How to Prevent a Pet Tick Infestation

Ticks are no joke! These parasitic insects will latch onto people and other animals and feed on their host’s blood. They often move between different types of animals in each phase of their 2-3 year lifespan. There are a few varieties of ticks, each of which tend to prefer different host animals. There are many varieties of ticks in North America, however only a handful are of serious concern to your pets. Although it’s less common than with dogs, cats are also at risk of contracting ticks and the ensuing potential diseases. For both cats and dogs, the ticks they’re most likely to encounter in BC and the West Coast of Canada are: 

  • Rocky mountain wood tick
  • Western blacklegged tick
  • Brown dog tick 

Other common ticks found in parts of Canada and North America are Lonestar ticks, Gulf coast ticks, etc. Tick species can vary widely depending on which part of the world you live in, so you should always do your research or ask your veterinarian about local species that are potential concerns for the health of your pet. Knowing more about these parasites can help you understand how to prevent a pet tick infestation from happening in the first place. 

Why you need to prevent pet tick infestations

Tick bites and infestations aren’t just an annoyance. Even one or two tick bites puts your pet at risk of contracting a tick-borne disease, some of which can be very serious or even life threatening. These diseases include: 

Lyme disease

This is the most infamous tick-borne disease and for good reason. Lyme disease originates in a tiny bacterial organism, which lives inside of the tick. When a tick carrying this bacteria bites your pet, there’s a high chance of it being passed along. Lyme disease is most likely to affect dogs and humans, and the disease can be transmitted between the two. 

Thankfully, it’s exceedingly rare for cats to contract lyme disease from a tick, but it’s still not impossible. Symptoms of lyme disease include lethargy, fever, long-lasting joint pain leading to lameness, loss of appetite, and fatigue. It can also lead to more serious issues, such as kidney or heart disease. Symptoms of lyme disease may also not present themselves for days or weeks after the initial tick-bite, making it more difficult to identify the problem. 


Ehrlichiosis is a blood infection transmitted by a tick infected with a specific bacterial organism. The infected tick will bite another animal, passing the organism on and transmitting the disease. It’s most commonly seen in dogs and humans, and is very rarely seen in cats. 

This disease moves through three stages, each becoming more severe, so it can be difficult to identify. However, it’s vital to diagnose and treat ehrlichiosis as early as possible in order to protect your pet. The symptoms of the disease’s first phase, known as the acute phase, include weight loss, swollen lymph nodes, spontaneous hemorrhaging or bleeding, respiratory issues, and fever. The disease can progress all the way to much more serious problems, including major bleeding episodes, anemia, excessive swelling in the limbs, lameness, and sight problems that can include total blindness. 


Like with other tick-borne diseases, anaplasmosis is primarily a concern for dogs, but it can also be contracted in humans and cats. This disease can come in two forms, each affecting different parts of your pet’s blood. It’s important to know that an animal can have both types of the disease at the same time, so don’t rule out one if you notice signs of the other. 

Granulocytic anaplasmosis is an infection of the white blood cells, which can lead to symptoms such as lameness, lethargy, and fever. In more serious cases, granulocytic anaplasmosis may cause diarrhea, vomiting, and coughing or other respiratory issues, but these symptoms are less common. This type of anaplasmosis can be very hard to identify, since many dogs who contract it only show vague symptoms, if any. However, if the disease is caught early enough, there’s normally a good prognosis for your pet. 

The other type of anaplasmosis is known as infectious cyclic thrombocytopenia, which affects the platelets in your dog’s blood. Less is known about this disease, but it has been found in ticks and is thought to be transmitted to dogs via bites. Like the other type of anaplasmosis, symptoms of this disease can include loss of appetite, fever, and lethargy. Unlike the other form of the disease, however, this version can also cause bruising on your dog’s gums and abdomen, as well as nosebleeds. Thankfully, the prognosis for infectious cyclic thrombocytopenia is also usually good if caught early enough. 

Rocky Mountain spotted fever

Rocky Mountain spotted fever, also known as RMSF, is a serious disease caused by yet another bacteria that lives inside of some ticks. The bacteria is passed via a tick bite, and can lead to serious symptoms including fever, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, and in some cases, heart issues, pneumonia, kidney failure, liver damage, or serious neurological problems such as seizures and a general lack of coordination. 

RMSF is primarily a concern for dogs and humans, but it is also sometimes seen in cats. If an animal successfully overcomes a RMSF infection, they’ll generally return to normal health and be immune to future infections. However, if the disease has progressed enough, it is more difficult to treat and may require your pet being hospitalized.

How to prevent tick-borne illnesses

Currently the only vaccine available for tick borne diseases is the Lyme Vaccine, however a proactive and preventive approach is needed to keep you and your pet safe. Furthermore, your dog can still bring ticks into your home, putting you, your family, and your other pets at risk. That’s why veterinarians recommend an ongoing treatment for overall pet tick prevention. 

For most of the above diseases, the tick must be attached for at least a few hours, and sometimes up to one or two days in order to transmit the bacteria. This means that there are a few tick prevention treatments that can protect both you and your pet. 

For dogs, many people choose a topical treatment that kills ticks and fleas on contact, meaning parasites don’t ever get the chance to bite your pet. This provides the best protection for your pet and minimizes the risk of them contracting a disease. You should never use flea or tick prevention medicine intended for dogs on your cat, since the chemicals in these treatments can sometimes be extremely harmful for felines. In general, always defer to your veterinarian’s advice when choosing a tick prevention treatment. 

In addition to keeping up with medications to prevent infestation, you should regularly check any pets that spend time outdoors for tick bites. Most treatments aren’t one hundred percent effective, so you should get in the habit of thoroughly and regularly checking your pet. Ticks are attracted to warm, moist areas of the body, so pay special attention to these areas: 

  • In and around the ears 
  • Around the tail 
  • Near the eyes 
  • Under your pet’s collar 
  • Under the front legs and between the back legs 
  • Between the toes 

Do everything you can to minimize your pets’ exposure to ticks in the first place. Your veterinarian will be able to tell you which species of ticks are of the most concern in your area and what kinds of places you should avoid when with your pet. 

If you’ve found a tick on your pet, you can remove it at home, or you can get your veterinarian to do it for you. Regardless of the option you choose, you should always take your pet into the vet for a full examination after finding a tick infestation or bite. Your veterinarian will perform urine and blood pathology tests, blood smear tests, and a full clinical exam to check for signs of any of the above tick-borne illnesses, which is vital in order to catch these diseases early and keep your pet safe.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

Can All Dogs Swim? And Other Dog Swimming Tips Worth Knowing

Does your dog love the water? Many dogs will do anything they can to go for a swim, while many others will do everything in their power to stay dry. There’s no consensus among dogs about whether they like the water. Here’s a big question, however: can all dogs swim?

Understanding different breeds and their abilities to swim

There are a handful of dog breeds that have been selectively bred to be experts in the water. For instance, retrievers have been trained for generations to go into the water to grab birds for hunters, while dogs such as Irish Water Spaniels have developed waterproof coats so they can work in the fields. 

These breeds are generally believed to know how to swim the second they lay eyes on a body of water, and will usually be happy to do so since their physical structure is perfect for swimming. Other breeds often prefer not to swim, or simply don’t see the point. 

