Now that good weather is here and the snow shovel has been safely stashed away, you may be thinking road trip. If you’re like many of us, you probably have pets who like to go along for the ride. Summer vacation is no longer just for two-legged travelers. Many hotels have been ratcheting up the pet amenities due to more people traveling with their furry friends. This includes room service menus for Fido, massages for over-stressed terriers and tabbies, and cushy beds for canines. I got to thinking about things that make for a good trip with pets, from choice of vehicle, to the right accessories, to things to bring and trip planning. Here are some tips for safely and enjoyably taking the critters on the road.
- Keep your pets safe and secure in a well-ventilated crate or carrier. There is a variety of wire mesh, hard plastic and soft-sided carriers available. Whatever you choose, make sure it’s large enough for your pet to stand, sit, lie down and turn around in. It’s always a good idea to get your pet used to the carrier in the comfort of your home before your trip. If you prefer to not crate your pet, make sure they at least have a safety harness on and are belted in.
- Get your pet geared up for a long trip by taking him on a series of short drives first, gradually lengthening time spent in the car. If you decided to keep your dog in a crate, be sure to secure the crate so it won’t slide or shift in the event of a quick stop.
- Don’t feed your furry friend in a moving vehicle—even if it is a long drive. Travel on empty. It’s a good idea not to feed your pet six to eight hours before embarking on a road trip. Having an empty stomach will make him less likely to throw up. Giving your pet water, however, won’t upset his stomach and may make him more comfortable. While some pets travel best on an empty stomach, others will feel more comfortable after eating a small meal. Some pets just need a little food in their stomach to help keep them from getting sick. But only feed them about half of what they normally, just in case!
- Never leave your animal alone in a parked vehicle. On a hot day, even with the windows open, a parked automobile can become a furnace in no time, and heatstroke can develop. In cold weather, a car can act as a refrigerator, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.
- What is in your pet’s traveling kit? In addition to travel papers, food, bowl, leash, a waste scoop, plastic bags, grooming supplies, medication and a pet first-aid kit, pack a favorite toy or pillow to give your pet a sense of familiarity.
- Make sure your pet has a microchip for identification and wears a collar with a tag imprinted with your home address, as well as a temporary travel tag with your cell phone, destination phone number and any other relevant contact information. Canines should wear flat (never choke) collars.
- Traveling across state lines? Bring along your pet’s rabies vaccination record, as some states require this proof at certain interstate crossings. While this generally isn’t a problem, it’s always smart to be on the safe side.
- When it comes to H2O, always bring your own. Opt for bottled water or tap water stored in plastic jugs. Drinking water from an area he’s not used to could result in tummy upset for your pet.
- If you travel frequently with your pet, you may want to invest in rubberized floor liners and waterproof seat covers, available at auto product retailers.
There are several dogs out there that tend to get car sick. The first thing to realize when dealing with car sickness is that in 95% of cases it is stress related and not motion related. Your pet may relate a car trip with being taken away from its first home, or trips to the Vet or even worse, the Kennel. It’s not surprising that subsequent rides in a car should evoke very strong mental and subsequent physical trauma.
If this is the case for your dog then my best advice would be to re-program your pet’s attitude towards travel in a car. Find a park about 5-10 minutes from home, ideally have someone else in the car too, to soothe the dog and distract him from the ride. Keep him happy all the way to the park. When at the park do all the enjoyable things that the dog loves, fetch the ball, and chase the Frisbee. The stay at the park doesn’t need to be that long…. just as enjoyable as possible. Then drive the dog home soothing him all the way again and when home make just as much fuss of the dog as you did at the park. Finish the session with his meal or a treat if time and conditions permit. After doing this a few times your pet will now associate car travel with fun times.
Take frequent rest breaks. While some pets can travel for hours without having problems, others start getting queasy after a few miles. Get to know your pet’s pattern and stop at least every hour or two to take a quick walk to help your pet get his land-legs back. It’s also a good idea to pour him a little water, since he may not feel like drinking when he’s in the car.
If you are staying in a hotel, hopefully you checked the Pet Travel web site and booked a pet friendly hotel or motel online! If the hotel/motel charges a pet fee pay it, don’t try to hide your pet, you will spend all night worrying about being discovered. When you arrive ask for a ground floor room near an area where you can take a walk with Fido. Be sure to pick up after your pet so that the hotel/motel will remain pet friendly.
Most accommodations ask that you do not leave the pet alone in the room for obvious reasons. You may have to order take out or room service, or if it is cool enough for your pet to be left in the car for a half hour or so you could go out to dinner and take them along. You may even find a pet friendly restaurant; look for places with outdoor seating areas like sidewalk cafes.
Take the time to review these helpful tips before you take off down the road with your pet. It’s better to be over prepared than having to deal with a sick puppy on your road trip.