Preparing for K9 Emergencies in the Backcountry


My dogs and I enjoying the view near our backcountry campsite. 

I have been adventuring in the backcountry with my dogs for many years. From the moment I had Cody we were hitting the trails in the parks near Ottawa. Although we spent a lot of time on those trails, it was never a remote enough for me to bring around emergency supplies and I just thought if something happened, I would figure it out.

Fast forward a couple years and we found ourselves in the backcountry in Cape Scott Park at the northern tip of Vancouver Island. My sister and I both had our dogs with us (Buffy around yet so I just had Cody) and I had suggested what looked like a short cut to get around the beach as the tide was coming in. The trail we were on was rugged and overgrown with fallen trees and a rope to safely descend because of the steepness. I remember thinking “I’m not equipped to handle this if Cody get hurts”. Luckily, that didn’t happen and his agileness impressed me once again. But the thought stuck with me.

Now, living next to the Rockies and adventuring with backcountry hikes, scrambles, backcountry skiing and days at the crag, I’ve learned which supplies to bring with me to keep my dogs safe and to be ready to respond if I need to. It’s been almost 4 years of refining my kit and figuring out what is necessary to always have on me when I go out with them.


Juno, my sister’s dog, enjoying the smells on the beach. 

First aid supplies for K9s

As mentioned above, over the past couple of years I’ve started to perfect my backcountry k9 first aid kit based on my experience of what I could realistically do for my dogs while I’m out there, and what they are likely to encounter and the injuries that would likely result. These items are not in any way exhaustive of what an emergency kit should be, or me offering you any advice on how to deal with k9 emergencies, every situation is unique and common sense should always be used.  If you aren’t comfortable providing first aid for your pooch, there are lots of courses available to help change that!

Here is what I typically have on me:

  • Standard First Aid Supplies – These are the supplies I can use for k9’s or humans. My kit includes triangular bandages, gauze, scissors, tweezers, alcohol swabs, cotton swaps, q-tips, nitrile gloves, and gauze pads of various sizes.
  • Qwickstop – This is a no brainer. It can be used on both k9’s and humans but you’re more likely to need it for your pooch.
  • Lineman’s Pliers – If you don’t have this on a  multi-tool with you, then pack a separate one, especially for overnight trips. Porcupines are an unfortunate part of the backcountry and these can help you with a lot of situations but especially porcupine quills. If you are more than a day from civilization or depending on the location, you might have to remove these yourself. To do that you’re likely to need help from someone holding and calming your pooch. As a minimum, you can use these pliers to cut the quills so at least your dog won’t be hurting every two seconds by rubbing them against something. Always a good idea to see the vet after a porcupine encounter.
  • Benadryl – I always have some of this in my kit. Benadryl is safe to take for dogs and it will help you if your furry pal gets into something they shouldn’t or, if you have a dog like Buffy, and your dog gets a record amount of mosquito bites. Make sure you know the proper dose.
  • Pepto Bismol – This isn’t something I always carry, but it’s worth considering if you’re heading into the backcountry on a multi-day trek. Pepto can help with nausea and diarrhea for your pooch.
  • Self-adhesive Bandage Wrap – Worth its weight in gold, this is my most often used item in my kit along with some gauze. It’s worth carrying a full roll of this stuff. If your dog gets some paw pad injuries, wrapping it with some gauze and this bandage can buy your dog a little comfort on the way out. I’ve used this on multiple occasions with my dogs.
  • Sam Splint – This is something I carry for both my dogs and my human friends. Sam Splints are light and handy to have around. Although if your dog does break a bone in their leg, you might have a pretty hard time splinting it (mainly depending on their ability to tolerate you adding to their pain momentarily), but it’s good to give it a shot.
  • Pain Killers – If you’re headed onto a big trek, it’s worth a vet visit to pick up some k9 pain killers in case something goes down. Just like us, it’s nice to have something to numb the pain a bit on the way out of the backcountry after the shit hits the fan.
  • Pedialyte 50/50 – This is a hydration solution that can be used for dogs and people. Your dog may encounter something in the backcountry which causes vomiting, the pedialyte can help you maintain your dog until you get them to the vet. Dogs can do days without food, but like us they are susceptible to dehydration.

The items mentioned above won’t help your dog in a very serious situation, but they will come in handy for a lot of more minor injuries they may sustain (and are also more likely to sustain). I’m not a veterinarian so I can’t provide you with advice on what to do if your dog is very seriously injured, the best advice I can offer is keeping your dogs on leash when you’re unsure of the terrain and what could be around so that you don’t get into that situation.

If there are items you never hit the trail without, let me know! I’m always looking to improve my kit!

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