Camping with pets and how to avoid an emergency a long way from home

A first-aid kit is essential when packing the car and hitting the road for an Easter camping trip with the family.

But what about your furry passengers and the dangers lurking around the campsite?

Learning basic pet first-aid skills could help save your pet’s life, especially if you are kilometers from the nearest vet.

Dog with white bandage on his face

Minor accidents can turn into major injuries.(ABC Far North: Amanda Cranston)

Veterinary nurse Kelly Irvine runs first-aid workshops in Cairns for pet owners so they can respond in an emergency.

“It should be mandatory for pet owners,” she said.

Ms Irvine said managing a pet’s symptoms until they can get to a veterinarian could sometimes mean the difference between life and death.


Just like humans, if a dog is bitten by a venomous snake there is a short window to get treatment.

“If you’re not 100 per cent sure what kind of snake it is, just wrap the wound anyway,” Ms Irvine said.

bandaging a dog's leg

Kelly Irvine shows how to bandage a dog’s leg if it’s bitten by a snake.(ABC Far North: Amanda Cranston)

She said it was important to keep the dog calm before getting to a vet as soon as possible.

“You don’t want your dog to use too much energy as they’re going to transfer the venom faster throughout their body,” she said.

Symptoms include lethargy, vomiting and heavy breathing and even if you’re wondering whether the animal has been bitten by a snake or not, it’s advisable to seek treatment quickly.

dog in rooftop tent

Many families love to bring their dogs along when they go camping.(Supplied)

Cane toads

There are several places in Queensland that are toad-free canes and dogs love playing with the poisonous pest.

“Once they’ve licked one and got a high from it, they go back and do it again,” Ms Irvine said.

Toxins from the toad can be absorbed into the body, so the veterinary nurse advises owners to rinse their dog’s mouth out and wipe over its gums using gloves and a damp paper towel or soft cloth.

“Often there is a red bloody discharge and this is just the venom coming off the gums,” Ms Irvine said.

“As you remove all the toxins, the gums will become clear.”

Symptoms include frothing or foaming at the mouth, vomiting or seizures, so taking the animal to a vet is paramount.

Vet sign on a tree

Many vet clinics are starting to offer pet first-aid workshops.(ABC Far North: Amanda Cranston)


The Queensland Department of Environment and Science warns ticks are active all year round and to avoid contact with grass, leaves and undergrowth wherever possible.

But in the wilderness, that’s virtually impossible, so tick-prevention medications are recommended.

happy smiling maltese dog

We all want happy and healthy pets.(ABC Far North: Amanda Cranston)

Ms Irvine said at least 80 per cent of ticks were found on the first quarter of a dog or cat’s body because they liked to explore head-first.

She said owners should check their pets daily for ticks, including their gums, inside their ears, under the eyelids and armpits and between their paws.

“Ticks like warm, cozy spots,” she said.

Anti-freeze tick spray can be used, but a tick-remover tool is needed to remove the parasite.

Symptoms of tick paralysis include trouble walking, lethargy, swollen face, vomiting, gagging or change in their bark or meow.

Take them to a vet immediately for anti-serum treatment.

dog in cage at vets

A dog recovering on fluids, after receiving tick antiserum treatment.(ABC Far North: Amanda Cranston)

Heat stress and travel

The change in season is bringing cooler conditions, but in the north of the country daytime temperatures remain high.

Heat stress from being in a hot tent or car can be potentially fatal.

Dogs cool down through panting and the sweat glands in their paws, so providing a bucket of water or small wading pool for them to stand in can help reduce their body temperature.

Plenty of shade and water, plus frozen ice blocks go down a treat.

A dog under a red-and-white-striped umbrella.

Dogs cool down through panting and the sweat glands in their paws.(Supplied)

When traveling by car, the RSPCA says appropriate restraints are important.

“All dogs on the back of a ute or in a trailer must be legally and appropriately secured,” RSPCA Queensland’s Emma Lagoon said.

“Pet crates and car restraints are also a great idea.”

National RSPCA statistics from 2020 revealed about 5,000 dogs are injured or killed each year from falling or jumping off a moving vehicle.

Ms Lagoon also urged owners to update their pet’s microchip details before heading off on a trip and find out where the closest veterinary clinic is in the event of an emergency.

dog on sand next to tree log

A cool, sandy spot or the shade of a tree can help dogs to avoid heat stroke.(Supplied)

Toxic foods

Whether it’s a chocolate Easter bunny, grilled onions, nuts, grapes or even a sip of wine — dogs love tasting everything, even if it’s toxic.

Ms Irvine said owners should induce vomiting in their pets and recommended a solution of salt and honey.

“You need to make your dog swallow the mixture and they will vomit up whatever they swallowed almost straight away,” she said.

medical supplies for a first aid kit

What to include in a pet first-aid kit.(ABC Far North: Amanda Cranston)

What to include in your Pet First Aid Kit – (box)

– Disposable gloves

– Soft cloth/wipes

– Tweezers

– Tick freeze and Tick Twister

– Bandages

– Swabs

– Scissors

– Saline

– Salt

– Honey

– Thermometer and lubricant

– Cleaning solution

By hadem