Hiking and Camping with Dogs
There is no better city for people who enjoy the outdoors than Asheville, NC. Mile-high mountains are a featured part of our downtown skyline. Throughout those mountains there are thousands of miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, accounting for every skill level. We have hundreds of camping options, ranging from some of the most remote backcountry wilderness in the Southeast to campgrounds with swimming pools and Wi-Fi. Rivers and creeks emanating from the highest mountains crisscross our area, providing residents and tourists with beautiful swimming holes and whitewater rafting opportunities. There is hardly enough time to begin to explore all of the outdoor activities in western North Carolina.
If you have a dog, you are probably eager to take him along with whatever you do in our beautiful mountains. Dogs love the outdoors. Nevertheless, before you take your canine to the woods, it is important to research the best practices for enjoying nature with your buddy. In this guide, we will discuss the most important things to remember when hiking and camping with your canine companions.
Hiking With Dogs
Hiking is an excellent way for your dog to get exercise; however, it is vital to make sure he is healthy enough for the journey. Before you hit the trail, read through this guide and visit your veterinarian.
1. Schedule a Wellness Checkup
The first step in preparing for you and your dog’s hiking adventure is scheduling a wellness checkup. The veterinarian will be able to assess whether your pet is ready for a long hike and just how far he can go.
2. Determine How Far Your Dog Can Go
Some dogs are built for the long haul, while others are more comfortable staying close to home. It is essential to determine your dog’s fitness level before you set out on your big adventure, especially if this is her first one in a while. In addition to talking with your vet, answer these questions:
- How tired is my dog after walks and outdoor play?
- How fatigued is my dog after walking uphill?
- Is my dog overweight?
- What is the farthest I can carry my dog if he becomes too tired on the trail?
3. Make Sure Your Dog is Vaccinated
In addition to rabies shots, flea and tick treatments, and other veterinarian recommended vaccines, we want to make sure we remind our patients and their owners about Zoonotic Diseases and the Rattlesnake Vaccine.
Leptospirosis - Leptospirosis is a bacterium that can live in water sources contaminated by urine from infected wildlife. It attacks the dog’s liver and kidneys and can be spread to humans via direct contact with urine. The best way to prevent your pet from contracting this serious disease is by vaccinating them.
Zoonotic Diseases - Zoonotic Diseases are those that can spread from pets to humans such as parasites, Leptospirosis, and rabies. To protect against them, make sure your pet is using a monthly heartworm preventative and consider the Leptospirosis vaccine. Furthermore, whether you are on family hikes or playing in the backyard, make sure you and your children wash their hands after playing in the dirt.
Rattlesnake Vaccine - Are rattlesnakes a concern in western North Carolina? Absolutely. There are rattlesnakes in the Blue Ridge Mountains and adjacent foothills. Avery Creek Pet Hospital offers a rattlesnake vaccine that will help buy you and your dog time to get to the vet in the unfortunate event of a snake bite.
4. Take Precautions During Hunting Seasons
Hunting is allowed in some parts of Pisgah National Forest, Dupont, and Bent Creek. Following these tips will keep you and your canine friend safe during hunting seasons:
- Know whether you are hiking in an area where hunting is legal
- Know whether you are hiking during a hunting season
- Make sure you and your dog wear orange/bright colors
- Keep your pet on his leash at all times (especially if he is prone to chasing birds, rabbits, squirrels and the like)
- Attach bells to your dog’s collar so he can be heard
5. Remember to Bring Food and Water
Though creeks and rivers intersect many trails, it is vital to make sure you have water for your dog along the way. In stagnant water, algae and other contaminants can make your dog sick, so make sure he only drinks from clean running water on the trail. Furthermore, make sure you and your dog have some snacks or emergency food on hand, even if you are not planning on hiking far.
6. Practice Proper Trail Etiquette
When you are on the trail, you and your dog must practice proper trail etiquette. Follow these steps:
- Know the rules of the trail system, park, or forest in which you are hiking.
- Hike on the right side of the trail.
- Leash your dog – most areas require a six-foot leash. Avoid retractable leashes.
- Make sure your dog is enitrely under your control at all times.
- Clean up after your dog.
- Let other hikers no whether your dog is safe to pet.
Hiking is great exercise and a lot of fun for you and your dog. Practicing these safety measures will ensure you and your pet have the best experience possible. Many of these principles apply to other outdoor activities as well.
Camping With Dogs
Like hiking and other outdoor activities, proper preparation is key to having a good experience camping with your dog.
- Schedule a wellness checkup with your veterinarian
- Make sure he has his vaccines
- Take precautions during hunting seasons
- Know your dog’s fitness level
- Bring plenty of food and water
- Practice for camping by taking your pup on non-overnight hikes
Knowing how much your dog can handle and how he will react in various woodland situations is paramount.
Choose the Right Location
- KNOW THE RULES. Many national parks do not allow dogs or require them to be leashed at all times.
- AVOID SAFETY HAZARDS. Sharp rocks, camping on precarious cliff sides, and other hazards should be avoided.
- WILDLIFE. Know what kind of wildlife to expect and prepare accordingly. You may want to avoid some areas during certain seasons.
