Despite that it might sound easy to travel with your furry friends, there are plenty of things you should take into consideration prior to embarking on a road trip. So here are our pro tips for traveling with your pet.
But before you take note of any of the tips and suggestions we have listed below, first ask yourself if taking your pet with you is absolutely necessary.
If you’re planning on hitting up a pet-friendly hotel and leaving your dog or cat alone for much of the time while you’re out sightseeing and dining, perhaps it’s best to leave your pet at home with a family member, a friend, or a sitter, where they will be safe and likely much happier. However, if you’re heading out for a camping trip, having your dog along might be a reasonable option. If that’s the case, here are some things you need to think about:
PREP and PACK:
*Before any other prep, consider taking your pet to the vet for a general check-up. While you’re there, discuss your destination with the vet to see if he or she has any concerns or possibly suggestions for ‘just in case’ medications you should think about taking with you.
*Consider purchasing pet insurance, just as you would buy health insurance for yourself and your family. Ideally, you won’t have to use it. But in the event that something happens, at least you have it.
*Put safeguards in place just in case you become separated from your pet during travel. Consider microchipping your pet, or purchase a collar equipped with GPS tracking. There are several reliable brands on the market. At the very least, ensure that your pet is outfitted with a well-fitting collar and ID tag that depicts your contact information, especially your cell phone number. For the purpose of your trip, you might want to add a secondary tag with your temporary information such as your destination and their contact info.
*If you plan to cross a border, remember to pack your pet’s medical records, including a valid rabies vaccination certificate. If your pet takes medication of any kind, be sure to pack that too. Take into account how long you plan to be away and be sure to prep with any refills that might be needed.
*Consider your destination and locate a reputable veterinarian’s office in the area. Take the contact information with you. Once again, ideally, you won’t need to use it but at least you will be prepared in case of an emergency.
*For your vehicle, be sure to secure a size-appropriate crate, pet carrier, portable dog seat, or safety harness since it is unsafe to allow the animal to wander freely around the vehicle — it is distracting for the driver and risky for the animal in the event of a quick stop, evasive maneuver, or accident. A waterproof sheet or seat cover isn’t a bad idea for under your pet in case nervousness or being on the road too long leads to your cat or dog having an accident.
*When it comes to packing for your pet, include their food, fresh water and bowls, and a few treats that might assist with getting your pet in and out of the vehicle if they are being stubborn. Also, include a leash and poop bags for your dog or a litter box and scooper for your cat. If you are traveling with a different type of animal, think about the items they use on a daily basis and eliminate anything that isn’t truly necessary.
*To help your pet feel comfortable and less stressed, a familiar bed or pillow and a blanket are advisable to take along. Lastly, a first aid kit is handy to have with you with the hope that you won’t have to use it.
In the weeks leading up to your trip, allow your pet to become familiar with the vehicle you plan to take on your trip. Start slowly with the vehicle parked and the engine off. Allow your pet to explore it as you encourage him or her with cuddles and a few treats. If everything goes well, try the same thing again the following day but with the engine running this time, allowing him or her to become familiar with the noise. When you feel your pet is ready for the next step, try a few short, experimental jaunts around the block or to the corner store and back.
The next step should be a drive to a park or conservation area where you can allow your animal to get out and stretch and take a bathroom break before getting back into the car. This will help to train him or her for rest stops during your trip. Continue practicing while increasing the distance and time spent in the vehicle until both you and your pet feel at ease with the process.
*When your road trip commences, you can place the familiar blanket and a toy or two into your pet’s crate so they will feel more at ease but it not advisable to add food or treats, small toys, or rawhide. Just like with young children, food and small toys can easily become a choking hazard in a moving vehicle, especially if you have to hit the brakes or swerve to avoid a car. Rawhide can be sharp and can pose a choking and blockage risk. Additionally, when it comes to eating while traveling if there is a chance your pet might suffer from motion sickness, having a full belly will only make the situation worse.
*Remember to stop often to allow your pet some exercise, bathroom breaks, and a drink of water. Do your best to keep your pet on his or her regular feeding schedule. And remember to keep your vehicle at a comfortable temperature.
*If you plan on stopping to eat or sightsee during your trip, never leave your pet in your vehicle unattended. The temperature inside a vehicle can soar on a hot day, putting your furry friend at risk for heatstroke. On cold days, temperatures can quickly drop to freezing. Additionally, leaving your animal alone in a vehicle can cause them a great deal of stress. For any of these scenarios, not only is your pet in serious danger but you also run the risk of being fined, or that a concerned bypasser might break your vehicle’s window in an effort to get your animal out and to safety. And sadly, there’s also a chance of your pet being stolen in this same manner.
If your road trip leads to camping, or perhaps a cottage, there are several things you can do to ensure your pet’s safety.
- Become familiar with the campground’s rules and regulations regarding pets and make sure you respect them.
- Use flea/tick collars or repellents. And be sure to check for ticks nightly.
- Become familiar with any diseases that can be picked up via local plants, insects, and wildlife. Be mindful of any changes to your pet’s health and behavior.
- Remove leftover pet food after mealtime and store it in a safe place that will not attract insects and wildlife.
- Keep your pet away from your campfire.
- Think twice before taking your pet into back-country regions. These areas are risky for pets due to rugged terrain, potential wildlife issues, and an increased possibility of becoming separated from you.
- Never tie up your pet outside and leave it unattended and defenseless.
A horrible incident comes to mind with this last point. While camping in South Carolina, acquaintances chose to park their tent trailer by a small lake and leashed their poodle to the picnic table. They believed their dog would be much cooler and happier outside in the fresh air than to be cooped up with them in a small tent trailer. This was a well-known campground and the lake in question was thought to have been man-made for scenic purposes. Thus, they thought it was safe. However, on the third night of camping, tragedy struck. In the wee hours of the morning, those of us camping near the lake were awakened by the dog’s frantic yelping and we emerged from our tents and trailers in time to see a large alligator with the dog in its mouth and dragging it under the water. So, for those of you considering leaving your pet unattended, please remember that story.
The goal of any vacation is to relax and have a good time. And the best way to do that if you plan on taking your pet along is to take all of these things into consideration well in advance of your departure date.