Some of the dogs that most love the water are:

  • Labrador retrievers
  • Toller retrievers
  • Portugese water dogs
  • Irish water spaniels
  • Poodles
  • Newfoundlands
  • Irish setters

Regardless of whether your dog likes to swim or not, you should know that with a little preparation and training, all dogs are capable of swimming. This is especially good to know in the summertime, when dogs are at a higher risk of overheating and dehydration. If you can safely get your dog accustomed to being in the water, they’ll have a good option to keep cool in the warmer months. Swimming is also great exercise for dogs, and is a fun time for everyone involved. 

So for those of us with dogs who aren’t natural swimmers, how can we safely introduce them to swimming and get them more comfortable in the water?

How to teach your dog to swim

It can be a little difficult getting your dog into the water especially if they’re not accustomed to swimming, but once you do, you’ll both be experiencing the benefits in no time. So where to begin?

There are a number of avenues you can take when teaching your dog to swim, and choosing which one to use depends mainly on your dog’s breed. While some dogs, like the ones mentioned before, are natural-born swimmers, others are just not able to excel in the water due to their biology. Bulldogs and Dachshunds, for instance, often don’t have the physical build to keep themselves afloat, and will likely need extra help with a floatation device. 

Even if your dog is meant to be a capable swimmer, each pup is a little different, and yours may not be as keen on swimming as they’re ‘supposed’ to be. Whatever the case, it’s important that you understand your dog’s lineage and capabilities, set your expectations accordingly, and don’t be disappointed if your dog still prefers dry land over water.

Invest in a life jacket for your dog

When introducing a dog to the water for the first time, it’s vital that the dog finds swimming fun and not scary. You want to do everything you can to get your dog feeling confident in the water, and one great way to do that is to ensure they can’t sink. Life jackets for dogs come in all shapes and sizes for a variety of breeds and weights. Assuming their life jacket fits well, your dog will be able to focus on the mechanics of swimming, rather than struggling to stay afloat. 

Even if your dog is a capable swimmer, a life jacket is never a bad idea. Even the strongest swimmers can get tired, and if you’ve ever thrown a ball for certain breeds, you know that many dogs will over-exert themselves to the point of danger if they’re allowed to. A life jacket allows them to not work as hard while still staying afloat, which will keep them safe as well as feeling confident.

When choosing a life jacket, ensure it’s the right size, and that it can be adjusted to fit your dog perfectly. Bright or reflective material is also a plus, since they’ll help you spot your dog in the water more easily. You should also look for a life jacket with a sturdy handle on the back. This will allow you to pull your dog out of the water if they’re struggling, guide them as they learn to swim, or even simply keep hold of them on the beach. 

Make a plan for swimming lessons

Once you have all the equipment, it’s time to figure out your method for teaching your dog to swim. Every dog is different, so you’ll know better than anyone what you need to do to keep them feeling comfortable. With that said, a good idea for all dogs is to ensure that they’re the ones to enter the water. This can be achieved by throwing a floating toy into the water, or getting in yourself and encouraging them to come out to you. When a dog enters the water on their own terms, they’ll be less likely to become afraid. Start in the shallows, and don’t try to make your dog move deeper until they seem comfortable. 

Every time your dog comes out of the water while they’re learning, you should reward them with a treat, a toy, or affection. This will help them form a positive association with swimming, and encourage them to get in the water next time.

Give your dog a demonstration

If you know anyone with a dog who’s already a confident swimmer, consider arranging a time for your dog to watch them swim. With your dog in a life jacket, they’ll be able to follow the other dog around, observing their technique and having a great time while doing it. After a few playdates in the water, your dog may feel more confident about swimming on their own.

Keep water safety in mind

Beyond the risk of drowning, there are a handful of other potential hazards for your dog in the water. 

  • Cold water. Too much exposure could lead to hypothermia, which is dangerous. 
  • Swallowing too much water. This is possible while your dog swims and grabs toys. If your dog is regularly vomiting after swimming, they’re swallowing too much. To counteract this, try to keep swimming sessions to about ten minutes, and choose a water-toy that they can easily pick up without ingesting too much water in the process, such as a flat, floating disc.

Don’t push your dog too far

Despite our best efforts, some dogs never really take to swimming. Even with all the floatation devices, training, and safety measures, some dogs simply don’t like the water. If you’ve been trying to get them interested in swimming for some time and aren’t making any progress, it may be that your dog just doesn’t like to swim. If that’s the case, don’t feel the need to continuously push them. There are still ways you can help your dog enjoy the water and keep them cool in summer.

Hopefully these tips will help you and your dog to enjoy the water in the warmer months. With some time, care, and preparation, most dogs will gradually come to love swimming. If you have more questions about how to safely teach your dog to swim, or anything else pet-related, feel free to contact us today.

The Benefits of Pet Insurance You Need to Know About

As a pet owner, you have the responsibility of the health, happiness, and overall well-being of your animal. Much like any other life partner, your duties to a pet are in sickness and in health, good times and tough times.

One important part of this responsibility is being prepared in case something happens to your pet. Perhaps your dog swallows something they weren’t supposed to, or your cat falls ill. These problems often require professional veterinary care, and depending on the necessary procedures, the costs can quickly add up. 

Even with a dedicated savings put aside, certain health issues with your pet might put you in a difficult financial situation—that’s where having pet insurance comes in.

Pet insurance is best recommended to get while the pet is young. This is to avoid any medical exclusions. While it is best to get while young, older pets can still very much benefit from pet insurance.

What is Pet Insurance?

Pet insurance is a health policy that an owner puts in place for their pet. In exchange for a monthly premium, your insurance company will provide reimbursement for a multitude of procedures and treatments at the veterinarian. While we always hope to never need to use pet insurance, it remains one of the best ways to protect the finances of an owner and the safety of the pet. 

Not every pet owner is completely prepared to foot the bill for necessary treatments. Pet insurance allows people to take the stress of finances off the mind of pet owners, allowing them to simply make the best decisions for the health of their pet.

Perhaps you’re looking into getting a pet, or you’ve recently adopted a new one, and you’re wondering if pet insurance is a worthwhile investment. If you ask us, it’s one of the most important ways you can protect your pet and yourself. With that said, here are the six biggest benefits of pet insurance and setting up a policy.

1. Save money at your veterinarian’s office

Saving money is one of the biggest reasons people choose to set up pet insurance. Depending on your policy of choice, your plan could be paying for itself in just one or two urgent visits. Although you’ll have to pay the cost of your vet visit up front, you’ll be able to get reimbursed for your portion. At the most basic level, pet insurance simply makes good financial sense.

2. Gain access to the best possible pet care

Rather than being forced to choose between the most advanced, effective treatments and your pocketbook, pet insurance gives you access to options when it comes to pet healthcare. In recent years, technology in the veterinary field has been advancing rapidly, and there are now many more options for the owners of sick or injured pets than ever before. Chemotherapy for instance is an effective way to treat cancer in pets, but it can often be very expensive for people without insurance. Having a policy in place beforehand allows you to think about what the best option for your pet would be, rather than concerning yourself about what you’ll be able to afford.

