Backpacking and Hiking with Pets
Backpacking and hiking with your pet can be an enjoyable experience, but certain precautions should be taken to avoid injury or becoming separated.
Most importantly, be sure you and your pet are in good physical shape to endure whatever trek you're planning.
If you intend for your pet to carry his or her own dog pack, be sure not to load it down with more than one-third of its body weight. Twenty to 30 percent is perhaps more ideal to avoid tiring out your companion too quickly. It's advisable to let your dog get used to carrying the pack ahead of time by taking short walks around the block or even around the house.
Here are some backpacking and hiking pet travel tips to consider before and after hitting the trail with your pet:
- Check for restrictions in areas such as campgrounds, RV parks, beaches, and hiking trails that you plan to visit.
- Ask your vet ahead of time for recommendations such as flea and tick treatments or heartworm prevention medication.
- Carry a small pet first-aid kit with you in the event your pet suffers scratches or cuts or has other medical needs.
- You should always have your pet in sight and, preferably, on a leash. Some parks and hiking trails require it.
- Wildlife such as snakes, skunks, porcupines, raccoons, bears, mountain lions, and coyotes can be a problem with a pet on the loose and can cause serious injury. Make sure your pet stays in close proximity to where you are hiking.
- Be aware of the surrounding terrain for sharp or rough rocks and roots that can cause cuts or scratches to your dog's paw pads. Special all-terrain dog shoes can protect your dog's feet from this type of injury and are especially beneficial in the winter to keep them from getting too cold or having ice form between the toes.
- Certain plant life, such as cactus, nettles and poison ivy that can irritate and cause injury to your pet's skin should be avoided.
- Take along appropriate clothing for the weather conditions in which you'll be hiking.
- A couple of your pet's toys will help keep the attention near you and not on other wildlife.
- Pet waste bags should be packed and properly disposed.
- Spring and summer hiking means bugs and insects. Be sure to include some insect repellant.
- Make sure your pet has proper identification in the event she becomes lost. A collar I.D. tag that contains a cell phone number where you can easily be reached is essential.
- Extra precaution should be taken when hiking during various hunting seasons. Bright or reflective pet clothing will help your pet stand out from the natural environment. You should wear some too.
- Be considerate and share the trail with others. Be cognizant that some hikers may become anxious or scared if they see a pet on the loose without its owner nearby.
- Because dogs don't have sweat glands, they are prone to heatstroke in very warm conditions and pant to cool themselves down. Make sure you carry enough water for you and your pet and take adequate rest breaks. Be aware that some water resources are not safe to drink from and may contain harmful parasites or toxins. Dog hydration systems are becoming more popular for hiking dogs to carry their own water supply.
Check out the Pet Travel Products store for more helpful items to take along while backpacking or hiking with your pet.
Take a look at these favorite places to hike with your dog.
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Ask the Vet
Q. When traveling with our 13-year-old male tabby, we normally seclude him in the rear bath of our motorhome with litter box, water and food. He also has a hammock bed but no windows, just a skylight. Bottom line - would he be better off in a carrier up forward with us? -- William C., Winston, GA
Ask the Pet Relocation Expert
Estimated Move Date: August 2015
From: Blackburn South, Victoria, Australia
Pet: Ragdoll Cat, 6.5 years, 6 kilograms