Keep your dog happy and healthy on your next camping trip
This years warm weather has seen more campers than ever before – and more staycations too! Research by travel trade association ABTA revealed that 66% of the British population were planning to holiday here in the UK in 2018 – and many planned to take their beloved pets with them.
Even though the heatwave seems to be a distant memory, thousands of Brits are still enjoying the last few months of ‘camping season’ and getting in their last trip before Winter forces us to put our tents into storage.
Camping is the perfect option for families wanting to holiday with their pets, with many dog friendly campsites around the UK.
However there are certain factors you should consider before taking your dog camping with you.
Be a considerate camper – and a considerate pet owner
When taking a dog camping, it’s important to consider other campers – following site rules about where to exercise your dog and keeping them on a lead where appropriate are common sense. Make sure you read the rules regarding pets before booking a site. If your dog is frequently off lead, a site where your dog must be permanently on a lead, or restricted to your pitch may not be appropriate.
However, it’s also important to consider your pet’s health and comfort – a change of location and habits may need a change of diet, so it’s also important to plan for your pet’s health and dietary needs while away.
We spoke to John Burns, veterinary surgeon and founder of Burns Pet Nutrition what his recommendations would be to keep a dog healthy and happy during a family camping trip.
Plan and measure your pet’s food before you go
John says this tip is mainly for your own convenience and limited storage space during camping – measure out the amount of food your dog will need during the trip, and then add just a bit more, just to be on the safe side. You don’t want to take too much with you, leading to waste, but you also don’t want to be unprepared in the unfortunate case of your car breaking down – and then risk having to feed your dog food that’s not intended for them while you try and get to the nearest supermarket or pet food shop to restock!
Striking a happy balance between not taking too much food, and taking too much can be difficult, but as a rule of thumb, you should pack about 1.5x the amount you would feed your dog normally. This way, you’re prepared but aren’t likely to be left lugging far more than your dog needs. If you’re not sure how much food your dog needs on a daily basis, check out our page for a general idea based on your dog’s body weight, then times the amount by 1.5.
Provide extra food for your pet if your trip is more energetic than normal
Just like walkers will burn off extra calories, your furry friend may need to be supplemented with some extra food if they are away on a walking holiday, where they are doing a lot more exercise than usual, or if it is very cold where they are sleeping – either of these situations will see your dog burning more calories. If your holiday is very active, consider the specific types of dog food for active dogs, containing an increased amount of calories which are easily digestible – perfect to sustain your dog on the go!
Dry food is better than wet food for convenience and storage
No matter what food your dog normally has, if camping, backpacking or travelling by car to your destination – it is important to think of the type of food you should take with you. If you know you’ll be spending a lot of time walking, and accessibility may be difficult, dry food is the better option.
Unless your dog’s diet requires wet food, we recommend dry food when packing for a camping trip. There are two reasons for this: firstly, dry food offers the convenience of being easily opened, served, and put away with minimal mess, and secondly, dry food comes in lighter packaging, making it easier and lighter to carry as well as having the added benefit of being able to be stored more easily.
Make sure human food is kept out of reach during the camping trip
Just as you wouldn’t feed your dog your own food while at home, you shouldn’t feed your dog any human food while you’re away. Don’t be tempted to give your dog a “harmless treat” because it’s a camping trip.
Campsite food such as sausages can be high in fat and make dogs unwell – the last thing you need while sleeping under canvas. Minimise the risk of your dog stealing any human food by keeping it out of reach at all times. You may also consider investing in some lightweight containers to store your food in to keep it extra secure – it will keep insects out, too!
Be sure to pack plenty of water for your dog
Your dog is used to drinking the water you have at home, so it’s good practice to pack plenty of water for your trip – especially with the increase in exercise your pet will be exposed to.
This is a good precaution to take. Not all campsites have fresh water sources, and even if they do, you don’t want to run the risk of upsetting your dog’s stomach by giving them something they’re not used to.
Invest in some collapsible bowls
Collapsible silicone bowls are a must-have item for people travelling with dogs. Not only are they collapsible, making them perfect for storing, but being made out of silicone, they are also incredibly lightweight and can be easily cleaned. Because they are so lightweight and storable, you can afford to pack a couple of spare bowls too, which could save the day if ones goes awry.
Don’t forget to pack treats
Dog treats are a great way to keep your dog calm around other dogs and when in an unfamiliar environment, so make sure to pack at least one or two pack of treats for your trip. Taking treats will also provide you with an easy way to keep your dog entertained on a long walk by practicing some tricks.
Dogs are a member of the family – so taking time to help them enjoy the trip will pay dividends for the whole family.
About our expert:
John Burns is a veterinary surgeon and founder of Burns Pet Nutrition – a family company in Wales that makes award-winning natural pet food specifically designed for the health and wellbeing of pets.