3. Pay a small, regular fee instead of saving for emergencies

It can be difficult to keep a sizable emergency fund aside in case of a health issue with your pet. Rather than saving every spare dollar in case of the worst, you can pay a small monthly premium to your insurance company in exchange for pet healthcare coverage, which opens up more financial options for you. 

4. Choose a flexible policy for your pet

Because people’s pets are so varied and unique, pet insurance offers many flexible policies for all kinds of animals, breeds, and ages. Just because your pet is older doesn’t mean you won’t be able to get pet insurance for them, and doing so will often pay off down the road. Furthermore, with lots of competition in the pet insurance market, you’ll be able to get a variety of quotes and find something affordable.

5. Gain peace of mind

The number one reason people choose to set up a pet insurance plan is for peace of mind. We know how much you love your pet and want to provide them with the best care possible. As a pet owner, you are responsible for ensuring that they’re well looked after in even the worst case scenario. Pet insurance allows you to rest easy knowing that providing your pet with the care they need won’t be an issue, regardless of the necessary treatments and procedures.

As a pet owner, you have countless duties when it comes to looking after your four-legged family member. Whether it’s taking them for exercise, feeding them right, or cleaning up after them, we perform these responsibilities as an act of love for our pets—insurance is no different. By setting up a good pet insurance policy from the outset, you can be confident in knowing that your pet will have access to the best possible care no matter what, allowing the two of you to have a long, healthy, and happy life together.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

Dog Body Language: Signs Everything is Great vs. Trouble

If you’re anything like us, when you see a dog, you immediately want to say hello! However, despite their happy nature, dogs aren’t always ready for a pet. Beyond the basics, such as the wagging tail and the beloved head tilt, our canine friends have a whole vocabulary of body language to let you know how they’re feeling.

When it comes to dog body language and whether it’s a good idea to touch a dog, we’d like to split it up like you would a traffic light: green, or ‘go ahead,’ yellow, or ‘use caution,’ and red, or ‘stop!’ Here are some tips on dog body language that indicate all is well versus trouble.

Green Light Dog Body Language

The best time to pet a dog is when it’s feeling calm and relaxed. It’s not feeling stressed out by its surroundings, or confused by what’s going on. When your dog is in a calm, neutral state while standing, it will have a relaxed, centered posture. Its tail will be relaxed or gently wagging, and its eyes may be partly closed, almost as if it’s squinting. When lying down, a relaxed dog will simply look relaxed. Its head will rest on the floor or on its front paws, and it’ll look like it could doze off at any time. 

Another positive state for dogs is when they’re feeling playful. This is one of the most commonly understood bits of dog body language. It will bounce into the downward dog position, with its chest to the floor and its rump in the air. This position is referred to as a play bow, and is used by dogs to let you know that any roughness is just play, and not actual aggression. Typically, a dog will only be in the play bow position for a moment, before pouncing or running in a direction. It’s usually safe to pet a dog in this state, but make sure you don’t surprise it, in case it gets frightened.

If you’ve ever walked by your dog with a plate of bacon, this last positive dog body language state is one you’re familiar with. An excited dog is characterized by a quickly wagging tail, forward ears, and an energetic posture that’s ready to pounce. They also may jump up to get the attention of whatever’s got them excited. In some cases, dogs will get overly excited. This can be a concern, especially with larger dogs and smaller children. Overly excited dogs may jump up at people, accidentally scratch you, or even nip at you. This is not aggressive behaviour per se, but it should not be encouraged with your dog.

Yellow Light Dog Body Language

If you’ve ever seen a guard dog, you’re familiar with the alert body language. A dog on alert will have a forward-leaning posture, trying to get closer to whatever’s going on. Its ears will be forward in order to pick up more directional sound, and its mouth may be closed. An alert dog is not always indicative of an intruder or threat. It may simply be interested in what’s going on! If you’re familiar with the dog, make sure to let them know you’re there before giving a reassuring pat.

You’ll most often see dogs assuming a dominant stance around other dogs, although it might take this position around other threats as well. This position is characterized by the dog trying to make itself as big and tall as possible—ears high, tall posture, and usually a raised tail. This dog is asserting itself as dominant around potential threats, and probably does not want to be pet. 

An aggressive dog has moved beyond the alert and dominant stances, and is now addressing what it considers to be a direct threat. You’ll know an aggressive dog by its stiff posture, and a steadily waving tail, sometimes described as waving like a flag. Before trying to pet this dog, give it time to assess the threat and enter a more relaxed state.

Red Light Dog Body Language

You’ll know an anxious dog by its posture. When a dog is feeling anxiety, they’ll try to take up as little space as possible. They’ll lean their body back, tuck their ears back on their head, and keep their tail low. If you see a dog behaving this way, it’s likely that it’s uncomfortable or doesn’t know what’s going on. If it’s your dog, help to reassure it that everything is alright with its favourite toys or blankets. If it’s someone else’s, it’s best to leave the dog alone for the time being.

A frightened dog is another behaviour state that many people are familiar with. They’ll have flattened ears and a tucked tail, as well as a crouching posture. This, again, is to make the dog feel as small as possible, allowing it to hide from threats. If your dog is afraid, it may also make whining noises or growls. A frightened dog may also bite in self-defense, so it’s not a good idea to pet it until it becomes more relaxed.

If a dog has faced a threat and decided they can’t win, they may enter a submissive state. This is the dog’s way of saying “I give up, don’t hurt me!” You can tell a dog is in their submissive state if they’re lying on their back, with their paws and tail tucked in close to their body. They will also usually tilt their head back to expose their throat, as well as to avoid eye contact. Some people may think this is the dog asking for a belly rub, but touching a dog in the submissive state could frighten it even more, or possibly cause it to bite in self-defense. 

Other Dog Body Language Signs Worth Noting

There are a few other body language clues to let you know a dog is feeling uncertain or nervous. Hackles, contrary to popular belief, are not always a sign of aggression. Similar to goosebumps in humans, they’re an involuntary response triggered by any kind of emotional arousal. Every dog is different, and it’s a good idea to observe your dog and notice when it raises its hackles, perhaps when it meets new dogs or unfamiliar people.

Another sometimes misunderstood behaviour in dogs is yawning. Unlike humans, dogs don’t usually yawn when they’re tired, but rather when they’re in stressful situations. Yawning helps to calm the dog, and it may also yawn to calm others, such as its owner. Take note of when your dog yawns, and you may notice a pattern, helping you to understand what situations your dog finds stressful.

The final behaviour worth noting is what’s referred to as ‘whale eye’ by dog trainers. Whale eye is when a dog averts their head slightly, but keeps their eye fixed on a point, allowing you to see the whites of their eyes. This behaviour lets us know that a dog is feeling uncomfortable or anxious, and that it doesn’t want to be pet. If you see a dog doing the whale eye, hold off on petting it until it becomes more relaxed.

Keeping Your Dog Comfortable

If you’re a dog owner, it’s important to pay attention to your dog and learn what it’s trying to say through its body language and other physical cues. Learn their habits, their comforts and stressors, as well as what their neutral body posture looks like. While this general guide on behaviour states is a great starting point for learning about dog body language, it’s no replacement for getting to know your dog and all its quirks. The more you’re able to interpret your furry best friend’s body language, the happier they’ll be, and the more comfortable they’ll be with you.

