Safe Travels: Road Tripping With Your Pet

Anabel Dflux

After a year of isolation, when travel was virtually impossible, people are ready to get out and do some traveling. But lingering concerns about sleeping in hotel rooms and eating at restaurants have driven some people to consider hitting the road in RVs, campers, and the increasingly popular converted vans.

Traveling with your own self-contained sleeping quarters and kitchen facilities eliminates the worry of picking up germs in public places. And, more importantly, it gives pet owners the freedom to take their four-legged friends along without searching beforehand to find “pet-friendly” accommodations. Sometimes even the best-laid plans can lead to unwelcome surprises in the form of extra fees or strict policies that weren’t explained when you made your reservation.

So hitting the road in a travel vehicle is an appealing option, but if you’ve never taken your dog on an RV trip before, there are a few things to bear in mind to make your trip both enjoyable and safe.

Don’t Skimp on the Temperature Monitor

Many of us know how quickly a car can become sweltering hot or freezing cold, depending on the weather conditions. Did you know that your RV is susceptible to the same rapid temperature changes? Even if you’re only leaving the camper for 20 minutes to pick up water or food, so many things can go amiss in that period of time while you’re away.

Being parked at a campground and plugged into the land-based power supply (“shore power”) isn’t a guarantee either, as sometimes the “dirty power” can flip a circuit breaker … shutting off the air conditioning in your RV. You’d be surprised how quickly your home on wheels can become a dangerous sauna for your pets inside. The solution? A temperature monitor!

Temperature monitor brands such as Waggle and MarCELL are popular among pet owners around the country as a way to ensure the temperature in their mobile home stays comfortable for their dogs, cats, or any pets that come along for the journey. Both the Waggle and MarCELL monitors are designed specifically for pet owners, including features that will help put your mind at ease—like sending you a text message alerting you to a power shortage or significant temperature change.

Keep Your Pets in a Crate or Kennel (Even if They’re Well Behaved)

Even if you have the most well-behaved, stay-put dog on earth, a kennel or crate is still a good idea.

Unfortunately, most RV walls are thin and exponentially less impact-safe than a regular passenger vehicle. In the case of an accident, having a pet roaming free can be extremely dangerous—even fatal. Even if your pet is not injured in a crash, there is a secondary danger of your pet getting loose and then lost. Dogs and cats tend to bolt when in fear, and you certainly don’t want them to get lost in an unfamiliar place, far from home. Keeping them kenneled when the vehicle is moving is the best way to keep an accident from becoming a tragedy.

To make your kennel more comfortable, add a crate bed and some blankets. For longer trips, bring a toy or two for mental stimulation. Kongs stuffed with frozen treats are a great choice. If your pet is the nervous type, you can cover the kennel with a blanket to help him sleep while you drive.

Designate the Pet Area

Make your life easier by designating a specific area for your pets inside your travel vehicle.

If you’re traveling with dogs, try to set up the kennels by the door for late night potty breaks. In many RVs, the cafe table can be converted into a bed platform, where crates can be stacked. This platform is sturdy and flat, providing a great foundation. You can also purchase straps to secure the crates in place.

For feeding time, place the bowls off to the side so you don’t accidentally step on them when walking past—remember, the tight quarters in an RV can create some cramped passageways.

If you have a cat on board, look for a hanging cat bed that you can place by a window. Cats love to look outside, and a hanging bed will keep your feline elevated and out of the footpath. Cat scratching posts can be positioned in corners or on top of folding furniture.

For smaller caged animals, such as hamsters or birds, always secure their enclosures to a flat surface with straps in a similar manner to dog kennels.

Place all your pet’s belongings and necessary items near their set-up, where everything is in one place and you can easily find what you need. Plastic stackable containers and boxes are a great storage solution if you’ve run out of space.

Bring More Towels Than You Think You Need

You’d be surprised at how handy towels can be—you can never have too many. The top tip from seasoned pet travelers always seems to involve the use of a towel.

You never know what your hiking dog will get into while you’re exploring the great outdoors, and a towel is a quick and easy way to clean them up before letting them back into your vehicle. But, if they do find a way to sneak past, you can use the towel to mop up the floor and any other surfaces they may get dirty. A towel can also serve as padded flooring for crates, a blanket for cold pups, or a kennel cover. The list of uses for towels is truly endless, and for that reason, consider buying a set that’s just for your furry camper.

Have a First-Aid Kit and Copies of Vet Records in Hand

This might sound like a no-brainer, but first-aid kits and vet records are often forgotten when packing for a road trip. And if you have an emergency, these two suddenly become the most important items on the list.

Make sure you have all your emergency supplies with you (or if you own your RV, camper, or converted van, buy a kit that lives there indefinitely) so if anything should happen, you’re prepared. Some recommended items to include in your first-aid kit are gauze rolls, vet wrap, iodine and wound wash, a sterile staple gun, any prescription medications, an antihistamine like Benadryl, medicine for an upset stomach like Pepto Bismol, and anything else you find yourself reaching for at home when your dog is hurt or sick.

For every planned stop on your route, make sure you know exactly where the nearest emergency veterinary clinic is. From a bee sting to a rattlesnake bite, you never know what a day out may bring, and knowing where you can get help might just save your pet’s life. The last thing you want in an emergency is to be calling around to find a clinic that’s open.

Be sure you keep copies of your vet and vaccination records on hand. In the age of technology, this information can live on your phone rather than in the form of physical papers. However you store this information, make sure you can access it quickly and easily. You’ll need it if you have to see a vet, and some campgrounds may even require vaccination records before you can stay overnight.

Research the Campground

Speaking of campgrounds, make sure you research where you are going to stay—unfortunately, some locations have restrictions on certain dog breeds. If you’re traveling with a breed that is governed by breed-specific legislation, call ahead and confirm with the campground that your dog is welcome there.

Be Respectful of Others at Campgrounds

When you do find a campground that works for you and your pet, practice commonsense campground etiquette. Be respectful and follow all the rules—especially those pertaining to pets—to encourage the campground to continue allowing pets in the future.

Be mindful of others around you and keep your dog’s barking or your parrot’s squawking to a minimum. Make sure your pet is always on-leash, both because it’s the law and to ensure the other campers feel safe. It may be obvious how gentle your dog is, but strangers still don’t necessarily want him running up to them. Pick up after your dog or cat and keep the campground clean. Being a responsible pet owner will make a good impression on the campground operators, leaving the door open for future visits with your pet.

Lock Your Doors!

All too often, people think that because they leave their dogs in the camper, they don’t need to lock the doors. Don’t assume you won’t be a victim just because your dogs are inside. Unfortunately, thefts happen all too frequently at campgrounds, and your pet could be one of the precious belongings stolen in a burglary. Make sure your vehicle doors are locked at all times.

Invest in an Odor Eliminator

We all know pets have a distinct smell … and while you’re traveling, you may not want your home on wheels to take on that smell. Bring along a sanitizing odor eliminator that you can wipe or spray on the surfaces of your vehicle. Look for products that kill 99.9% of germs and are effective against animal and pet viruses such as canine distemper, Newcastle’s disease, avian influenza, and others. URICIDE® makes a line of products that are 100% non-toxic, biodegradable, and safe for kids, pets, and plants. Always read the label and check with your veterinarian to make sure the product you choose is safe for your pet.

Road tripping with your pet can be a lot of fun, especially if you plan ahead and leave prepared. Use these tips and have a safe and carefree travel adventure with your pet this summer!

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