5 Secrets to Road Trip Success with Pets

Your pet is a family member, so why would you leave them at home with a pet sitter or in a boarding facility while you go on a road trip? Let your pet know there’s a car seat or plane seat for them this year, with these five pet-travel secrets fromAmbleside Animal Hospital.

#1: Ensure your pet is up to date on vaccinations

Pet-friendly hotels and resorts may have specific health requirements for pets, so always contact the property in advance to check whether your pet will need an appointment at Ambleside Animal Hospital before your departure. If you’ll be traveling for an extended period, request any medication refills and heartworm, flea, and tick preventives to ensure you don’t run out.

Pack a hard copy of your pet’s vaccine records with their belongings, and keep a digital version on your phone. Ensure your pet’s current rabies tag is attached to their collar or, for cats, attached to the carrier.

#2: Microchip your pet and ensure they wear identification

Many pets find travel stressful, and because they are anxious and fearful, they often go missing. Microchipping is a simple and permanent way to ensure your pet can be returned to you if you become separated during travel, emergencies (e.g., natural disasters), or simply everyday life. Our Ambleside Animal Hospital veterinarian will implant a microchip, which is smaller than a grain of rice, under your pet’s skin between the shoulders. Then, you must immediately register their chip online with the database registry with your contact information. The whole procedure takes only minutes—but provides endless peace of mind.

#3: Safely restrain your pet in your vehicle

According to a study by Volvo, unsafe driving behaviors and the amount of time the driver was distracted by their dog more than doubled when dogs were unrestrained—causing an estimated tens of thousands of vehicle accidents annually. Worse, even minor accidents can seriously injure, or kill, a pet, because unrestrained pets become projectiles on impact, and can be ejected through the windshield, or collide with the driver or passengers.

Safe pet-restraint options include dog crates and seatbelts, and carriers for small dogs and cats. Your choice may depend on the size of your pet, vehicle design, and your pet’s temperament. To ensure success and comfort, always acclimate your pet to the method you will use for their restraint at home, before you introduce them to the car. Establish positive associations by feeding your pet treats for going in their crate, or taking your dog for a walk after they accept their seatbelt.

#4: Pack for your pet

Although some dogs would leave everything behind for a chance to “go for a ride,” a successful road trip with pets begins with a detailed packing list. While items like food and a bed are natural choices, others may not seem so obvious, but should include:

  • Water — Unfamiliar water can cause gastrointestinal issues in pets. Whenever possible, travel with water from home or buy bottled water. Keep dogs away from communal bowls, such as those found at roadside dog parks and truck stops.
  • Cleaning supplies — Accidents happen. Ensure you’re ready with paper towels, enzymatic cleaner, and plastic bags to remove and dispose of any pet waste or body fluid (e.g., vomit). Always be a responsible dog owner, and pick up after your dog at roadside areas, hotels, or parks.
  • Pet first aid kit — Make your own pet first aid kit or purchase a premade kit online. Restock expired items at least annually.
  • Familiar items — An item that smells like home (e.g., blanket, bed, or favorite toy) may comfort your pet on the road.
  • Enrichment toys — Bored pets can get in trouble quickly, especially in hotel rooms. Bring mentally engaging toys such as food-stuffed Kong toys, puzzles, and foraging games to give your pet something to do at your destination.
  • Calming aids — Speak with your pet’s veterinarian if you think they’ll be anxious, stressed, or nervous during your trip. While some pets benefit from anti-anxiety medication, others may feel better with a supplement or pheromone spray or collar.
  • Extra leash and collar — Leashes and collars can break or go missing, so always keep a spare set in your glove compartment. Avoid retractable leashes, which can injure pets and people.
  • Medications — If your pet is on long-term medication, ensure you pack enough for your entire trip, plus an extra week.

#5: Take pet-safe pit stops

When safe, stop every three to four hours to let your dog stretch their legs and eliminate. Select a clean location with well-tended grassy areas (i.e., no excessive litter or debris) and take safety precautions, including:

  • Never opening the car door without securing your pet (i.e., clipping the leash to the collar and holding the leash)
  • Not letting your dog socialize with unfamiliar dogs
  • Watching your dog closely while they walk and sniff to ensure they don’t pick up or ingest anything from the grass or pavement
  • Picking up and disposing of pet waste
  • Offering your dog water

The next time you plan a trip, consider taking your pet along for the ride. With a little thought and planning, vacationing with your pet can be a fun and memorable experience for everyone.

If your pet needs a health check, vaccinations, or a microchip before they become king—or queen—of the road, ensure the first stop—before your road trip—is a visit to Ambleside Animal Hospital. Contact our friendly and compassionate team to schedule an appointment.