When deciding whether to say hello to someone else’s dog, the above information is a great start to understanding how it’s feeling. However, only their owner will really know what kind of mood they’re in, and whether it’s a good idea to interact with the dog. That’s why it’s so important to always ask before petting a stranger’s animal. Doing so not only keeps you physically safe, but also ensures the comfort and happiness of the animal.

If you have any more questions about dog behaviour, or anything pet-related, don’t hesitate to give us a shout at Hastings Veterinary Hospital!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

Senior Dog Care Part 3: Blood Testing & X-Rays

Looking after a senior dog comes with its fair share of challenges. From specialized diets, to lifestyle changes for dogs and humans alike, to dealing with various illnesses, caring for a senior dog isn’t always easy. However, we have a responsibility to our furry friends: looking after them and sticking by their side, through thick and thin. In this third part of our series on caring for senior dogs, we look at one important way to take proper care of your senior dog: staying up to date with routine testing with your veterinarian, namely, blood testing and x-rays.

What is Blood Testing?

A blood test for a senior dog allows your veterinarian to look for problems with your dog’s blood cells and enzyme levels of major organs to evaluate their function and health. Normally, blood testing for senior dogs consists of complete blood count, otherwise known as a CBC, which provides levels of various blood cells, and a blood serum test, which analyzes the presence and levels of certain chemicals in your dog’s blood. 

Reasons to Get Your Senior Dog’s Blood Tested

  • Dogs are good at masking illnesses. A blood test can help you identify health problems before they become more serious. 
  • The process of a CBC can provide a count of the different kinds of blood cells (white cells, red cells, and platelets) in your dog’s body. Since white blood cells and platelets help your dog to heal from illness and injury, it’s important to know whether there’s enough of them to protect your dog or if there are any changes. 
  • Blood tests for senior dogs can also ensure a healthy level of nutrients of all kinds in their bodies. These include:
    • Proteins
    • Glucose/sugars
    • Electrolytes
    • Cholesterol
    • Hormone levels
    • Digestive enzymes

In general, blood tests are a great tool to tell your veterinarian if your dog is in need of special attention. A change in the level of a certain protein indicates that something may be wrong with a certain organ or process, which is valuable information for their health.

Benefits of X-rays

Radiographs (x-rays) are a valuable tool for your veterinarian to keep up to date on the health of your dog. Although radiographs are a good tool for detecting when something’s wrong, that’s not the only time an x-ray is useful for a senior dog. Having a regular radiograph, even when nothing is wrong, provides valuable information for your veterinarian. These images can be used as reference for later imaging.

Reasons for Senior Dogs to Receive X-rays

  • A radiograph can (sometimes) help your veterinarian detect any obstructions in your dog’s digestive system, whether for foreign objects or some other type of blockage.
  • Radiographs can detect bladder stones even before they become serious problems.
  • X-rays can detect tumours.
  • Radiography can help detect heart or lung disease in your senior dog.
  • Like in humans, x-rays can detect fractures, dislocation, bone deformation, dysplasia, and other orthopedic issues in your senior dog. This can provide your veterinarian with insight on any bone or joint degeneration that comes along with a dog’s age.

X-rays and blood testing are two very important parts of looking after your dog. There are a multitude of problems and conditions that can be detected early on by these two methods of testing. It’s always best to catch health issues as early as possible, and this is particularly true for senior dogs.

Ultimately, you should be striving to do everything you can to make your dog’s later years as safe and comfortable as possible. Of course, this includes routine tests such as blood testing and radiography, but it also extends to monitoring their diet and exercise, making accommodations around the house, and simply spending time with them like you normally do. The more care you take in helping your dog, the more comfortable their senior years will be.

If you still have questions about routine testing and imaging for your senior dog, whether it’s blood testing, x-rays, or anything else, we’re happy to help with any answers you’re seeking. 

Did you miss parts 1 and 2? Click below to read them.

Part 1: General Care Tips

Part 2: Dental Care Tips

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

How to be Proactive about Protecting Your Pet from Fleas

There are fewer words a pet owner wants to hear less than “your pet has fleas”. Fleas are pesky parasites, and in addition to being a major annoyance for us humans, they can cause serious problems for the unlucky animal playing host. 

Thankfully, flea treatment and prevention has come a long way, and now, with the right measures, these irritating creatures can be mitigated fairly easily. Addressing fleas before they become a problem will not only save you time, money, and hassle later on, but it will ensure your pet’s safety and comfort at the same time. Here are some proactive flea prevention tips for your pets.

How to Identify a Flea and Causes of Infestation

Most of us are aware of fleas and understand what they do, but do you know what a flea infestation looks like? Fleas are small, wingless insects that survive by feeding off of the blood of larger animals. They are reddish-brown in colour, usually just a couple of millimetres long, and can exist almost anywhere in the world. They don’t fly, and instead get around by jumping (relatively) massive distances. They survive by feeding off the blood of mammals, and sometimes birds.

It’s possible for a home to become infested with fleas year-round – in Vancouver and the Fraser Valley, fleas are around all year. Typically, fleas enter the home with other animals. Since dogs tend to spend more time outside, they are at a greater risk of contracting fleas, but outdoor cats can provide an unwitting ride for the tiny insects as well. Additionally, fleas can enter the home with people, visiting animals, or in some cases, on the backs of unwanted animals, such as mice and rats.

There are a number of issues that can be caused by a flea infestation in your pet:

  • Fleas can cause a lot of discomfort in your pet from all the bites
  • Your pet will likely scratch and bite at their skin repeatedly to try and get some relief, leading to irritated skin and other wounds. 
  • Additionally, fleas can carry tapeworms, which can be passed onto your pet as well. 
  • Some animals are allergic to flea bites, which can be very serious if left untreated. 
  • Additionally, constant scratching can lead to infections, creating an even bigger problem.

Fleas can bite people, but they tend not to actively live on them in the same way they do with other animals. Fleas prefer furry animals, making cats and dogs obvious targets. Once on an animal, a flea will remain there until they are killed or die off naturally. However, they’re also capable of laying eggs in the fur of an animal, which will eventually hatch and start the whole frustrating process over again.  

Now that you know a little more about fleas, you’re probably wondering how best to prevent them from becoming a problem with your pet, and by extension, in your home. Thankfully, there are a number of steps you can take to be proactive about flea prevention, addressing the problem before it’s too late.

Watch for the Signs of a Flea Infestation

One of the best ways to ensure your pet is flea-free is simply to keep an eye on their behaviour and take note of anything unusual. Pets that have fleas on them will be very uncomfortable, so it should be fairly easy to tell if there’s an infestation in progress. Here are some things to look for when watching for fleas in your pet:

  • Excessive scratching, chewing, licking, and grooming
  • Red, irritated skin, especially on the neck, belly, and hindquarters
  • Dark brown ‘flea dirt,’ which is the flea’s excrement, present in your pet’s fur

If you notice any of these signs, confirm your suspicions by brushing through your pet’s fur with a fine-tooth comb. You may spot some moving spots, which are fleas, but it’s more likely you’ll see more ‘flea dirt.’ You can confirm that this is flea excrement and not regular dirt by brushing it onto a wet piece of paper towel. It will turn red, indicating that this is dried blood sucked from your pet and passed on by the flea.

