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Pets are part of the family and we can't help but feel guilty when we leave them home alone for an extended period of time. This year, consider taking Mr. Buttons along with you on your next camping adventure or relaxing weekend away at the cottage. Randy Valpy, the top dog at Pets Plus Us (that's his real job title – you can check his business cards!), shares some great tips to help prepare you and your furry friend for an exciting getaway.
1. Plan ahead
If you're visiting unfamiliar territory, such as a camping ground or a rented cottage, bring the phone number for your pet's veterinarian and any insurance information you may have for him or her, in case of emergency.
"It's just a matter of being prepared, such as making sure you know where the nearest veterinarian clinic is to where you'll be staying, making sure the pet's vaccinations are up to date and making sure you've properly treated your pet with flea and tick medication," says Valpy.
2. Remember: Not all pets are the same
In a new environment, some pets will go with the flow while others might panic, notes Valpy. If you're not sure how your pet will react to a new environment, such as a campsite or cottage, do a dry run in your backyard. Valpy recommends pitching a tent in the backyard and having a sleepout, so that your pet can get comfortable with the outdoors.
"You can gauge what sort of reaction they're going to have before getting up to your campsite," he notes. "Pet owners know their pets best, obviously, but it's about preparing for different situations."
3. Prepare for the journey
Chances are that visiting a cottage or campsite will involve spending a few hours in the car first. Pets may be used to short rides to the park or vet's office, but not all pets are equipped to deal with spending several hours in a car.
Ideally, you want fresh air coming into the vehicle, says Valpy, so roll a window down. Make sure to also carry along a portable water bowl. Pets tend to pant heavily in the summer and without water they may get dehydrated.
4. Try not to break their patterns
"Traditionally, people like to walk their dogs first thing in the morning or after dinner, so try to keep to that habit because they really look forward to that time," explains Valpy.
Sticking to the routines and patterns your pet is used to will make him or her more comfortable in a strange, new environment. A favourite toy or blanket from home will also help acclimate your pet to his or her surroundings.
5. Keep your pet on a leash
Roughly three out of 10 Canadian pet owners have had to decline medical treatment for a pet because it was too expensive, so it's better to be safe than sorry. Taking pets to a cottage or into the wilderness presents them with a lot of stimuli, including other animals. It can be easy to lose track of your pet and, because of unfamiliar surroundings, it can also be difficult for your pet to find you.
The only time your pet should go without a leash is while swimming, says Valpy, because the leash may get tangled on something and cause your pet to drown.
6. Safety gear isn't just for humans
If you plan to take your pet to a cottage or on a yearly camping trip, you might consider investing in some safety gear and supplies. A safety vest and car harness (they make both for dogs) or a small animal medical kit that contains basic supplies such as bandages and tweezers are a good place to start.
"Some people try to take their pet out on the canoe or boat. It's very important that pets have a safety vest – it's no different than what you would want for your children or for yourself," says Valpy.
7. Don't forget that you brought your pet along
Now that you've brought your pet with you, be sure to spend some quality time playing with him or her. "It's easy for us to get distracted, especially if we're enjoying the great weather," notes Valpy. But remember: Your pet can be great company on all of your outdoor adventures, so be prepared and have fun with your four-legged friend.