There are few feelings as freeing and revitalizing as getting away from it all with a back-to-nature camping trip. Having your family and friends together while doing so only enhances these feelings. And there is probably no family member that is excited more by the fresh outdoor freedom than your four legged family members. In order to help you prepare for a safe and secure camping adventure, we have compiled a list of dangers and resources to help mitigate dangers when camping with dogs.

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Hunting Dangers When Camping with Dogs

Regardless of your opinion on hunting animals in the U.S., for many it is a sport, lifestyle and way to contribute to wildlife conservation. Given that your camping trip will most likely be taking place in a somewhat secluded outdoor area with wildlife, it is important to know which hunting seasons are taking place during your camping trip. Each state has jurisdiction over hunting any wildlife that exists within that state’s boundaries. To find out if there are any hunting dangers while camping with your dog, you can reference this list of each state’s Department of Natural Resources. Each state’s DNR site will guide you on the hunting seasons, wildlife species and trapping events that may pose a danger to you and your dog when camping. Also, be sure to check our “Safety Checklist for Camping With Dogs” resource to help you be prepared for any situation. For your convenience, we also publish a list of the Department of Natural Resources for each state. Before heading out with your dog on the camping trip, it is helpful to check these sites for information about hunting seasons, area wildlife, area dangers and general education.

General Wildlife Dangers when Camping with Dogs

It is natural when camping with your dogs that there may be some scraps between your dog and smaller wildlife such as squirrels, rabbits, and mice. Usually, the biggest hazard stemming from tussles between your dog and these smaller mammals will be to the smaller animal, or to your dog via a skunk spray (see how to get out skunk spray in our resources section). However, the worst case scenario is that one of these mammals is carrying rabies. Only mammals can get rabies. Birds, reptiles, amphibians and fish cannot. Skunks, foxes, raccoons, and bats are the most likely mammals to get rabies according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. On the East Coast, Raccoon are the most likely rabies carriers, with Skunk and Fox being the most likely carriers in other areas of the U.S. The CDC offers a Wildlife Surveillance Map to help you understand rabies dangers for the region you plan on camping with your dog.

In addition to small wildlife, larger wildlife needs to be considered as a potential hazard when camping with dogs. Scraps with mice, squirrels and smaller such mammals will most likely resolve in no harm to your dog. However, this is a different case when it comes to deer, porcupine (how to get porcupine quills out in resources section), snakes, alligators, raccoons, mountain lions, coyotes, or bears. Be sure to understand the what wildlife exists in the locations you intend to camp and to understand how to best react when encountering this wildlife. Regardless of where you intend on camping and whether the wildlife dangers are large or small, never leave your dog unattended and never let them roam freely if you cannot keep an eye on their activities.

One last area to be aware of is wild animal baiting in the area where you may be camping with dogs. In doing our research for the dangers of camping for dogs, we came across one sad story of an innocent four-legged friend who encountered fox baiting along a river. There were no signs posted that this activity was occurring. Wildlife agencies will sometimes engage in wildlife population control through baiting an area. These baits can be used for feral cats, foxes, and wild dogs. We had a hard time finding information regarding this practice in the U.S. which leads us to believe that it is less common here than in countries such as Australia. Regardless, it is still a good idea to be aware of this practice and do your own research for areas you intend on camping. The local Ranger would be responsible for monitoring and alerting the public to these activities.

Heat & Cold Risks When Camping with Dogs

When living the active dog lifestyle, it is important to understand their tolerance and the risks of exposure to heat or cold. Dogs require ample hydration just as we humans do and when it comes to hiking or camping in the heat with your dog, it is important to recognize that they require MORE hydration. Just imagine that long hike under a hot sun with a full coat of fur. Be sure you can recognize the signs of heat stroke in dogs when camping or hiking. If your dog is veering off path or trail and clamoring for shade, this is a good sign that they need a rest and some water. Dogs do not sweat to cool off, they pant – this is their way of exchanging warm air in the body for the cooler air outside. The average temperature for a dog is between 100 and 103 degrees and when the temperature outside is above 85 or 90 degrees, it becomes more difficult to cool off. Another sign of heat stroke in your dog is excessive, rapid or sometimes frantic panting. Their tongue may turn bright pink or red and the saliva will be thick. Even if your dog is drooling, that does not mean they are hydrated, be sure to check the consistency of their drool. Vomiting and sometimes bloody diarrhea are a strong sign that your dog is suffering from heat stroke. If their nose and ears are hot to the touch, their body temperature rises above 104 degrees or they have a staggering or unsteady gait, they may be encountering heat stroke.

If you suspect heatstroke in your dog, here are some steps to take. Provide shade or shelter from the sun immediately. Immerse your dog in cool (NOT icy) water, or use your water bottles, a hose or wet towels to cool the undersides, including groin and armpits. Let your dog drink cool water, but understand that they should not be gulping down large amounts of water at a time and drinking cool water alone will not protect your dog if they have heatstroke. Once your dog has cooled down a bit, take them to a veterinarian immediately. Be sure to use our Camping With Dogs Vet Finder resource to document veterinarians’ contact information near your dog friendly campgrounds.

While your dog is built to handle some weather conditions, it is a common misconception that dogs are “fine” in cold weather. Just like humans, your dog is at risk for frostbite and hypothermia. To detect hypothermia in your dog look for signs such as violent shivering, body (internal rectal) temperatures below 95 degrees, lethargy, or a weak pulse. If you suspect that your dog is experiencing hypothermia, begin treatment by bringing them to shelter and wrapping them in a warm blanket. A wet dog must be dried extensively and you can try feeding them a sugar solution to help with the low blood sugar often caused by hypothermia. The best protection against hypothermia for your dog is prevention. Be sure to check our list of gear for cold weather camping with dogs.

Insect Dangers When Camping With Dogs

The ability for your dog to run free and enjoy the outdoors is the greatest reward for taking them along on camping trips. The chances of encountering some of the previous camping with dogs dangers that we discuss in this article are rare and most likely the greatest “threat” will come from insects such as bees, wasps, deer flies, horse flies, or fleas and ticks.

Before engaging an active outdoor lifestyle with your dog, it is highly recommended that you use a flea and tick prevention treatment recommended by your veterinarian. If you choose to let your dog spend a lot of time in the outdoors without a flea and tick prevention system, you are risking Lyme disease. Especially in forested areas that contain a large deer population.

When it comes to bug bites, dogs are as susceptible as humans. The best way to protect your dog from bug bites when camping is to apply dog-safe repellants before these bites occur. Again, talk to your veterinarian before purchasing a bug repellant as they will be able to guide you to the safest alternatives.

You may witness your dog getting stung by bees or wasps while camping. While in most cases, there will not be an allergic reaction, it is important to monitor the area of the bite for infection or allergic reaction. Over the counter Benadryl is a good treatment for a non-allergic reaction to bee or wasp sting on your dog. In severe cases, your veterinarian may use an inject-able form of Benadryl to treat the sting. Severe symptoms from a bee or wasp sting on your dog include trouble breathing, diarrhea, severe itchiness, sudden defecation, urination, drooling, pale gums, cold limbs, or mental confusion. If you witness these severe symptoms or mild symptoms such as swelling or breaking out in hives take your dog to the vet immediately. Your dog may be stung by wasps or bees without you witnessing it.

Dogs, like humans can have allergic reactions to bug bites. Be sure to consult your vet on proper prevention before taking them with you on the camping trip. Also, make sure that you are prepared with a proper first aid kit for dogs.

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