Updated: Aug 27, 2018
Is there anything more Coloradoan than trekking through the Rocky Mountains, enveloped in evergreens and wildflowers, listening to songbirds and chattering chipmunks, catching the scent of campfires and ponderosas, and doing it all with your beloved fur baby at your side? Camping with your dog is one of the most rewarding experiences for pets and their owners. It gives dogs the opportunity to explore, see and smell new things and bond with their owners. However, unbeknownst to many owners are the potential dangers that dogs can encounter in the wilderness.
The first thing dog owners should be aware of are the regulations regarding dogs when it comes to their state’s national parks and wilderness areas. Some parks don’t allow dogs or have regulations regarding dogs, so it’s always important to know before you embark on your adventure. Unfortunately, dogs are only allowed in Rocky Mountain National Park in areas that can be accessed by car, and dogs must remain leashed always. There are plenty of other places for pups to explore though.
Arguably one of the most important things to consider before taking your dog camping is the making sure he is up to date on his vaccinations. Many wild animals can be carriers of diseases like rabies or leptospirosis, and a dog is more than likely to come across a raccoon or squirrel or their excrement which can be teeming with parasites. Just stopping by the vet for vaccine boosters can be a great relief to dog-owners who’s pups like to put their noses where they shouldn’t. Another very real threat comes from mosquitoes, fleas, and ticks. Mosquitoes are everywhere, especially in the summer. To us, they might just be an annoyance, but to a pup, one little bite could prove fatal. All it takes is one mosquito carrying microfilaria (baby heartworms) to infest a dog. The microfilaria enters the dog's bloodstream through the mosquito and it can take up to six months for the heartworms to mature. If your dog doesn’t already have adult heartworms, a monthly heartworm preventative can ensure that even if your pup does encounter an infected mosquito, the microfilaria will be eradicated before they can mature. Although Colorado isn’t known to be a huge tick state, ticks can definitely be picked up on a camping trip here. It is recommended that owners do a thorough check of their pup for ticks. One should never compromise when it comes to the safety and health of their pet, but as long as proper medical precautions are taken before camping with your dog, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about disease and parasites. Another vaccine that can be a lifesaver is the rattlesnake vaccine. Although exercising caution on the trails and keeping a keen eye out for rattlesnakes can usually be the best preventative for rattlesnake bites, they occur nonetheless. A rattlesnake vaccine can give your dog a fighting chance if he happens to get bitten. Also, a standard first aid kit can be a great thing not only for you, but for your pet as well. Who’s to say that pups don’t get scrapes and bruises too?
Although the temptation may be great to let your doggo off-leash, as a rule of thumb, your pup is always going to be safer on-leash. An extremely well-trained dog may be the exception, but how many dogs do you know that could resist a multitude of woodland critters and new smells? It can be great to bring along a long rope or leash to hitch up your pet with; it lets your pup have some freedom to explore without having full access to anything he sees. Human and dog waste can be damaging to native wildlife; it can disrupt a delicate, balanced ecosystem and unfortunately, not everybody observes the rules about cleaning up after their pup. Most of the time, it is required that dog owners bag up and take their dogs’ waste with them when they leave. Some more primitive camping locales allow you to dig a hole six to eight inches and bury the waste if it’s at least 200 feet away from a water source. Leave no trace applies to pets as well as humans! When campers and backpackers are considerate and observant of reducing their impact on the environment, it ensures these natural areas remain pristine and open to the public for years to come.
When it comes to keeping your pet nourished and healthy on a camping trip, you don’t really need to change anything regarding your pets regular feeding routine. Although there may be plenty of opportunities for pups to drink from creeks, streams or lakes, it is advised that water is purified or boiled to get rid of disease-causing microorganisms like giardia. Especially bodies of still water are more likely to be teeming with harmful bacteria. Although most dogs won’t be exposed to disease from natural water sources, it’s always wiser to air on the side of caution. Collapsible food and water bowls are a great option for camping with your pet. They are lightweight and barely take up any space in a backpack.
Some people might find it unsanitary or cramped to have a dog in a tent, but honestly, keeping your pup in your tent at night is probably the safest option for you and your dog. Not only will your pup be safe from predators and other dangers, but you won’t have to worry about him getting off-leash and escaping.
A camping trip with a pup at your side is an experience that everybody Colorado dog owner should have. Although there are things to consider before you embark on your camping trip, the most important thing is simply keeping your dog close and keeping a watchful eye on him. The memories you’ll make with your pup will always be special ones but taking your furry friend into the mountains will be a lasting memory that you’ll want to recreate again and again!