Check Your Pet Regularly

It’s good to routinely check your pet for fleas. You can purchase a flea comb from your local pet store. Having your pet on a monthly flea product can prevent the hassle of checking—while flea baths can help soothe your pets skin, flea shampoos are not 100% effective. Your veterinarian is the best resource for effective external parasite prevention based on your pet’s lifestyle. 

Choose an Appropriate Preventative Flea Medication

For dogs and outdoor cats, your vet may recommend a preventative flea treatment. These can vary widely depending on your pet, but they tend to be a topical solution or oral tablet intended to be taken regularly. Be wary of over-the-counter flea treatments, as these can differ drastically in their effectiveness and safety for your pet. If your vet identifies your pet as being at-risk for fleas, they’ll make the necessary recommendations for preventative treatment.

One very important thing to note is to never use flea medication intended for a cat on a dog, or vice versa. Preventative flea formulas for one animal may actually be toxic for another, so always follow your veterinarian’s advice to the letter.

Keep Your House Clean and Sanitized

A great way to prevent a flea infestation is to keep your home clean. 

  • There are some chemical products intended to treat an environment for fleas, but be cautious with these, as some can be harmful to the people and/or animals they’re intended to protect. 
  • Deep clean your carpets, towels, blankets, and other fibrous surfaces. Fleas will sometimes take refuge in all of this, particularly if they come into frequent contact with your pet. 
  • Vacuum carpets, pet-specific blankets, towels, and pet beds frequently to decrease any fleas or flea eggs hiding out there. 
  • Always empty your vacuum canister outside and wash it with soap and water afterwards to ensure no hangers-on are reintroduced to your home.

Maintain a good routine of regular hygiene for your pet

It is typically recommended that you treat all your pets every month for fleas, as fleas can lay dormant in your home and in British Columbia they are around all year. This is in addition to their regular bathing and grooming. 

Take your pet to see your veterinarian regularly

The best thing you can do to ensure your pet’s health is to simply take them in for their routine vet check-ups. Of course, you do your best to run checks on them and ensure they’re free of any pesky pests, but there’s nothing better than a comprehensive veterinary examination. Your veterinarian can recommend the proper flea and tick medication based on your lifestyle.

Fleas are a common fear for many pet owners, but with proper preventative care, they don’t need to be a huge concern. It’s very important to take the proper precautions to mitigate the risk of fleas and other parasites, and when done right, you’ll sidestep a lot of potential issues down the road. Not only will your home be free of fleas, but your pets will be healthy, comfortable, and happy.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

Senior Dog Care Part 2: Dental Care Tips

When it comes to taking care of a senior dog, there are countless new considerations you need to make. On top of the regular responsibilities of owning a dog, looking after one that’s reaching its golden years can mean a whole new list of obstacles. 

One of the most important things to consider when taking on this new challenge is your dog’s dental health. Although it might seem trivial when compared to diabetes, arthritis, organ issues, or any of the other countless health trials your dog may face, dental care is a crucial part of senior dog care and it can actually relate to lots of other common health issues. With proper care and consideration for your dog’s oral health, you’ll not only keep their teeth and mouth in the best possible health, but it can actually extend their life, and make things more comfortable for them overall.  

Common Signs of Dental Issues in Senior Dogs

Before we look at the best practices for taking care of your dog’s dental health, let’s go over some of the biggest warning signs that your dog’s teeth and mouth need attention:

  • Bad breath. Although a dog having bad breath is sometimes considered normal, it’s actually an indicator of poor oral health. Excessively bad breath on a regular basis is a sign of bacteria that is present in your dog’s mouth, which is commonly caused by infrequent brushing and oral cleaning.
  • Plaque and tartar. Plaque, the sticky, bacteria-based substance that can build up on poorly-cleaned teeth, eventually hardens to become tartar, otherwise known as calculus. 
    • Plaque can be removed fairly easily with brushing, but once it becomes tartar, it’s much harder to remove. 
    • Neglecting to clean your dog’s teeth can lead to excess build-up of tartar, which can be observed as inflammation in the gums and teeth discoloration.
    • Oftentimes, the full extent of tartar build-up and periodontal disease can’t be seen with just your eyes, and may only be visible via a dental x-ray.
  • Changes in the way your dog eats. Another sign that your dog is experiencing dental issues could be changes in how they eat. 
    • A dog with sore teeth or other dental issues may eat more slowly than usual, or favor one side of their mouth when chewing their food. 
    • Dogs with sore mouths may just eat less overall, which is a clear sign of a major health issue in need of your attention. 
  • Recent lack of energy. Another more serious indicator of poor dental health in your senior dog could be a recent lack of general energy.

Now that you know what to be on the lookout for when it comes to your dog’s dental health, you should brush up on the best practices for actually keeping their teeth and mouth in the best possible shape. 

Regular home brushing

Step number one for any dog owner is taking care of your dog’s teeth at home. This is not something to only take up after noticing a problem in your dog, much like how we don’t start to brush our teeth only when we discover we have a cavity. Ideally, your dog’s teeth should be brushed or wiped daily, or at the very least, two to three times a week. 

Brushing is an important preemptive way to care for your dog’s teeth, and is a step you should be taking from day one of caring for your dog. However, it’s possibly even more important to be diligent about brushing for your senior dog.

Dental check-ups and cleanings

Beyond home dental care, it’s crucial to get your dog’s oral health examined routinely by your veterinary team. Frequency of comprehensive oral health treatment will depend on your pet’s individual oral environment. Annual oral examination along with a health check is imperative in order to keep an eye on any potential problems before they become more serious.

Bloodwork, X-rays, and other tests

When taking your senior dog in for dental cleanings and check-ups, there are other tests and measures to take that are a very important part of monitoring your dog’s oral health. Even if a dog’s teeth and gums look healthy to the naked eye, a dental x-ray, for instance, can reveal a myriad of other issues that otherwise wouldn’t be visible. Likewise, a blood analysis can be an invaluable tool to learn about your dog’s health, revealing elevated bacteria levels or other signs of infection. 

Your veterinarian will be able to make the best recommendations to monitor your dog’s health, so always follow their advice when having your senior dog consulted.

Supplements to food and water

Another great way to care for your dog’s teeth at home is through special products specifically for dental health. There are lots of specially-formulated treats and chews that help reduce the build-up of plaque and tartar. These can be great for any dog, but especially for dogs that are resistant to brushing.  

When looking for dental products for your pet – look for the VOHC seal on the product. This ensures that the veterinary oral health council has approved this product & that it does in fact help with plaque and tartar build up.

As you can see, dental health is a crucial but sometimes overlooked aspect of caring for a senior dog. However, with diligent home care such as brushing and dental treats, as well as regularly checking in with your dog’s veterinarian, you can keep a good handle on their dental care and ensure they’re as healthy and comfortable as possible in their golden years.

Did you miss part 1? Click here to read Senior Dog Care Part 1: General Care Tips

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

Senior Dog Care Part 1: General Care Tips

Dogs are often characterized by their endless energy, happy nature, and easy disposition. And while this is normally true, things can become a little more complicated when a dog reaches their senior years. As a dog ages, it can be more of a challenge to make sure they’re taken care of, thanks to more complex health needs. But it goes without saying that even the oldest dogs deserve our utmost love, care, and respect. With that in mind, here’s the first of our multi-part series covering our senior dog care tips for your aging pooch.

