Safe Summer Travel with Your Dog!

Posted on Jun 9th, 2016, 02:50 PM America/Los_Angeles

The summer season is upon us! School is out for many families, and vacation time has arrived. Long sun-filled days prompt many folks to start dreaming of hitting the road to explore faraway places.

The Decision: Do I bring Fido or leave him behind?

The decision of whether or not to bring the family dog on a summer vacation can be a difficult one for many pet owners. As your dog is now a part of the family, wherever you go, they go too. This is understandable with anyone that owns pets. In any situation, whether you are looking for houses for sale near sun city, visiting family members or going shopping, you have to make sure that your dog is allowed in these places. It may be simple, but there is a lot you need to consider before making this decision.

Many people would like to share their summer vacation with their pet. Before you pack up Fido, you should ask yourself a few questions: Is my pet a good traveler? Is he used to the mode of transportation? Will he be welcome at my destination? Will I be able to balance my vacation activities with his daily needs? If you answered “no” to any of these questions, consider leaving Fido behind. Contact your veterinarian for references for a local, reliable pet sitter or boarding facility.

Even if your dog has been a good traveler in the past, it is a good idea to re-evaluate his travel ability each summer. Dogs age much faster than their human companions. Dogs who are elderly or who have had any recent illnesses or injuries may no longer be able to travel like they once did.

The Road Trip

Does your dog already ride well in the car? If your pet has limited automobile experience (or if the only rides he knows are trips to the veterinarian!), then it is important to acclimate him to car travel. Start with short trips to fun destinations like a walk in the park, or a trip to the pet store, or a play date with a friend’s dog. Pay attention to his temperament in the car. Does he seem to enjoy the travel or does he appear very anxious? Does he ever seem to get carsick?

Once you are on the road, it is important to follow a few tips:

  • A dog riding in a car must be adequately restrained. A crate is an excellent way for a dog to travel. Another form of restraint is a harness that attaches to a seat belt in the car. Be sure to allow adequate time for your dog to get used to either one before embarking on a long trip.
  • A dog should never travel with his head outside the car window. This practice does not allow for adequate restraint in the car, and it places the dog at increased risk of injury. Dogs can lose their balance and fall out of car windows on to the road; they can also get eye injuries from swirling dust, insects, and debris on the road.
  • Frequent stops are important when traveling with your pet. Be sure to let your dog get a little exercise and have the chance to eliminate every 2-3 hours on the road. Many roadside rest stops have dog walking areas. It may also be worthwhile buying an automatic dog ball thrower, as these can burn some of the energy from your dog. A good list can be found to compare the different throwers.
  • NEVER leave your dog unattended in a car. Temperatures can rise in cars at an alarming rate. An independent study showed that the temperature can increase by 19?F in just ten minutes. After 60 minutes, the temperature can increase by 43?F! Cracked windows do not help! Dogs are very sensitive to heatstroke. If your trip will require you to leave your pet alone in a car, then it would be better to leave him at home in the care of a pet sitter or boarding facility.
  • Before your trip, check that your pet’s ID tags and microchip information are up to date. Unfortunately, every year, pets get lost on road trips. Consider investing in a dog tracker in case the unthinkable were to happen, visit for more information. Additionally, consider traveling with a current color photograph of your pet in case the unthinkable happens, and he gets lost. The photograph will make identification easier and allow you to quickly put up flyers or identify him at the local animal shelter.
  • Bring your pet’s prescription medications and travel with a summary of your pet’s medical record and your veterinarian’s contact information. It is a good idea to have a list of local veterinarians and emergency veterinarians who would be available if needed on your trip. Prescription medication cannot always be filled on short notice.
  • Bring your pet’s regular food. A trip is not a good time to try out a new diet. Make sure that your dog is used to the bed, blankets, bowls, toys, and food that you pack for him on the trip to keep him more comfortable.
  • If you are crossing state or international lines, you may need a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (health certificate). It is important to check with each state or country that you will be traveling through as well as your final destination to determine what specific documents and proof of vaccinations are necessary. Allow yourself adequate time to meet all the requirements.

Traveling with your canine companion can be a memorable and enjoyable experience for many dog owners. A little advanced planning can make the trip a safe one for all. Happy travels!

By Tiffany L. Mitchener, DVM

Picture of Dr. Mitchener

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