Dog Kits for Hiking and Outdoor Activities

By: Christine New, DVM

TVMA Member
Dallas, Texas

Published May 2017

Most dogs would love nothing more than to join you on a hiking trip or other outdoor adventure. As you are packing for yourself, don’t forget to pack for your furry friend too! Luckily, dogs need similar supplies as people do for a hiking, camping or outdoor day trip. Below is a list of supplies that should make for an adequate kit for an outdoor adventure with your dog.

Backpack

There are backpacks designed for dogs available online and in some pet and outdoor recreation stores. If you choose to buy one of these, make sure your dog is fit enough to carry a pack. If this is going to be a fairly rigorous activity, or if you’re unsure about your dog’s physical capabilities, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for a comprehensive physical exam before the trip. Be sure to discuss with your veterinarian how much your dog could comfortably carry. Typically, dogs can carry a weight of one pound for every 20 pounds they weigh; however, more seasoned dogs can carry up to one-third of their weight in an appropriate pack. Make sure to have your dog practice wearing the pack for a few weeks prior to the trip. Take a few practice walks around the block. Make sure the pack fits well and does not rub any high-motion areas. If there is going to be water on your trip, you might consider a waterproof pack or packing the contents into waterproof bags.

Food and Water

Make sure to bring double the food your pet would normally eat in a day, as he will be exerting more energy and burning more calories than in a typical day at home. Pack the food into several individual bags to evenly distribute around the pack. Make sure to pack enough water for yourself and your dog. Do not rely on streams or lakes. Parasites and protozoal organisms in water can be harmful to your dog. Bring collapsible bowls to feed and water your dog, as these are more comfortable and efficient to carry.

Protective Gear

Your dog needs the same protective gear from the elements as you do, including booties, raincoat, light jacket and a blanket/sleeping bag. Their footpads are not made for hiking for a prolonged period on rocky surfaces; hot rocks, asphalt and gravel can cut and/or burn their footpads. Just like your hiking boots protect your feet from the trail hazards, dog booties will do the same for your pet. Booties can be purchased from your outdoor supply store. As with the pack, be sure to have your pet practice wearing these beforehand. Even if you don’t think you will need them, always pack them, as terrain can be unpredictable.

For overnight trips, your pet might need a light jacket or sleeping bag when temperatures drop. You can bring a lightweight kids sleeping bag or pack a two-person sleeping bag to share. Your pup will thank you for it! If the forecast has a chance of rain, bring a light raincoat for both of you. Planning for these elements will keep your pet healthy and injury-free so you can both enjoy the adventure. In addition, a few towels and a blanket should be included. If bringing a tent, make sure there is enough room for your dog.

If part of your trip includes an activity in a river, lake or other body of water, pack a doggie life jacket. Contrary to popular belief, not all dogs inherently know how to swim. Even if your dog knows how to swim, a life jacket is always a safe precaution as an injury or accident could cause your pet to fall into the water and not be able to swim.

Leash and Harness (or Collar)

Check the trail guidelines before you embark on your trip. Many trails require dogs to be kept on a leash. Even if not required, a leash is a must-have on a hiking trip. Do not bring a retractable leash because these are much less durable. A nylon leash less than six feet long is ideal. Always keep your dog’s collar or harness with current ID tags on him. For added identification, your veterinarian can place a microchip just under your pet’s skin. This identification chip, which is smaller than a grain of rice, will stay permanently with your pet and is always linked to your contact information. Should your dog get lost, scanning for a microchip is always the first step an animal control officer or veterinary professional completes.

Veterinary Information

Before your trip, look up the closest emergency veterinary clinic and make note of the hours of operation and contact information. Keep in mind not only your destination but also the entire trip’s duration. Store this information in your pack, along with your dog’s vaccine records and copies of any pertinent medical history.

First-Aid Kit

Make sure you take a sufficient supply of any medications your pet regularly takes as well as Benadryl for allergic reactions and insect stings. Ask your veterinarian what the correct dose of Benadryl is for your pet. It also is wise to ask your veterinarian whether you should have medications on hand for minor illnesses, including anti-diarrhea, anti-nausea and/or pain medication. The first-aid kit also should include the following materials:

  • Bandages, including Elasticon
  • Non-absorbent Telfa pads and absorbent pads
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Triple antibiotic cream
  • Gauze rolls and adhesive tape

Pack scissors with blunt ends, gloves, tweezers, saline flush and a muzzle. Do not use the muzzle if your pet is vomiting or unconscious, but if injured, a gentle muzzle may allow you to treat the wound more safely without getting bitten until a veterinarian can be reached. Do not leave the muzzle on for extended periods of time. Pack a brush to remove burs from your pet’s hair and don’t forget insect repellent—mosquitoes will enjoy a meal on you and your dog!

Finally, take a pet first-aid class. You will learn invaluable skills regarding initial treatment of minor injuries, as well as how to spot changes in your pet that could indicate illness or injury. Prior preparation for both you and your dog will ensure a safe, happy, fun trip you both will enjoy!

Dr. Christine New practices veterinary medicine at the Hillside Veterinary Clinic in Dallas.