I have a multi-pet household, and because of that, I don’t plan trips very often. Leaving behind four cats, two dogs and a bird to fend for themselves is hazardous not only to their health but to my house! We do have a pet sitter, though, and occasionally will take a short trip. When we do, we usually take our big dog with us (he’s a good boy, and pet sitters are afraid of him.)
So we’ve learned firsthand some of the hazards of traveling with an animal, both for the animal and the humans involved in the trip.
Pet Travel Tip #1: Bring Extra Water
Animals can’t go as long without water as we can when traveling. Plus, we often stop and get sodas or juices along the way. We should be certain to give water to our pets, at least offer it and let them have the chance to drink some, every time we stop along the way. Water can be stored in a gallon jug, but we have actually purchased a spill-proof water dispenser for our dog, so he can push a button and get water (or we can push it for him) and then toss out the unused water and it seals right back up. Good investment.
Pet Travel Tip #2: Bring Plenty of Food
Your pet’s diet shouldn’t change because of the trip. In fact, while traveling and exposing your pet to new things, it’s more important than ever that his or her diet stay the same. Changing diet radically while changing a pet’s surroundings can lead to horrible stomach upset, and there’s nothing more miserable than a sick pet on a road trip cooped up in a vehicle for hours at a time.
Pet Travel Tip #3: Bring Leashes and Harnesses, Use Them
One of the saddest stories I’ve ever heard was a friend who had a puppy who dashed out of the car at a rest stop and was hit by a vehicle while on a vacation. What a horrible vacation! Another friend of mine lost a cat that bolted from a car on a trip too. Always make sure before opening the car door that the pet’s leash and harness is on and they are secure. No matter how well-behaved your pet might be, they are in a strange environment, having been cooped up in a vehicle on the road trip, and you might not be able to judge how they will react to that.
Pet Travel Tip #4: Make Arrangements for Dining
One of the most difficult things to manage while on a road trip is that you can’t leave your pet in the car while you go in to dine somewhere. You’ll need to find pet-friendly restaurants, restaurants with patios that allow pets, or you’ll need to plan for fast food and eating in the car or at a park. Of course, you can save money and eat healthier by packing a cooler and a blanket and having a picnic somewhere along the way, but be sure to check city and park ordinances to ensure your pet is allowed to be there, wherever you do stop.
Pet Travel Tip #5: Sleeping Arrangements
Your pet needs plenty of room in the vehicle to sleep and that room needs to safe and secure from potential hazards of the vehicle stopping too quickly, luggage or other things falling and hitting the pet, etc. One easy way to secure your pet is to use a carrier or crate that is hard-sided, so it’s safe from anything falling on it. Also, consider bringing something familiar from home for your pet, like a stuffed animal, blanket or bedding, to help them with the strange surroundings of the car for long periods and for any stops at hotels and other places.
Pet Travel Tip #6: More Sleeping Arrangements
If you’re traveling overnight, you’ll need to find places to stay along the way. If you’re staying with friends or family in their homes, they need to know you’re bringing your pet, and it’s important to talk about sleeping arrangements before you get there. If your pet is only an indoor dog and they expect your dog to sleep outside, this can cause a problem. Talk about the arrangements beforehand. If you’re staying in a hotel or other lodging, be sure they are pet friendly or the type of pet you have. Some place only allow small animals and others don’t allow certain breeds of dogs. Know these potential pitfalls before starting out on your trip.
Pet Travel Tip #7: Schedule Extra Stops, Extra Time
Animals need to have breaks to stretch their legs, go potty, get drinks, eat and move around some. People should do these things to, but your animal can’t always tell you while in the car what he or she needs. Because of this, you should plan a few extra stops in your trips so your animal is let out of the vehicle at regular intervals.
Pet Travel Tip #8: Medication, Records, Licenses, Tags
In many places, city ordinances or local laws state that if your dog doesn’t have his or her tags, you might end up losing your dog! Be sure you have your dog’s tags, licenses, or other legal documents necessary to ensure you are the legal owner of your pet and that your pet has all his or her required shots and medical treatments. Different municipalities require different things, so taking a folder with the animal’s information and the name and address of your vet on official paperwork can help in the event of a problem. It can sometimes make the difference between getting to keep your animal! Also be sure if your animal needs any medication that you take at least 150% of the amount of medication the animal will need with you, just in case of a problem, delay, accident, or other issues that causes you to not be able to get additional meds when you normally would.
Pet Travel Tip #9: Extra Cleanup Supplies
When cooped up in a car with a pet, there are so many ways potential problems can crop up that will need cleaning. From hair/fur on clothing and seating to illness (vomiting or defecating in the car) to bringing extra bags for cleaning up poop when the animal relieves himself outside you should bring extra cleaning supplies for the trip that are specific to your animal. Some extra blankets that can be shaken out, lint rollers or hand vacuums, wet wipes, poop disposal bags, washcloths and the like are all good items to tote.
Pet Travel Tip #10: Plan Pet-Friendly Activities
Wherever you’re going, if you’re taking your furry friend with you, try to include some pet-centered activities into your road trip. After all, it’s not much fun for your animal to go on the road trip with you just to be cooped up in a hotel room during the day while you’re out having a good time. Plan some time to take your pet out for a walk, to a dog park, or do something your pet will enjoy while on your road trip too.