- HORSES AND MOUNTAIN BIKES. Mountain bikes may spook your dog. Your dog may spook or be spooked by horses. It is best to avoid camping with your dog in areas heavily used by mountain bikers and horses.
- ROOM TO ROAM. You may research camping areas that allow dogs to roam unleashed and have plenty of room to do so; however, make sure your dog is well-trained and will respect your commands. Have eyes on your dog at all times.
Beware of Common Camping Dangers
- FATIGUE. Take plenty of breaks, even if it means a slower hike to your camping location. Remember to bring plenty of food for your furry friend as well as yourself.
- DEHYDRATION. Even if it is not particularly hot, make sure you pack plenty of water for your dog. For natural water sources, avoid stagnant water and puddles.
WEATHER. Your dog may be tough, but he is no more invincible than you. Pay close attention to whether he is shivering or panting and be prepared to help or even bail on the trip if necessary.
Check the weather for the specific area in which you plan to camp before your trip. If meteorologists expect extreme heat or cold, heavy rain or thunderstorms, snow or high winds, or any other weather hazards that would threaten the health of you and your dog, consider rescheduling your trip.
- WILDLIFE. From skunks to bears, wildlife is one of the most important concerns when hiking with your dogs. We will discuss wildlife further below.
- VEGETATION. Certain plants can be harmful to your pet. Mushrooms, some flora, and other vegetation may upset your dog’s stomach or be even more harmful. Familiarize yourself with the plant life where you will be hiking and camping and stop your dog if he begins grazing.
- INJURIES. The most common injury will be hurt paws. Make sure you carry some booties along and pack a first aid kit for yourself and your dog.
- Items to include in your pet’s first aid kit.
- Blood Clotting Powder: For quickly halting bleeding.
- Saline Flush: For washing and disinfecting wounds.
- Cotton Balls and Q-Tips: For cleaning wounds, especially around sensitive areas (Do NOT put directly into your dog’s ears or eyes).
- Adhesive Tape, Gauze, Bandage Tape/Wrap, Scissors: For bandaging wounds.
- Splints: For injuries that require reducing movement.
- Tweezers: For removing ticks, splinters, and thorns.
- Antibiotic Ointment: For disinfecting cuts and gashes.
- Hydrogen Peroxide (3%): For inducing vomit.
- Artificial Tears: For restoring tears after flushing eyes.
- Alcohol Wipes and Disposable Gloves
- OTHER DOGS. If you are camping in an area that allows dogs, there is a good chance you and your buddy will not be alone. Make sure you know how your dog will respond to others in an unfamiliar setting.
- UNFAMILIAR TERRITORY. If your dog loves to explore new places, you may not have anything to worry about. But if your dog is not crazy about unfamiliar territory, you should consider at the very least helping him warm up to the idea of going camping with you.
Wildlife in the Woods and Wilderness of Western North Carolina
While you are hiking or camping in western North Carolina, it is very likely you and your dog will encounter wildlife. Depending on where and when you go, some of the animals you may see include:
- Black Bears
- Hawks and other birds of prey
- Small birds
- Turtles and Salamanders
For adventurers, wildlife encounters are part of the fun. However, it is important to be prepared for how your dog will respond to seeing, smelling, and meeting other animals. Furthermore, there are a few dangers of which to be aware. Here are some general tips for making sure wildlife sightings are a treat and not a threat to you and your dog’s health:
- KEEP YOUR DOG LEASHED: Whether she would be chasing a chipmunk, a skunk, or a bear, you really want to avoid your beloved pet pursuing wildlife. Giving chase could cause your dog to get lost, bitten, or hurt.
- KEEP YOUR DISTANCE: If you do see an animal, remember you are in their home territory. For your safety and theirs, keep your distance.
- KEEP YOUR EYE OUT: Watch for signs of wildlife like tracks and droppings.
- KEEP AWAY FROM POTENTIALLY RABID ANIMALS: Any mammal can get rabies; however, the most common rabid animals are coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and bats.
- KEEP FOOD AND WASTE AWAY FROM SLEEPING AREAS: Cook, eat, store, and dispose of garbage at least 100-feet from where you are sleeping. Do not leave your dog’s food out either. Consider using odor-proof bags to store food items. DO NOT bury your trash.
What to do if you encounter a black bear:
- Do NOT approach a bear, especially a cub.
- Try not to get between a mother bear and her cubs
- Make noise: Yell, clap, blow whistles, beat pots and pans
- Stand tall, spread your arms, look large
- If the bear approaches threateningly, use bear spray (purchase at a camping or outdoor store, or ask your veterinarian)
- Bear attacks are uncommon, but if one does charge, fight back. Playing dead is not an effective strategy.
Sleeping Arrangements for Your Pet
It may be tempting to let your buddy roam at night, or leash them outside, but the best practice for sleeping is to have them with you. If you are tent camping, make a bed for your pet inside your tent. If you are sleeping under the stars, in a hammock or on the ground, keep your pet with you.
If you prepare properly, hiking and camping are fun adventures for you and your dog. The most important step, however, is consulting your dog’s veterinarian and making sure he or she is ready for the challenge. At Avery Creek Pet Hospital, we see many patients before and after wilderness adventures. We can help you know what to expect, exactly how to prepare, and what to remember with your specific canine companion. Before hitting the dusty or muddy trail, schedule a wellness appointment with us.