By Dr. Sarah Wallace
A road trip with your dog means that you both get to experience the journey and not just the destination. Sure, it may take some extra planning, but having your four-legged bud next to you on a big adventure, with the windows down, and the smell of spontaneity in the air is worth the effort.
While destinations vary, this dog packing list works for all types of trips:
Food bowl and your dog’s favorite food
Water bowl and bottled water
Health certificate (especially important if you may be crossing state lines!)
Collar and leash
Bug repellent and sunscreen
Flea comb and tick remover
Brush and shampoo
Favorite toys and/or blankets
Towels for emergency clean up in car
Separate your dog’s items from your own. This will give you quicker access to the items you need during the ride.
PREPARE YOUR DOG FOR THE ROAD TRIP
If you don’t have any experience traveling with your dog in the car, acclimate them by starting with shorter car rides a few weeks before your trip. Gradually lengthen the car rides so your dog can get used to being in a car. Experiment with feeding your dog a couple of hours before car rides to see if they are prone to carsickness – but remember, it is generally a bad idea to feed a dog right before a long trip. If your pet seems to get sick on car rides, make sure to feed them several hours ahead of a trip so they don’t get sick on the road. This may mean making longer stops around feeding time. KEEP HEADS INSIDE THE CAR
We’ve all seen commercials with happy dogs panting and smiling with their head hanging out a car window. Even though it’s exciting for our pups to feel the breeze on their face, it is NOT safe. Letting dogs place their head out the window during a drive leads to a higher risk of injuries in the eyes, ears, mouth, and face from airborne debris. Cold air gets forced into their lungs and can cause dogs to get sick. Worst of all, when dogs are hanging their heads out of the window, it likely means they are not properly restrained, which increases their chances of falling out the window in the case of an accident. Stay safe and keep all snouts and paws within the vehicle at all times!
DOUBLE-CHECK CRATES, CARRIERS & RESTRAINMENTS
When picking out a carrier or crate for your pup, make sure to get one that is well-ventilated. It also needs to have enough room for your dog to stand, sit, lay down, and turn around. If you are buying a new crate, leave enough time before your trip for your dog to familiarize and get comfortable with it. Leave the door open with a blanket and some treats, and give your dog privacy to freely walk in and out of the crate. Practice keeping them in the crate for short periods of time so they know what to expect. Prior to your trip, secure the crate or carrier in the car to ensure it doesn’t slide around or tumble in the event of an abrupt stop or turn.
For smaller dogs, or even dogs who don’t want to stay cooped up in their crates for the entire ride, purchase pet seat belts. You buckle up every time you get in the car – so should your pup! STOP OFTEN FOR FOOD & EXERCISE BREAKS
If you’ve ever been on a road trip, you already know what it’s like to be stuck in a car for long periods of time – NOT FUN. When traveling with your dog in a car, plan to take breaks every two to four hours for food and water, a bathroom break, and a little bit of exercise. It’s a difficult task to have a routine during a road trip, but for trips that involve multiple days on the road, we recommend stopping to rest around the same times every day. NEVER LEAVE YOUR PET ALONE IN A PARKED CAR
Hundreds of pets die each year from being left alone in the car from extreme temperatures. Even with the windows cracked open, temperatures within cars can raise by 20 degrees in just 10 minutes. This can cause your pet to get heat stroke, which is not only dangerous but potentially deadly. In colder seasons, temperatures can fall and cause pets to freeze to death. Never leave your pet alone in a car, even for a few minutes.
So… decided that you’d rather fly with your dog? No worries, we’ve got tips for that too.