What happens when a dog gets older?

Just like people, our canine friends can experience the full spectrum of new challenges and difficulties as they age. One thing to keep in mind is that the age at which a dog is considered a ‘senior’ varies depending on the breed. Small breeds, like Malteses, Shih Tzus, and Dachshunds are typically not considered senior dogs until they’re ten years or older. Medium breeds such as Retrievers are considered senior a few years earlier, around six to eight years. Giant breeds like Great Danes and Mastiffs are considered senior at only five to six years of age. Keep in mind that these estimates are just guidelines and can vary even more depending on genetics, as well as the lifestyle of your dog.

Whatever breed of dog you have, the signs of aging are fairly consistent across all of them. Common changes include: 

  • Decreased energy
  • Sight problems (eg. cataracts)
  • Hearing loss
  • Organ difficulties (eg. kidneys, liver)
  • Weight gain

If your dog is starting to reach their golden years, it’s time to start adjusting their (routine and yours) in order to make them as comfortable as possible.

Ensure your dog’s comfort in their environment

Like people, senior dogs tend to be more sensitive to extreme temperatures. This is because they’re less able to thermoregulate as they get older. To combat this, ensure they’re kept at a comfortable temperature as often as possible. If it’s cold in the house, consider getting them a sweater or other garment to keep them warm. In colder winter months, limit their time spent outside and keep a close eye on your dog to ensure they’re comfortable. 

In the warmer months, it’s equally important to make sure your dog is kept cool. Avoid leaving them outside for long stretches of time in the heat. Not doing so can lead to dehydration and all kinds of further problems.

Choose an age-appropriate diet

As your dog changes in old age, their diet should as well. Often, a lower-fat, lower-calorie dog food is preferred for older dogs. Your veterinarian will be able to provide you with specific recommendations for food in order to meet your dog’s unique health needs. In general, don’t make any changes to your dog’s diet without your vet’s go-ahead, as changes can lead to unexpected issues later on.

Also, you should be cautious about dog food that’s marked as being specifically made for older dogs. While there is some regulation on what goes into these formulas, similar to food that’s especially made for puppies, there’s not enough oversight to act as a guarantee. When in doubt, always talk to your veterinarian when choosing food for your senior dog.

Carefully regulate exercise

Exercise is very important at all stages of a dog’s life. Not only does keeping them at a healthy weight reduce their risk of organ failure, diabetes, heart disease, and more, but also the added strain of excess weight can put stress on their joints, causing pain and perhaps more serious issues such as arthritis. 

At the same time, you should take care not to overwork your senior dog. They are no longer puppies after all, so just make sure you don’t push them too far. Be patient with your dog, and work your way up to more strenuous activities, depending on how they’re doing with your current routine.

Check in with your vet regularly

One of the best things you can do for your senior dog is to regularly book them to see your veterinarian. As a dog gets older, their immune system will weaken, leaving them more prone to illnesses and diseases that they’d otherwise be able to fight off. By getting them seen regularly by your vet, you can stay on top of their health and address any issues right away before they become more serious. A good rule of thumb is to take your senior dog into your family vet office at least once a year, unless otherwise specified by your vet.

Keep up with grooming and dental care

Senior dogs can develop irritated skin more frequently as they age, which can lead to a lot of discomfort for your pooch and not to mention dull the luster of their shiny coat. Brush them regularly to prevent matting and tangling, and use natural shampoos to nourish their hair and skin. 

Similarly, ensure you keep up with your dog’s oral care. Older dogs who have had insufficient dental care throughout their life can start to lose teeth, which can make eating more difficult and even potentially lead to infections. Regular annual exams will help assess dental health for your dog.

Accommodate your dog wherever possible

Depending on your dog and any special health conditions they may develop as they age, it may be necessary to adapt your home to make it as accommodating, comfortable, and accessible for them as possible. Dogs with sight problems might have a hard time finding their bed, so keep it in an easy spot and don’t move it around on them. Similarly, ensure their bed is soft and comfortable and that it provides the support they need to avoid any joint pain. 

Dogs with joint problems might have trouble getting up and down stairs, so keep their food, water, and bed at the same level so they’re always able to get what they need. If stairs are unavoidable in your home, you could consider buying or putting together a ramp in order to make them a little easier for your pooch. Dogs also have an easier time walking on carpet than on hardwood or tile, so consider adding some rugs to ensure they’ve got good footing.

Cherish your time together

There’s no getting around it—watching your dog age can be really, really hard. After years of delighting in their playful energy and boundless excitement, it can be a real challenge to adjust to life with a senior dog with less energy. Nevertheless, one of the best things you can do to make a senior dog feel comfortable is to spend as much time with them as you can.

Older dogs, particularly ones that are losing mental clarity, can easily get anxious when their owner isn’t by their side for long periods of time. If you can’t always be with your pet, try and ensure your dog always has a trusted family member or friend nearby, and cherish the time you two can spend together. In short, treat them like the beloved best friend that they are.

Aging can come with all kinds of additional complications for you and your dog. You may need to make adaptations to your routine that you never considered before. With all that in mind, it’s a great idea to ensure you’re well supported to take the best possible care of your furry friend. One of the best ways to do this is to keep in regular contact with your veterinarian. They can provide guidance, reassurance, and make recommendations as necessary to ensure your dog’s senior years are as comfortable as possible.

Stay tuned for the next part of our senior dog care series on our blog.

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

What to Do If Your Dog Gets Stung

Warmer weather brings lots of new critters out and about. And while we love spending time in the sun with our furry friends, there’s still something to be on the lookout for: bees, wasps, and hornets. As you know, there’s little a dog loves more than chasing around after smaller creatures and sticking their nose where it might not belong. Sometimes this behaviour can wind up getting your dog in trouble, especially in the peak of the summer, when wasps, bees, and hornets are out in force.

Although a sting is one of the less serious injuries you and your dog need to worry about, there’s no doubt that they hurt, and lots of stings in the wrong place could even present a more serious injury. Knowing about the different types of stinging insects, as well as the best ways to treat those stings, can save your dog (and you) a lot of agony down the line.

Stinging insects to watch out for

There are a few insects that carry stingers and toxins – and there may be others specific to your area. However, in most places, you’re likely to run into the same three types of flying, stinging insects:


Bees are characterized by their fuzzy coat and larger abdomen. When a bee uses its stinger, it can be quite painful, but it will also kill the bee. Bee stingers are barbed, which means it becomes lodged in the skin, and can continue to channel toxins into the bloodstream until it’s removed. 

Although a bee sting is quite painful, it’s relatively rare to see a bee use its stinger. Since they can only use it once, bees will usually only sting if they feel threatened. If your dog sticks their nose into a flower patch that a bee happens to be pollinating, for instance, it may be intimidating enough for a bee to sting.


Wasps are typically slimmer and sleeker than a bumble or honey bee, and fly through the air much quicker than their lumbering bee cousins. They have a smooth, hairless, almost shiny coat that is usually black and yellow (these wasps in particular are commonly known as yellowjackets). There are dozens of varieties of wasps all throughout the world, but their general description and behaviour is consistent across almost all of them.

