Ask The Vet’s Pets: Backpacking with your Dog

Dear Daisy Dog Sarah, our 2-year-old Bernese mountain dog, hikes with us. This year, we’d like to fit her with a backpack. How much weight can she safely carry? Daisy Responds Sarah is a lucky girl to spend time hiking with you, and backpacking sounds like fun. Start her with an empty pack. It should fit well and have enough padding that it doesn’t chafe. It’s important that you buy her a top-quality doggy backpack. After a couple of weeks with an empty pack, add a load that weighs up to 10 percent of her body weight. That’s about 10 pounds total, including the pack, if she weighs 100 pounds. Make sure to balance the load, and watch her closely throughout your hikes. Remove the pack whenever you stop to rest or view the scenery. Very gradually, if she seems comfortable, increase the weight. Adult dogs like Sarah can eventually carry up to 25 percent of their lean body weight. If she shows any sign of distress, though, remove the added weight. Just a reminder that we dogs aren’t weekend warriors. To prevent injury to the musculoskeletal system, we need to walk almost every day, gradually increasing the distance we walk and the weight we carry. Remember her heavy coat, and lighten the load -– and shorten the hike -– on hot or humid days. Ask The Pet’s Vet is writtern by our own Dr. Lee Pickett!