RV Travel With Pets, Part 1: Safety On The Road

RV Travel With Pets, Part 1: Safety On The Road
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Whether it’s your first time hitting the road in an RV or you’re a seasoned RVer, you know the joys of traveling with pets. They’ve been by our side throughout months of quarantine, and are just as eager to explore the great outdoors as us. With an enthusiastic nudge and a comforting presence, your pet makes the perfect companion on the road as you experience the great outdoors in your recreational vehicle. 

In this part of the series, veterinarians and a trainer provide valuable tips for pet safety on the road to make your epic summer trip as smooth as possible. 

Have Up-To-Date Health Records 

Before heading out on your road trip, make an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian for a check up and vaccinations. 

“First and foremost, consult with your veterinarian on whether your pet’s personality, health status and temperament are well-suited for travel,” suggests Dr. Emi Saito of Banfield Pet Hospital. 

“When speaking with your veterinarian, ensure that your pet is up-to-date on vaccines, parasite prevention and other preventive care to help decrease the risk of disease transmission while your pet is visiting new places,” states Dr. Saito. 

Keep in mind that if you are crossing state lines, health certificates for interstate animal movement are needed. Store electronic copies in the event you lose the hard copies. 

According to Dr. Lisa Killian, Medical Director at Fuzzy Pet Health in San Francisco, CA, having pet health records readily available is important “should your pet experience any medical emergencies while on the road.” 

Have Your Pet Microchipped 

“Pre-travel considerations should also include confirming that your pet has been microchipped, in case they get lost or separated from you in an unfamiliar environment,” says Dr. Killian. If your fur baby is already microchipped, check the microchip registry to see that your information is up-to-date.  

Do A Test Drive 

If your four-legged friend is not typically used to traveling for long stretches, do a test drive to see if he is comfortable in the vehicle. “Connect with your veterinarian if you notice any signs of motion sickness or anxiety in your pet,” suggests Dr. Saito. If your dog is gagging, vomiting, drooling, excessively panting or showing any discomfort, consult with the veterinarian for treatment options. For a mild case of anxiety, you could desensitize the pet to your mobile home by providing his meals and/or treats in the vehicle and by playing fun car games inside to associate good things with it. 

For a cat, bring her to your RV and allow her to get used to the new environment for a few hours at a time or go for drives (of increasing length) prior to the trip. Open some cabinets to give her a chance to find hiding places. In some cases, you may need to sleep overnight in the RV with your feline friend in your driveway to get her adjusted.

Plan Ahead And Provide Stimulation 

With current COVID-19-related closures and re-openings, it’s best to plan ahead and make reservations to confirm that RV campsites are available. Research dog-friendly sites ahead of time and plan your route accordingly. 

Dr. Saito recommends taking the time to “think about where you’ll stop, where you’ll stay and what activities you’ll do. Map out the best pet-friendly places for potty breaks and places for your pet to stretch their legs.” Stopping every couple of hours is ideal, but senior pets and puppies require more frequent breaks. State-run rest stops are a good option for breaks.  

“Depending on age and energy level, try to allow for at least 45 mins of healthy exercise each day for your dog. This can be at a dog park along the way, a hiking trail, fetch at a truck stop or another creative solution,” suggests Melissa Dallier, Training Advocate at Dogly, an online community that gives pet parents access to consultations and advice from certified positive trainers, holistic veterinarians and nutritionists. 

Dallier further encourages pet parents to “incorporate brain games, training and food puzzles into the drive time to expend more mental and physical energy. Mental enrichment will allow for stress release and keep your dog cool and calm on the winding road.” 

Be Prepared And Bring Essentials

“When traveling, it’s smart to carry a pet first aid kit and know where the closest veterinary clinic or emergency hospital is located, en route and at your planned  destination,” says Dr. Saito. 

With the help of a first aid kit, you can also “treat minor scrapes and cuts, deter ticks and remove ticks and foxtails safely before they become hazardous and wrap injuries while hiking or camping,” according to Dallier. 

In case of an emergency, pet parents can use telehealth services such as Vet Chat™ from Banfield or Fuzzy Pet Health’s Digital Pet Care to learn about nearby clinics or receive general healthcare advice and live triage support from a veterinarian.  

Since you will be away from home, Dr. Killian recommends that you “pack enough of your pets’ medication, food and supplements for the duration of the trip.” Plan ahead for delays and bring an additional week’s worth of items so you aren’t put into a bind. 

Pack For The Weather 

Check the weather ahead of time and pack the appropriate pet gear. Dr. Killian states: “If your destination is going to be hot, you may want to consider bringing dog booties for your pup to protect their feet from hot surfaces. Alternatively, if you’re headed into a cooler climate than what your pet is used to, it would be useful to bring a warmer bed and a coat, if needed.”

Buckle Up Or Crate Your Pet 

On the road, you may want your dog by your side as you drive, but buckling up is not just for the safety of humans in the event of sudden braking, a hard turn or an accident. 

“A travel crate or carrier is the best way to transport a pet in a vehicle. An unsecured pet can distract the driver or interfere with safe operation of a vehicle,” says Dr. Saito. The ideal crate is one in which the animal can stand up and turn around safely. If your pet is not used to a crate/carrier, get him to love it prior to your journey by way of training. 

For larger dogs or multiple pets, Dr. Saito recommends use of a crash-tested travel harness. You can find approved products on The Center for Pet Safety website. When using a harness, keep the pets where you can see them to ensure that they remain secure.  

Dr. Killian says that if you choose to use a crate or kennel, “it’s important to make sure that it is firmly attached to the floor or secured so that in the event of sudden motion it remains stagnant.” 

Since the dog will be in a new environment, a crate also gives him a home-like comfort and a place of his own to feel safe and calm. “While you likely will spend a lot of time with your pup while on the road, they may require some occasional alone time,” says Dr. Killian. 

For cats, place the carrier close to a window to give your feline an enjoyable the changing views.

Designate A Spot For Kitty Litter

If you are traveling with your feline friends, a good place to hide the litter box is the shower. You may also place it in a cabinet with a door built-in for your cat to go in and out.

Pack Specifically For Your Pet 

Your furry family member may end up having his own luggage onboard. Be sure to include the following items, as recommended by both Drs. Saito and Killian: 

  • Crate or comfortable bed  
  • Extra leash, collar and/or harness; both short and long leashes 
  • Food and water bowls (portable and anti-spill make great travel options); a spill-proof water bowl comes in handy during the drive 
  • Food for entire trip, plus extra food in case of delays (and a can opener, if needed)
  • Medications and a First Aid Kit 
  • Health certificate and proof of vaccinations (both hard and electronic copies) 
  • Up-to-date identification tags 
  • Favorite toys, puzzle toys, catnip toys etc. 
  • Blankets to bring them comfort in unfamiliar environments 
  • Treats
  • Poop bags
  • Old towels and carpet cleaner for messes
  • Water, in case the location does not provide clean water. Avoid filling dog water bowls from lakes or rivers, as they may contain blue green algae which can be toxic. 

For tips on how to make the most of your RV camping experience, see RV Travel With Pets, Part 2: Safety At the Campground. 

Have a wonderful time on the road with your pets!

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