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Road Trip With Your Dog: Everything You Should Know

Embarking on a road trip with your dog can be an enriching experience, but it requires careful planning and preparation. Whether you’re considering a cross-country road trip with your dog or just a weekend getaway, understanding the needs of your canine companion is crucial for a successful journey. You should know everything about traveling long distances with dogs in the car.

Should I Take My Dog On A Road Trip?

When considering taking your dog on a cross-country road trip, assessing if it is up for the journey is important. Consider your dog's health, temperament, and travel experience. Dogs that enjoy car rides and adapt well to new environments are ideal candidates for long road trips.

However, if your dog gets anxious or car sick, exploring alternatives such as boarding or leaving them at home with a sitter might be best. But if you are preparing for a road trip, our vets at Eastgate Animal Hospital have 11 tips to make your trip as enjoyable as possible for both you and your dog.

11 Tips For Traveling With Dogs In A Car Long Distance

There are many things to consider when planning a trip with your canine companion. Here is an easy list for owners to follow to help make the trip as smooth as possible for you and your pup.

    Plan a pet-friendly route

    When planning a road trip with your dog, consider the need for regular breaks to allow your pet to stretch their legs and relieve themselves. The frequency of stops will depend on factors such as your dog's age, size, and health. Young and elderly dogs and those with certain medical conditions will require more frequent stops. Additionally, smaller dogs must stop more often due to their smaller bladders. Look for safe places, such as rest stops along your route, to accommodate your dog's needs.

    Take some practice trips

    Even if your dog is excellent in the car for routine trips, a long road trip may still be challenging for them. Make sure to take some longer practice trips so they become comfortable with spending a long time in the car before you embark on a cross-country road trip with your dog.

    Plan meals accordingly

    Feed your pet a light meal three to four hours before you leave. While you're on the road, always stop when your dog needs food. Don't feed them in a moving vehicle to help avoid pet car sickness. 

    Never leave them in the car alone

    Never leave your dog alone in a parked car. It is a safety concern at temperatures higher than 70°F or below 35°F. However, passersby may decide to break your window to free your dog if they think they are trapped inside at any temperature. 

    Pack the essentials

    When packing for your dog, don't forget to bring their food, water, treats, medicine, toys, feeding bowls, poop bags, extra leashes, first aid kit, stain and odor removers, and any other supplies your dog may need. Having these items ready will help save time and allow for more enjoyable adventures without the need to stop at stores. Remember to include your pet's health records, including recent immunizations.

    Pet Identification is a must

    While it is important that your pet be microchipped in case it goes missing, it is also important to have dog tags on its collar with at least your name and current phone number for easy identification.

    Protect your dog and your car

    Keep your pet restrained during the ride. It isn't safe if they hop around the car while you're driving. Products ranging from harnesses and hammocks to car-safe crates are available.

    Wear them out ahead of time

    A tired dog is often well-behaved, so right before you leave for your trip, take your pet for a long run or a visit to the dog park. This will help ease travel anxiety and allow them to relax in the car.

    Provide entertainment

    Give your dog something to distract them from the long car ride. Whether it be a chew toy or a kong filled with peanut butter, your dog will be happy.

    Don't ignore signs of anxiety

    If you notice your dog is stressed or anxious while riding in the car, we suggest using natural stress-reducing remedies. Pressure wraps like a Thundershirt, or calming supplements can all help reduce stress in dogs.

    Check-in with your vet

    Before hitting the road, schedule a visit to the vet. Make sure your dog is up-to-date on vaccinations, and ask about motion sickness medication if your dog is prone to car sickness. Obtain a health certificate if you plan to cross state lines. 

    How To Stay Safe in All Types of Travel

    While traveling by car is probably the easiest, there are other methods of travel, and it is important to know how to travel with your dog safely in these instances, too.

    Travel by plane

    Flying with dogs poses a risk to animals with short nasal passages, such as bulldogs and pugs. These animals are more likely to have breathing problems and can quickly suffer from heat stroke. If you must fly with your dog, ask about them traveling in the cabin with you. Depending on the airline's rules, this may be an option for smaller pets, but it will require advanced planning. Don't wait until the last minute. 

    You will also need to visit your vet and get a health certificate dated no more than ten days before your trip. Check with the airline to make sure you have the right type of carrier.

    Travel by train

    Amtrak trains only allow dogs who weigh under 25 pounds, so traveling with a dog may not be an option. Smaller train companies may allow pets, and many European railways allow pets. Check with the train company you want to travel with to ensure you have all the required documentation. 

    Travel by boat

    Some cruise lines allow pets to travel with you, but usually only on ocean crossings. Check to make sure your pet will be allowed in your cabin with you, as some ships confine pets to onboard kennels. 

    What If your dog doesn’t like road trips?

    Not all dogs enjoy road trips, and that’s okay. If your dog shows signs of stress or discomfort, consider these alternatives:

    • Boarding Services: Our boarding service in Cincinnati provides a safe and comfortable environment for your dog while you travel. Your furry friend will receive plenty of attention, exercise, and care. Learn more about our boarding services here.
    • Pet Sitters: Hiring a pet sitter to stay with your dog at home can be a great option. Your dog stays in a familiar environment, reducing stress.
    • Friends or Family: Sometimes, a trusted friend or family member can look after your dog, ensuring they are well cared for in your absence.

    Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet. 

    If you are planning a trip with your dog, contact our Cincinnati vets to schedule an appointment to update their vaccinations and flea and tick prevention and ensure your dog is in good shape for the trip.

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    Eastgate Animal Hospital is welcoming new patients! Our compassionate vets are passionate about the health of Cincinnati companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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