by Barbara Foley

With a little thought and planning, traveling with a pet can be fun. Pets add so much to our lives that we want their companionship even when we venture far from home. Here are a few hints to make the trip enjoyable for both you and your pet.

Plan your trip with all travelers in mind, including your pet. Decide how many hours you plan to travel each day and whether you will use main highways or go the less-traveled routes. This will help you deal with the "logistics" that we all face.

Whether traveling in a RV or in a car, your pet should always travel in a crate, sometimes called a carrier. If an accident should occur, a pet in a crate has a better chance of survival because he will not be thrown about in the vehicle or perhaps be thrown from the vehicle and hit by a car on the road. If a crate is impossible, at least use a dog seat belt harness (available in most pet supply stores). When you pack your vehicle, make sure you can quickly get your pet out of the crate in an emergency and refrain from piling luggage so tightly around the crate that you block the flow of air to the pet. Also place the crate in your vehicle so that it is not in the sun, the heat of which is amplified through the vehicle windows. Check periodically to make sure the dog is still in the shade.

Plan rest stops with your pets in mind, too. Puppies lack muscle control to "hold it" for a long time, whereas adult dogs can wait longer. I have found that every three hours is a good rule of thumb. (Usually, your human travelers will be protesting if you don't stop by then, too!) I actually plan my route so that I can stop at rest stops every three hours and combine these stops with gas-ups so I'm not getting on and off the road all day long.

Your pet will probably become excited at the prospect of being let out of the vehicle. So, before the door is opened, make sure your dog has his collar and leash on should he bolt through the door. Of course, your dog must always be on his leash, not only because it is required almost everywhere, but a loose dog in a strange place can easily wander into traffic or become lost.

Take a baggie and lead your dog to the area designated for pet use. Pick up any droppings with the baggie and dispose of them properly. If you stop to gas up or eat, ask the attendant if you can walk your dog BEFORE you do so and assure them you will pick up any droppings. Of course, walk your dog away from play or eating areas. Refrain from letting male dogs lift their legs on picnic tables, play equipment, or other cars. When using rest area pet walk areas, try to walk your dog away from areas already used by other dogs but still be within the designated area. Highly contagious diseases, such as, parvovirus, are transmitted through the feces of other dogs. Why take the chance!

If you are stopping to stretch a little, exercise your dog, too. A little run on a long lead or playing with a toy can relieve his tired muscles and relax you at the same time.

Offer your dog a drink at each stop. To avoid stomach upsets, some people carry a container of "home" water for their pet. Recycled mineral water bottles work great and don't take up much room.

If possible, keep your dog's feeding schedule as normal as possible. Bring along your dog's usual food (don't assume you can just buy it along the way). However, if your dog gets motion sickness, you might want to avoid feeding him before you set out on your day's journey. If your dog suffers from motion sickness, crating him may help or you can get medication from your veterinarian. Taking short, uneventful trips with your dog before the "real" trip could help to desensitize your pet to motion.

Travel with your dog's medical records, his dog license, and a current color photograph. This serves a variety of purposes. The medical records, of course, are evidence of his current inoculations, especially rabies. Many campgrounds require a rabies certificate, and should your dog bite someone, the situation can be defused if you can instantly prove that your dog is up to date with his vaccinations. Additionally, should your pet become ill on the road, you will be able to help the attending veterinarian with his medical history. The photograph is important to help people identify your dog should he become lost.

Your dog should wear a buckle collar with his rabies and dog license tags attached, along with your name, address, and phone number. You could also place masking or duct tape on the collar upon which you would write the name and phone number of the campground in which you are staying and/or that of your veterinarian. (After all, if you are on the road for any length of time and you lose your dog, with only YOUR information on the collar, a finder could call till the cows come home and not be able to reach you!)

Bring along some of your dog's toys and perhaps a familiar blanket. Unless he travels frequently, he doesn't understand why his world has suddenly been turned upside down, and he may settle more readily with familiar things around him to reassure him.

Always carry a roll of paper towels (great for other things too!), and handi-wipes are wonderful for accidents, spills, and just plain cleaning up. Check your dog for fleas and ticks at the end of each day. Before you return your dog to the vehicle at rest stops, check the bottoms of his feet--he may have walked through automotive oil in the parking lot. And while we're on the subject of parking lots, be alert for antifreeze--it is poisonous to dogs who seem to be attracted to its sweet taste.

Before you stop for the day, plan a rest stop. Dogs acclimate to a routine very quickly. If all your rest stops have been three hours apart and your last rest stop was three hours before you stop for the night, when you stop to register, your dog will be VERY ready for HIS rest stop. Registering can often take some time, especially late in the day. That, coupled with parking your vehicle and the excitement of something different, could put your dog beyond his capacity to wait and you could have an accident at a time when you're least able to deal with it! If that is not possible, have a family member walk the dog in the designated area while you register.

Try to be patient. When you stop at the end of the day, you will be stiff and tired. Your dog, on the other hand, will be stiff and exuberant! Give him a little time to settle.

Make sure your pet is welcome wherever you stay. Don't try to sneak him in to motels or campgrounds. You will just ruin traveling with pets for everyone else. Here is a resource I found in our local newspaper: "Pets-R-Permitted Directory," which profiles 10,000 hotels and motels, as well as veterinary services, kennels, pet sitters, campsites, and travel tips. (Check/money order for $11.95 {includes postage/handling} to Claws and Paws, 17121 Palmdale St., Unit A, Huntington Beach, CA 92647. By credit card, call 1-800-274-7297.)


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RV Chassis Master, Inc., Elizabethton, Tennessee; formerly of Clermont, Florida