Crain RV Tips and Tricks
Your Official Newmar, Tiffin, Jayco and Airstream Dealer in Arkansas
Taking your pets with you on the road!
Over the years, we've seen quite a collection of dogs, cats, birds, snakes and ferrets at roadside rest stops. We've even seen a hamster or two. Truth is, pets make great travel companions. Another truth: They require special handling. If you're considering taking a dog or cat on your next road trip, these tips can help ensure that the journey will be safe and fun for everyone in the vehicle.
Create the expectation. Even if your animal is accustomed to riding in a car to the vet or groomer, take her on some short trips to other destinations. Walk her around some new places, and let her sniff and explore at her leisure. New smells and new places are highlights in a critter's life -- almost as good as treats! These little warm-up road trips can create the expectation in your pet's mind that a car trip will be fun -- not just a ride with a rabies shot at the end.
Create the space. Invest in an appropriate carrier or in a animal safety seat and let your pet get used to it when traveling. When we travel with a dog, we make a point of always referring to his kennel as his "fort," and we put a favorite toy or special treat inside it every time we get into the vehicle. Dogs really like routines (cats, too, though to a lesser extent), and our dog quickly came to associate his seat harness with the chance to go somewhere new and exciting. Many pet owners and vets recommend that the acclimatization process of getting Rover or Felix used to traveling kennels works best if they start using them as puppies or kittens, but in our experience, any age works as long as the human makes it fun for the animal.
Create the paper trail. Always carry a complete set of medical records for your animal companion, along with a current statement from your veterinarian saying that your pet is in good health. Vaccination records are particularly important if your trip involves crossing state or national borders, and in an emergency your pet might need to stay in a kennel or other animal care facility. The most commonly required vaccinations for dogs include rabies and bordetella (kennel cough), but you should also consider a shot for Lyme disease if you will be traveling through tick-prone areas. Check with your vet for other recommendations.
Create the "Critter Go Kit." We often suggest equipment and gear that should be in every human road tripper's "GO KIT" and pets need a similar cache of supplies. Here's what we recommend at a minimum: water and food bowls from home, two bottles of water per day reserved for the pet, food and treats, an extra leash, cuddly toys, blankets and beds.
TIPS FOR PETS ON THE ROAD
1. Stop every two to three hours and give your pet a chance to run and stretch. Please remember to keep them on their leads. The good news is that in order for them to get enough exercise, you will need to run too -- always a good thing!
2. Give your animals water at the start of the rest break, not at the end. You don't want a freshly energized critter to drink some nice cool water and immediately get back in the car -- that's a recipe for upchuck down the center console (We know this from personal experience). We carry small plastic containers with snap-on lids in our fanny packs as mobile water bowls, and we make the dog stop and drink fairly often when on extended walks.
3. Some hotels are so pet-friendly that they have treats waiting when you check in. We recommend that you not give these treats to your critters, having found from experience that it is much better for them to eat as consistent a diet as possible when they are on the road.
4. Cats can be fussy travelers. Provide a box or other cave-like place in the car where they can hide from time to time, and offer them their own litter box at every rest stop. Exercise can be problematic for those cats who prefer not to go for walks in unfamiliar settings. Try getting the cat accustomed to walking on a leash or riding in a pet backpack before the road trip, so you can get them out of the car or motel room every so often without running the risk of losing them.
5. Cats seem to be more prone to getting dehydrated on trips than dogs. An electrolyte solution called Pedialyte (available at drugstores) can be administered for hydration and to prevent vomiting. Consult your vet for the dosage.
6. Consider teaching your pet verbal cues about when it is time to potty while on walks. With our dog, the magic phrase is: "It's time to go back." Whether we are headed back or not, the dog will perform his duty.
7. For bedtime walks, always carry a flashlight. Not only does carrying a light make it easier to find and pick up droppings, it is a sensible safety precaution.
8. Avoid leaving your pet unattended in your vehicle. In many states, this practice is illegal, no matter the reason or weather, and it is often unsafe. If you must leave Rover alone for a few moments, we recommend that you crack a couple of windows and put reflective window covers on all windows, except for a side window facing away from the sun (so the dog can see out). Also leave a note on the window giving the time you will be back. But never leave your pet in the car if the outside temperature is more than 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
It's been our experience that pets adapt more easily to the delights and rigors of the road than most people.
Try an animal-enhanced adventure on your next road trip!