Tips for Traveling with Pets
Canine and feline companions can make a trip even more memorable. Natural Awakenings spent time with two local pet enthusiasts, Dr. Judith M. Shoemaker, an integrative veterinarian, and Katherine , a pet owner, who shared tips to help make traveling with a beloved pet safe and fun.
“Make a list to ensure that all essentials are packed,” recommends . “For a day trip, my partner, Matthew, and I always carry the essentials: water, dish, bags, first aid kit, treats, towel/mat and vaccination records. Longer trips require dog beds, food and toys.”
“Everyone must understand how dangerous a loose animal or crate in a car can be in the event of an accident,” affirms Shoemaker. “Animals that are free to move about in a car are a distraction and a danger. Cats and small dogs can get under the brake and accelerator pedals. Animals are best kept in the back seat, secured to the seat with a properly fitted harness, or kept in a crate, with a strap that goes around the entire crate and latches to anchors within the vehicle. Because harm can come to an animal when an air bag is deployed, if being secured in the front seat is the only option, the air bag must be turned off.
“In the event of an accident, a loose animal can be hurled through the air, crash through a window or hit the driver or a passenger. An animal that is not secured in a car might run away following an accident.”
“When traveling in the RV, we make a crated section so Kya and Opal have space to move and room to lay down without wandering around the vehicle,” says .
“Following a regular feeding/drinking schedule makes for happy traveling,” advises Shoemaker. “The time for the animal to relieve itself can be planned into the trip itinerary. Only if there is a tendency towards stress diarrhea should the regular routine be altered.
“Animals can experience motion sickness; the problem is a mismatch between what they’re seeing and the motion of the car,” she explains. “Smooth roads are best and limiting the view of hilly roadsides and moving vehicles is helpful. If an animal has a serious problem with motion sickness, then it’s best to consult your veterinarian for advice on , herbs, acupuncture or specific drugs rather than using over the counter medications.”
and Shoemaker agree that good communication is key. “Even though our dogs cannot talk, we are able to read them to know when they are happy or uncomfortable,” reflects . “Bringing our pet’s essentials also ensures that their needs are met.”
Shoemaker suggests that pets can learn to enjoy car rides if their humans plan for short trips, here and there, with arrival at a happy destination. concurs, “Day trips are the perfect way to test things out. Prepare by finding dog-friendly locations and checking the weather.”
“Positive reinforcement and spending an appropriate amount of time preparing and training ensures that the animal is going to predictably respond well,” affirms Shoemaker. “There are also herbal calming preparations and training programs that can make traveling as much fun for your animal as it is for you.”
Include the animal in vacation plans as much as possible. Use a crate if a dog will be left in a hotel room or RV during mealtimes or other short intervals. Shoemaker recommends that prior training take place at home, by leaving the dog in a spare bedroom for brief periods, making sure that they have entertainment, such as leaving the television on, a toy filled with food or even a babysitter. “Properly crate trained dogs are happy to go into their crates and know that it means it's time for a nap while you’re gone.”
“When leaving the pups in a hotel room, we make sure to spend some time in the room with them first to let them know it’s safe,” relates . “We bring their crates and beds to give them a familiar space as well. To monitor the RV while we are away, we utilize a temperature reader that syncs with our phones. We plan ahead so that they do not need to be left alone at any point since we worry about heat in the summer, even with air conditioning.”
“Playing in cleaner creeks, ponds, lakes and the ocean is the most wonderful experience in life for many dogs,” acknowledges Shoemaker. “However, take precautions. It may not be a good idea to allow dogs to drink out of communal water sources, creeks, ponds or puddles due to the danger of disease or bacterial or viral infections. Leptospirosis is spread through contaminated water sources, and even distemper and parvo can be contracted from the saliva of dogs in a communal bowl. Carry your own water for drinking. Quench their thirst first so they refrain from gorging on other water sources.
“Dogs at the beach should be properly controlled and not allowed to eat horseshoe crabs and other flotsam and jetsam,” she explains. “Ponds with algae blooms may be dangerous; also snapping turtles and water snakes can be a threat. Watch out for broken glass in creek bottoms.”
“We started off in shallow water with our dogs on leash to let them walk through the water and cool off,” explains . “As they got used to it and wanted to play, we made sure to practice recall skills so they could be off leash to prevent them from getting stuck on a rock or tangled up while in the water. It also gives them the freedom to cool off as needed, and then return to us.”
“Always carry your dog's first aid kit with you, with bandages for cuts, antiseptic wipes, triple antibiotic, , some Benadryl for bee stings, perhaps an extra leash and a foldable dog bowl for water,” prompts Shoemaker. “There are kits available that even the dog can carry. Speak to your vet about what the most appropriate homeopathic emergency remedies should be for your pet.”
Shoemaker and are in agreement about cleanliness and good behavior. “It is always important to clean up after your pup so that pet-friendly locations continue to allow our furry friends,” reminds . “Another key factor to happy travels with our pets has been training. They have learned skills, including “sit” during greetings and “leave it”, that allow us to work together while on an adventure to exhibit good behavior.”
“Vacations with the dog can be so enjoyable for both ends of the leash,” enthuses Shoemaker. “Proper preparation and training will make them easy and low stress.”
Always Helpful Veterinary Services is the integrative veterinary medicine and therapy practice of Dr. Judith M. Shoemaker and Dr. Sarah E. Urban, located at 305 Nottingham Road, in Nottingham. For more information, visit AlwaysHelpfulVeterinaryServices.com.
Katherine enjoys traveling with her partner, Matthew, and their beloved dogs throughout Berks and Lancaster counties and beyond.