to lightweight camping. Many keen caravaners use wireless electronic collar containment systems but this is not simple for campers because a reliable power supply is needed to power the central boundary transmitter.

At the end of a long day hiking or simply playing dogs will need somewhere comfortable to sleep.  Beds should be long enough for dogs to stretch out and provide insulation from the ground which can draw heat out of their body.  Portable elevated dog beds which resemble the old sun loungers of the 1980’s will ensure that your dog will probably get a better night sleep than you do.

Dogs always need a supply of clean drinking water in warm weather because they need to stay hydrated to be able to cool themselves through panting.  If clean water is not available they will drink almost any liquid and as said earlier puddles could be a source of Leptospiral bacteria and some lakes and reservoirs in the summer develop plumes of blue green algae (Aquatic cyanobacteria) which produce toxins (cyanotoxins) which are dangerous to humans and all animals but it is dogs which are most commonly intoxicated.  Warm and thirsty dogs will drink sea water which can cause diarrhea and salt poisoning, anti-freeze which can cause kidney failure or water contaminated with faeces which can cause gastroenteritis.

Campers need to ensure that they take a supply of their dogs normal food therefore avoiding any unnecessary dietary changes that could cause tummy upsets.  Owners must clean up after their dogs on camp sites and this is much easier with firm faeces.  Don’t be tempted to slip your dog a sausage from the barbeque you’ll regret it if you are sharing a tent with them and they get a touch of wind.  Equally the smell of wet dog is not very nice in a confined place so taking a towel or a ‘dry dog bag’ will enable you to dry your dog and reduce muddy paws on sleeping bags.  Combs and brushes are a good grooming equipment to have with you to brush off dried mud and to remove undercoat that will help keep dogs cool in summer.  Grooming dogs outside provides nesting material for birds and the more coat you groom out, less will accumulate in the tent.  Daily grooming is also a good way of checking for both external parasites and grass seed darts which can penetrate the skin if missed.

If your dog manages to scavenge animal carcasses while on country walks then there is a risk that they could pick up tapeworm infections from animal flesh.  In parts of Wales and the Hebrides there is a particularly nasty tapeworm called Echinococcus granulosus which can also infect humans.  After a camping trip it is a good idea to treat you dog with a medicine that is effective against Echinococcus granulosus.

If your dog is on medication make sure you have an adequate supply to last the duration of your trip.  It would also be worth noting down the names and telephone numbers of any vets in the areas where you are going camping.

Finally it is a good idea to take a first aid kit so that you can provide emergency treatment if your dog becomes injured while miles from civilization on a hike.  There are numerous first aid courses for dogs that owners can attend.  One particularly good one is provided by the College of Animal Welfare. (

David Chamberlain BVetMed., MRCVS.
Veterinary Consultant to PetSafe®

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