Camping with Dogs: Tips to Feed Your Dog Fresh Foods on Holiday

Camping with dogs

Written by Hilary Wilkie

Hilary is a qualified canine nutritionist, who is passionate about educating dog parents on optimal ways to feed their dogs so they can thrive.

2 December 2022

Camping with Dogs

During summer, hitting the road for outdoor adventures is a quintessential past time for many kiwis. Whether you are tramping into the deepest parts of the New Zealand bush, car camping or glamping, this time away is full of fun with whoever you are holidaying with. 

Even better is if your dog can join you on your outdoor adventure. 

Just like with any other holiday, travelling with your dog requires a bit of extra planning, especially if they eat a fresh whole food diet. Considering their dietary needs and how best to replicate their home diet, will help make your holiday fun and stress free for everyone, including your dog. 

Use this guide to help you plan a smooth outdoor adventure with your dog over the summer. 

What to Consider Before Hitting the Road

So, you’ve decided to spend part of your summer sleeping under the stars, and you want to bring your dog along. Before you hit the road you need to consider a few things first. 

Will your dog have fun? 

Many dogs will love the idea of tagging along with you and your family. However, there will also be dogs that will be happier staying at home with a dogsitter, in a kennel or another alternative. If you’re not sure how they will cope, do a test run with a night of camping in your backyard. You know your dog best. Do what will work for them and ease you both of any anxiety that might occur. 

Are dogs allowed? 

Be sure to check if the place(s) you will stay allows dogs and what rules you must follow. Certain campsites might only allow dogs at certain times of the year. For example, Blue Lake Top 10 Holiday Park allows dogs outside peak season (mid-December to late January). Also, rules will vary from place to place. Some places may require your dog to be on lead the entire time and others may require your dog to be always under control, which can be a bit vague in meaning from dog parent to dog parent. 

What type of camping will you do? 

You will need to consider your dog’s physical and mental capabilities depending on the type of camping. Are you tramping, freedom camping, visiting a DOC site, or tenting at a private holiday park? 

What refrigeration facilities, if any, are available? 

If visiting a private campground like a Top 10 Holiday Park, then you may have access to fridges and freezers to store some of your dog’s food. Otherwise, you will need to rely on chilly bins to keep their food as cold as possible for as long as possible. If a chilly bin is not an option, then investigate high quality alternatives to fresh food for your dog (see below). 

How long will you be away? 

Maintaining your dog’s fresh food diet for a couple of nights in the bush is simple but add in a few more days and the challenge kicks up a notch or two.  

How close is the nearest town? 

This is important as you might be able to pop into town every few days to top up your dog’s fresh food even if you where you’re camping doesn’t have a fridge. Manage your dogs food the same way you would your own. Pack enough for the first few days and top up as you need. If the nearest town is further away, then you will need to pack more food to either last the entire trip or until you have to top up for you both.  

Tips to Feed Your Fresh Fed Dog on a Camping Trip

Keep it simple 

Whether you go away for a couple of days, a week or even longer, stick to the foundation of a fresh food diet – muscle meat, bone, organs, fruit, and vegetables.  

You can purchase minces with all the goodies all mixed through from places like Raw Essentials and Out of the Wild. Bear in mind, most raw dog food suppliers do not list the ratio of muscle meat to bone to organs.  

For your vegetable and fruit supplementation, Original Blend is an easy and convenient way to boost your dog’s meal even out in the bush. 

Remember, your dog will be ok if they do not get some of their extras while on holiday. Just like yourselves, you will eat a bit differently camping, then you do at home.  

Portion meals ahead of time 

If you don’t already portion your dog’s meal, now might be a suitable time to start. Portioning out their meals per day makes it easy to defrost as required. We use reusable plastic containers, which stack on top each other in the chilli bin and there’s minimal risk of leakage and cross contamination. If space is an issue, then freezer bags are another option. However, there is an increased risk of leakage and cross contamination with your human food.  

Freeze as many meals as possible 

Freezing all your dog’s meals before you leave will ensure they stay at a safe temperature and eliminate the risk of the food going off and causing your dog to have an upset stomach. 

Wear Gloves 

While at home, I don’t use gloves to prepare Jessie’s meals, we recommend keeping a stash of disposable gloves when you’re camping because you may not have easy access to running water. It also eliminates the risk of cross contamination. 

Freeze dried or dehydrated food 

If you are going to be camping for an extended period or a chilly bin is not an option then, a high-quality freeze dried raw or dehydrated raw food are the next best options. If your dog has not eaten the food before, be sure to introduce the new foods before you go on holiday. We suggest at least two weeks, so you can monitory for any reactions, both good and bad. The worst thing to happen while camping is to only have this new food with you and your dog either refuses to eat it or they become sick from eating it.   

Take two chilly bins 

If you have the luxury of space, then we highly recommend taking two chilly bins on your trip. One is dedicated to human food and is opened more frequently, while the other is for your dog and is only open as required (ideally no more than twice a day.) This minimises the risk of cross-contamination and ensures that your dog’s food stays frozen and cold for as long as possible. 

Pack the food tightly 

The more that is packed into a chilly bin the longer it will stay colder. Also ensure that you include bags of ice or ice packs. Refreeze if ice packs if you are able to.

Open the chilly bin as little as possible 

As mentioned above you want to open the chilly bin as little as possible. The more times you open it the faster food will defrost and get to room temperature. When you’re out camping for a few days and don’t have access to replace melted ice packs or ice you might be feeding your dog more in a day then you would normally so the food doesn’t spoil. 

Keep the chilly bin out of the sun 

Even in a shady spot chilly bins can warm up on a hot summer day. If it is left in the sun, the internal temperature will increase. Your goal is to keep your and your dog’s food as cold as possible for as long as possible. 

Add eggs and tinned fish

Two simple and camping friendly ways to bulk up your dog’s fresh meals are adding tinned fish and/or eggs to their meals.  

We recommend tinned salmon, tinned sardines, or tinned anchovies. Ensure they are tinned in fresh water, rather than in oil. Eggs are great whole food source of protein, vitamins and minerals.  

What About Bones?

Taking bones on your camping holiday is highly recommended. They are great to feed when you first arrive at your campsite to help settle your dog and keep them busy while you set up.

If you have the space in the chilly bin and can ensure they’ll stay frozen until ready to be defrosted safely, then bring them with you.

Feeding bones are great enrichment for your dog. Try hiding the bone and invite your dog to “hunt” for it. It is a great physical and mental activity that will entertain your dog and you while you enjoy a cup of tea or a glass of wine. 

What happens if your dog gets sick?

Having a sick dog at home is not fun, but having a sick dog while camping is less fun and can be quite stressful for everyone. Be sure to have your vet’s contact details on hand. Also, find the contact details of the nearest vet where you are staying. In many cases, you will not have cell reception, so depending on the severity of your dog’s illness you may need to pack up and head to the vet or you may be able to treat them at the campsite. Trust your gut. A few things to have on hand if your dog has diarrhea or is vomiting. 

  1. Slipper Elm 
  2. Marhmallow root 
  3. Cooked pumpkin  
  4. Plain yogurt or kefir 
  5. Bone broth powder (without onions) 
  6. Needless syringe (for easy administration of fluids) 

Camping with your dog may require a bit more effort, but it’s worth it when you see them loving every moment of the experience.

If you head out on the trails this summer with your dog let us know some of your favourite tips. 

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