With summer on the way, many of us will be traveling with our pets. Whether it’s a short trip to the dog park, a few days at grandma’s house, or a cross-country excursion, keeping some of these tips in mind will help make the experience more fun for everyone!
Prepare your pet
Getting organized with all their identifying and medical information, and making sure they actually LIKE traveling, will help your travel plans go more smoothly.
Collar + ID: Be sure they're wearing a collar with an ID tag, and that the information on them is up to date.
Microchip: If they're not microchipped, now is a great time to do it! Ask your vet if they provide that service, or check Home Again https://www.homeagain.com for other vets near you. Home Again’s Lost Pet Specialists can also help you if your pet does become lost.
Veterinary records: Depending on where you’re traveling, a signed health certificate (including proof of rabies vaccination) or other documents from your vet may be required.
Practice traveling: Are you planning a long road trip, but your dog hates the car? You’ll need to spend time acclimating him to the experience, and helping him associate it with fun, instead of stress. Take it slow, and reward him with treats and affection once he’s inside. Turn on the engine and give more rewards. Take a short drive around the block, and reward again. Work with a dog trainer for more tips and ideas to make car rides a normal, pleasurable experience.
If your pet is just miserable in the car, and won’t enjoy the trip, consider having him stay with pet sitter or boarding facility. If you must travel with your anxious pet, ask your veterinarian about mild sedatives or anti-anxiety medications.
What to bring along
First Aid Kit: Bring a travel-size first aid kit along, to help manage the unexpected. Read our article about what goes into your pet's first aid kit here.
Extra collar, harness, or leash
Poop bags: Be sure to bring plenty of poop bags and dispose of your pet’s waste everywhere you go.
Litter box: if you’re traveling with your cat, be sure to bring a litter box with clean litter. Set the whole thing in a big garbage bag and tie it shut to keep it from spilling.
Toys and treats: keeping your dog occupied and happy on a trip is important to their well-being. Bring familiar toys to maintain a bit of normalcy on your travels. A filled Kong is a great distraction in the car (if they don’t get motion sickness) and to give them some quiet time away from the commotion of family get-togethers.
Bowls: Since they’re always accessible at home, it can be easy to forget to pack bowls for your pet when you travel. Try collapsible bowls to save space.
Food and water: Bring enough food to last the duration of your trip, or look for stores that carry their brand near your destination. Gallon jugs of water are great for car trips, and can be purchased at gas stations. A durable airtight container will keep their food fresh, and they won’t be able to rip into it like a bag.
Dog shampoo: If your dog gets super dirty from running around in the woods and mud, or swimming in a lake, you’ll probably want to give them a bath at some point on your trip. Bring a travel size bottle of shampoo so you won’t need to purchase some on your trip. (Don't use human shampoo on dogs!)
Clip-on light: If you’re camping, or if there’s any chance that your dog will be outside after dark, clipping a small light (like a bike light) onto their collar will help you keep an eye on them, or find them if they wander off.
Life jacket: If your dog likes to swim and you’re heading to the lake, don’t forget to bring their life jacket!
Traveling with older pets
Mobility: If your dog suffers from arthritis, degenerative myopathy, or other mobility issues, consider ways you can make traveling easier for them. You may need a towel or sling to put under their hips to help them with stairs or in and out of the car. Bring boots with traction, or musher's wax to help them navigate slippery floors, and protect their paws.
Incontinence: As our pets get older, they can't "hold it" as long, or they may be taking medications that make them thirsty, so they drink more water, and have to go more frequently. Be sure to make plenty of rest stops when driving with your pet. Use a potty pad in their kennel or on top of their bed, or consider getting a waterproof cover for their bed. Some dogs or cats may even require a diaper. Never get angry with them for accidents; they're not doing it on purpose, and they don't like it any more than you do.
Medications: If your pet takes prescription medications, be sure to bring enough for the duration of your trip, or a copy of the prescription in case you need to buy more.
Comfortable bed: While the youngsters might be fine laying on the ground or floor, older pets appreciate a supportive bed that's easier on their joints. Their bed will also give them a familiar place to be, and this "safe zone" will help them feel at ease in new locations.
Patience: Remember that older pets may move a bit slower than before, and may need a bit of extra help now and again. When you choose to travel with them, you're choosing all the responsibility that comes along with them. Approach every situation with patience, and be grateful that you get to share these experiences together.
Car safety restraints
Dogs and cats roaming free in a car can be dangerous for them and for you. A safely secured crate that’s big enough for them to stand up, turn around and lie down in is great. Make sure they’re getting plenty of airflow, and let them out for food, water, and potty breaks along the way.
Or, try a harness that attaches securely to a seatbelt. Reviews of crash-tested harnesses are a great place to start looking for options.
Pet friendly accommodations
Where will you be staying on your trip? There are many pet friendly hotels and motels, Airbnb, and campground options. Search bringfido.com to find accommodations that allow pets, as well as pet-friendly restaurants, services, dog parks, and more.
If you’re playing on staying with friends or relatives, confirm ahead of time whether they’re ok with your pet staying there, too.
Seasonal pet travel considerations
Different times of year call for different travel and safety needs for your pets:
- Never leave your pet inside the car on a hot summer day. Temperatures rise quickly, and heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and death are far too common.
- Bring extra water on trips in the summer, and keep it in a cooler with ice packs, if possible.
- Depending on your location, your summers may be plagued by ticks, fleas, mosquitos, or other pests. Keep your pets protected with preventatives prescribed by your vet, or natural solutions like essential oil collars and sprays.
- Never leave your pet inside the car on a cold winter day. Temperatures drop quickly, and the car becomes like a refrigerator.
- Pack extra blankets, emergency “space” blankets, and those packs of hand and feet warmers, in case you get stuck and need to stay warm.
- Booties and musher's wax helps protect dog paws from snow, salt, and ice.
- If you have a breed that gets cold easily, bring a sweater or coat to keep them warm and dry.
Do you like to travel with your pet? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below!