Wasps are predators, and so tend to be more aggressive than bees, sometimes chasing after even the largest prey. If your dog winds up aggravating a wasp, or worse, disturbs a nest, there’s a good chance that the wasp will chase after the dog and go for a sting. This is because, unlike bees, a wasp is not killed by using their stinger, and can actually use it multiple times in a row. The upside of this is that wasp stingers normally do not lodge in the skin, as they’re not barbed.


Hornets share a lot in common with wasps, with the major differences being in size and colour. Hornets are much larger, and can be identified by their hanging bodies as they fly around, and are usually marked with black and white rings, rather than black and yellow. Like a wasp, their stinger isn’t barbed, which means a hornet can deploy multiple painful stings in a row. Since hornets are even stronger predators than wasps thanks to their size, you may find them acting more aggressively, even towards a big dog.

Prevention tips for stings

The best way to get your dog relief from a sting is to prevent it completely. Of course, there’s no guarantee, especially when out in nature, but there are a few things you can keep in mind to improve your odds of a pain-free walk. For example, be aware of the types of locations your dog is likely to find stinging insects. In the daytime, flower patches or blooming bushes are likely to be full of pollinating bees, so try to keep your dog’s nose out of these areas.

Similarly, it’s a good idea to have an idea of where nests may be. While many bees, wasps, and hornets build hives in trees or other high areas, some wasps and yellowjackets actually build hives in the ground, usually with a small hole to access it. If you see your dog sniffing around a small hole in the dirt, proceed with caution, as they may be disturbing a hive.

Overall, the best method of preventing a sting on your dog is good training, and good on-leash control. It’s only natural for a dog to want to poke around and explore, but, sad as it may be, there are some spots that are best left un-sniffed. 

Treatment for a sting

If your dog does wind up getting stung, it’s important to understand the severity of the sting in order to make the best decision. Like we said, stings usually occur after a dog pokes their nose somewhere it might not belong, which means that the majority of stings seen on dogs are on their face. Obviously, this is a painful area for anyone to be stung, so learn about treatment now to save your dog some suffering down the line.

If your dog has only suffered one sting, you should be alright with minimal treatment. Remove the barb if needed, using your nails or a piece of rigid paper. Avoid using tweezers or pliers, as these can actually force more of the toxin into the skin. When the barb is out, it’s probably a good idea to head home. Once back, you can prepare one of a few simple home remedies to give your dog some relief. There are two treatments that are most effective when your dog has been stung by a wasp:

  • A weak solution of baking soda and water can be applied to the sting. The baking soda will help neutralize the toxin, and soothe the pain somewhat.
  • For swelling, you can place an ice pack or cold compress around the area, which will reduce the inflammation more quickly

It is also important to monitor for any immediate swelling of the face, eyes, ears, neck, lips, and excessive itchiness following the sting. This may indicate an anaphylactic reaction that needs urgent veterinary care.

All the while, you should be keeping a watchful eye on your dog. Like humans, some dogs are allergic to the toxin from stinging insects. This allergy can result in swelling and increased pain, but in more serious cases, it could actually be fatal. After a sting, keep an eye out for the following signs of allergic reaction:

  • Weakness or decreased energy
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Excessive swelling (that lasts more than 1-2 hours), especially if it’s not near the area of the sting

While a single sting is usually little more than an irritation, multiple stings can be very serious. If your dog has been stung more than once, especially on the face, tongue, or inside of the mouth, you should take your dog to a veterinarian right away. Even without an allergy, the concentration of toxins in a small area can lead to excessive inflammation, not to mention a lot of pain.

Treating your dog at Hastings Veterinary Hospital

Whether it’s a bee sting or a pulled muscle, a hornet’s attack or an upset stomach, Hastings Vet has the team, techniques, and experience to take expert care of your four-legged companion. We love animals, and this passion carries through every day at our clinic. If you have more questions about treating your dog’s wasp sting, prevention of stings, or anything else to do with your pet and their health, contact us today!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.

Safety Tips to Go Camping With Your Dog

Getting into the great outdoors and spending a few nights there is a great way to get out of the house, disconnect from the stresses of day-to-day life, and appreciate the beauty of nature. When it comes to relaxing outside, there’s no better authority than our dogs. Bringing your dog on a camping trip can be a great experience, and can lead to powerful bonding moments between humans and their animals. However, there’s some preparation needed in order to keep you, your dog, and your fellow campers safe, comfortable, and happy. Read on for our top tips on safely going camping with your dog!

Phase 1: Preparation

If you’ve been on a camping trip before, you’re familiar with the sheer amount of preparation necessary for a successful adventure. There are so many little things that won’t seem so little if you get out there and realize you’ve forgotten it, so getting organized and prepared is a must. This is even more true when it comes to going camping with your dog. Before even looking at campsites, there are some steps you should check off your to-do list, such as:

Ensuring your dog’s shots are up to date

With massive tracts of wild land to explore, and countless things to smell, it’s quite likely your dog will wind up poking its nose where it doesn’t belong. That’s why ensuring they’re up to date at the vet is crucial. It’s very possible your dog will run into other dogs while camping, so it’s important that they’ve had the DHPP (Distemper, hepatitis, parainfluenza, parvovirus) vaccinations. These diseases are quite contagious, and can be harmful or even fatal to pets. Your dog should also be up to date on immunizations for other illnesses, such as rabies, bordetella, and leptospirosis. This will not only keep your dog safe, but eliminate the chance of other dogs being infected.

It’s also a good idea to get your dog on a preventative treatment for parasites, such as fleas, mosquitos that can transmit heartworm, and ticks. We recommend having your pet on this treatment year-round, but it’s especially important when taking an extended camping trip. Like humans, dogs can contract Lyme disease from a tick-bite, not to mention potentially bringing a few unwelcome pests home with them, so it’s a good idea to take all the preventative measures possible, for everyone’s comfort and safety.


Ensuring your dog is well trained is an extremely important part of preparing for a camping trip with your canine companion. Even if your dog is fairly well-behaved at home, there’s no telling what will get into them once you’re out there. The unfamiliar environment, and wealth of strange new sights, sounds, and smells, can be downright overwhelming for even the most well-adjusted dogs. That’s why going over the doggy training basics can make such a huge difference in everyone’s enjoyment of your next trip.

A good place to start is making sure your dog is comfortable hanging out in an enclosed area, such as a playpen or a crate. Most campsites require all dogs to be on-leash, and this isn’t exactly easy when you need both hands to set up camp, make dinner, or roll a sleeping bag. You can also tether them with a long lead, but remember that this is no substitute for supervision, and that there’s still lots of trouble for them to get into.

If your dog is a big barker, consider whether bringing them camping is a good call or not. People get outside to enjoy the soothing sounds of nature, not to hear someone else’s dog barking at squirrels at all hours of the day. If you aren’t able to keep your dog’s voice down, they may be best left with a sitter for your trip.

A few other commands that your dog should have down pat before your trip include: Sit, stay, come, quiet, and drop it. Your pup needs to have a strong handle on these commands, or there’s no telling what kind of mischief they’ll get up to. With other campers, who may have dogs or children, not to mention the potentially sensitive flora and fauna in your area, it’s crucial that you can keep your dog under control at all times. 

