Backpacking and Hiking with Pets

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Backpacking and hiking with your pet can be an enjoyable experience, but certain precautions should be taken to avoid injury or becoming separated.

Most importantly, be sure you and your pet are in good physical shape to endure whatever trek you’re planning.

If you intend for your dog to carry his own pack, be sure not to load it down with more than one-third of its body weight. Twenty to 30 percent is perhaps more ideal to avoid tiring out your companion too quickly. It’s advisable to let your dog get used to carrying the pack ahead of time by taking short walks around the block or even around the house.

Here are some tips to consider before and after hitting the trail with your pet:

  • Check for restrictions in areas such as campgrounds, RV parks, beaches, and hiking trails that you plan to visit.
  • Ask your vet ahead of time for recommendations such as flea and tick treatments or heartworm prevention medication.
  • Carry a small first-aid kit with you in the event you or your pet suffers scratches or cuts or has other medical needs.
  • You should always have your pet in sight and, preferably, on a leash. Some parks and hiking trails require it.
  • Wildlife such as snakes, skunks, porcupines, raccoons, bears, mountain lions, and coyotes can be a problem with a pet on the loose and can cause serious injury. Make sure your pet stays in close proximity to where you are hiking.
  • Be aware of the surrounding terrain for sharp or rough rocks and roots that can cause cuts or scratches to your dog’s paw pads. Special boots can protect your dog’s feet from this type of injury and are especially beneficial in the winter to keep them from getting too cold or having ice form between the toes.
  • Certain plant life, such as cactus, nettles and poison ivy that can irritate and cause injury to your pet’s skin should be avoided.
  • Take along appropriate clothing for the weather conditions in which you’ll be hiking.
  • A couple of your pet’s toys will help keep the attention near you and not on other wildlife.
  • Pet waste bags should be packed and properly disposed.
  • Spring and summer hiking means bugs and insects. Be sure to include some insect repellant.
  • Make sure your pet has proper identification in the event she becomes lost. A collar I.D. tag that contains a cell phone number where you can easily be reached is essential.
  • Extra precaution should be taken when hiking during various hunting seasons. Bright or reflective clothing will help you stand out from the natural environment.
  • Be considerate and share the trail with others. Be cognizant that some hikers may become anxious or scared if they see a pet on the loose without its owner nearby.
  • Because dogs don’t have sweat glands, they are prone to heatstroke in very warm conditions and pant to cool themselves down. Make sure you carry enough water for you and your pet and take adequate rest breaks. Be aware that some water resources are not safe to drink from and may contain harmful parasites or toxins. is an Internet resource website and online community serving the pet travel industry and pet lovers everywhere. Information about pet-friendly accommodations and destinations, RV parks, dog parks and campgrounds, tips for traveling with pets using various modes of transportation, recreational activities with pets, articles by pet experts, a photo gallery to post images of your pet travels, and special features, including a monthly newsletter for PTC Club members, are included in the site.