Keeping track of your dog

With so much room to run and play, there’s always the possibility of a dog tearing off into the woods, and you spending the rest of your trip searching for them. Since they’ll have no idea how to get home, it’ll be up to you to track them down. Should this horrible experience of losing your dog happen to you, you’ll be glad you took the time to ensure your dog was properly identified on its collar, and that it has its microchip, so it can be identified if it turns up later. Although this might not help you track them down in the moment, (that’s what all that training was for!) it greatly improves the chances of the two of you being reunited.

Getting your dog used to roughing it

While we may be able to prepare ourselves, mentally and physically, for sleeping on the ground in a tent, our dogs may not yet be up to the task. It’s a good idea to get your dog used to sleeping outdoors, even if that means the two of you spending the night in a tent in the backyard. Even if you can’t make time to spend the night in a tent together beforehand, bringing your dog’s favourite treats, toys, blankets, and other objects will help your pup be more comfortable in the tent, and get excited about roughing it.

Do your research!

Depending on your destination, there are lots of things to be on the lookout for when camping with your dog. It’s important to read up on the area you’re planning to camp, and find out what kinds of plants and animals may cause problems for you and your dog. Parasites, as discussed before, are nearly everywhere, but can be much worse in some areas than others (think a marshland full of mosquitos). On top of that, predators like bears, cougars, coyotes, or snakes can pose a major threat. It’s not overly likely to run into these creatures, but it’s important to be aware of them, and plan accordingly. Additionally, look up if there are any dangerous plants your dog might run into, such as stinging nettles or poison ivy, or perhaps something more exotic. 

Other things that will be important to research are the campsite’s dog policy. Are well-behaved dogs allowed to roam off-leash, or must they remain tethered at all times? Most campsites will have information online about their dog policy, or have specific sites that are dog-friendly. If you can’t find the information you need, you can always give the site a call, or try a third party site such as Bring Fido, which can help you find a suitable destination.

The bottom line here, though, is to do extensive research, and learn everything you can about the area before visiting. 

What to bring

In a previous post, we discussed the best ways to prepare your dog for a hike, complete with a packing list. Many of the same principles apply to a camping trip, with a few added items that are a good idea to bring along. Here’s our list of essential supplies for camping with your dog:

  • Water and a collapsible bowl
    • No matter when or where you go camping, you can count on your dog getting thirsty. It’s important to bring enough water, or ideally, more than enough. Exactly how much depends on the size and breed of your dog, the temperature of the area, and the expected level of intensity of getting to the campsite, as well as any day trips or other activities you have planned. One thing is for certain, you don’t want to run out of water while camping with your dog, for your sake and theirs. As well, do your best to stop your dog from drinking from streams, ponds, and puddles, as this water may pass parasites or pathogens to your pup.
  • Food and treats
    • For day-to-day sustenance, or for when your dog needs a little pick-me-up (or a convincing bribe).
  • Poop bags! (And/or a spade)
    • Always make sure to clean up after your dog, either bagging it and properly disposing of it, or, if it’s not possible to pack it out, burying it at least a foot deep, a hundred feet or more from water access points, roadways, or civilization in general. 
  • Doggy first aid kit
    • On top of your normal first aid gear, we recommend adding some dog-safe antihistamines and antiseptics, as well as liquid bandages for paw pads. 
  • A cozy dog bed
    • While your dog might be attached to their cozy bed at home, it’s a good idea to get a second bed that’s designed for camping. These usually are thicker, and provide better insulation for your dog to keep them comfortable through the night. The more comfortable your dog is in the tent, the less likely you are to be woken up by a restless pup in the middle of the night.
  • A long leash
    • For campsites that only allow tethered dogs, look for a sturdy leash with a good length. You should be able to wrap it around a tree when needed, while still giving your dog a decent amount of room to roam. At the same time, it should be short enough to allow you to keep control of your dog at all times.
  • Doggy-dedicated towel
    • This will allow you to dry and clean them off before letting them into your tent, keeping whatever dirt, water, or unwelcome critters out of your sleeping area. We recommend bringing a towel that is just for your dog, because, well, who would want to share?
  • Dog-friendly sunscreen and bug spray
    • These specialty products may prove a little hard to find, but they’re essential for keeping your dog healthy and happy on your camping trip. Sunscreen made for dogs will protect them from harmful UV rays, while special bug spray will protect them from mosquitos, and therefore from heartworm. IMPORTANT: Never use DEET on your dog!
  • Your dog’s favourite toy(s)
    • A little something to remind them of home, and keep them out of trouble while you brew that first pot of coffee.
  • A reflective or illuminated collar
    • While not essential, having an LED light or reflective surface on your dog’s collar or jacket can be a big help in tracking them down should they leave your sight.

Phase 2: Arriving to the campsite

Although it’s tempting to get to work straight away on setting up camp, remember that this all might be a bit of a scary or overwhelming experience for your four-legged friend. Keep them calm by giving them a (leashed) tour of the place, and allow them to check everything out under your supervision. This will help put the dog at ease for the rest of the trip, as well as hopefully satisfy their curiosity, and stop them from running off at the first chance they get. You can also help make your pet more comfortable by setting up a relaxing, safe spot for them to hang out while you’re in the campsite. Someplace that’s shady and free of pests or hazards, and allows them to get a good lay of the land.

Phase 3: Enjoying the trip!

You’ve done your due diligence, prepared and planned accordingly, and you and your dog have finally arrived. What to do now? Well, the world is your oyster, but here are a few suggestions on activities to do while camping with your dog:

1. Fetch!

This one might seem a little obvious, but truthfully, camping is one of the best times to play fetch with your dog. Think about how excited your pet will be to be running wildly in a huge open area, not having to worry about other dogs or people. It’s the little things that make life worthwhile, and we certainly count a round of fetch in the grout outdoors among them.

2. Go for a hike

If your dog is up to the task, we recommend taking a hike while you’re camping! Lots of campsites have great day trips or even overnight hikes in the area, so have a look around in your research phase to see if any trails catch your eye. It can be a good challenge for your dog, and lots of fun for the both of you. 

3. Take a dip

If it’s mid-summer, and there’s a beautiful, undisturbed body of water nearby, we probably don’t even have to make this recommendation. And your dog certainly won’t need to be told twice! You may just find yourself wading out there after them.

4. Just take it all in!

Life as a dog is simple, but that simplicity is what we find so wonderful. Even just taking your pal on a little walk around the area, especially if your dog is a breed not predisposed to more challenging hikes, can be a great way to get them excited. After all, it’s only natural that your dog will want to smell, eat, or pee on just about everything, so you may as well join them on the trip, and make sure they don’t get into too much trouble.

Going camping with your dog can be an incredibly fun, exciting, and rewarding experience. There’s nothing quite like experiencing the great outdoors with your best friend, and more often than not, taking a trip with them will lead to powerful bonding moments that neither of you will soon forget. With proper preparation, training, and understanding of how to look after your pet in the wild, anyone can experience the joys of camping with their dog.

For questions about getting your dog camp or hike-ready, or anything else around your animals and their needs, don’t hesitate to contact Hastings Veterinary Hospital today!

Creative Commons Attribution: Permission is granted to repost this article in its entirety with credit to Hastings Veterinary Hospital and a clickable link back to this page.