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Planning a road trip, vacation or move with your dog does require bit of thought and consideration, especially if the trip is going to include one or more overnight stops along the way. Even a short road trip of a few hours may require at least one bathroom and exercise break for the dog, plus it will also include packing and bringing along a few essential supplies. Planning for a safe road trip is simple if you just keep these 10 tips in mind. They can be used as a checklist while packing and organizing and again before you leave to make sure you have everything.
Tip 1 - Ensure Your Dog Has IdentificationWhile your pet may be microchipped, this doesn't provide information for average people that don't have a scanner to check what your contact information is if they find your dog roaming around. Even if you don't typically use a collar and a dog tag, it is important to have one on your dog when you travel. Make sure the information is up to date and is a number you can be reached at while you are traveling. A cell phone number is the best option, since your home phone number is really irrelevant while you are on vacation. If you don't have a cell phone, provide a family member or friend's number that has your itinerary and can get in touch with you should the dog become lost during the trip.
Tip 2 - Pack At Least Enough Food For The Trip Plus One DayTraveling is not the time to be switching foods, so always bring at least enough food for the entire travel time plus one day. The reason an additional day is included is to adjust for any delays or additional stops that often occur when traveling. Don't count on being able to buy your brand everywhere that you go, especially if you are traveling to another state, country or area. You can, of course, phone head to pet stores or buy through chain stores that are likely to carry your brand, but you are taking a risk.
Tip 3 - Bring Bottled Water And A BowlDogs will drink any water - water from a stream, pond, ditch or even a puddle. While your dog may be used to drinking natural water in your area, they will not be used to drinking water in other places. The water may taste bad to the dog or it may also contain water borne bacteria and parasites that can make your dog sick during your trip. To avoid this problem bring a good supply of bottled water and a water dish and before you do anything else when you stop take the dog out of the vehicle provide a drink. This will stop them from immediately drinking other water.
For those with limited space there are many different types of collapsible water bowls that are easy to pack and very light. Be sure to dry out the bowl after every use to prevent it from getting that sour smell, especially in hot weather.
Tip 4 - Make Sure Vaccinations Are Up To Date and CompleteAlways let your vet know that you are traveling and where you are going. You may need to add a vaccination to prevent conditions such as heartworm, Lyme's disease or even rabies if your dog is not currently vaccinated for these conditions. If your dog is going to be kenneled or around a lot of other dogs nasal sprays or vaccinations for kennel cough may also be recommended.
Tip 5 - Phone Ahead And Confirm Pet Friendly ReservationsWhen booking hotels or accommodations online be sure to call and verify they are really "pet friendly". Lots of times websites are not updated with new policies and since most hotels don't offer refunds, this can be a real problem. Also don't assume the terms "pet friendly" is for all breeds and sizes of dogs. Many accommodations don't allow giant breeds or breeds such as Pit Bulls into the hotel, so be sure to confirm if you are traveling with these types of dogs.
Tip 6 - Bring A Collar And Leash And Use ItDo not take your dog, no matter how obedient and well trained, out of the vehicle unless you are using the collar or the harness and the leash. Dogs often become confused and frightened in new situations an can easily bolt or run, or even chase another animal or bird they see. Once they are out of sight they can become more confused, often running madly to try to find you again. Often this happens so fast the owner really has no chance to capture the dog, but by only letting him or her out of the vehicle with a collar and leash this whole situation can be avoided.
Tip 7 - Chart A Course That Includes Rest Stops In Dog Friendly AreasAlmost all areas have some type of park system or walking paths, but not all are designated for dogs. Be sure to check ahead of time online or through contacting state or federal park services to find out what areas are dog friendly. Stopping at different parks along the way will provide much needed exercise breaks plus will make the road trip more relaxing for both the dog and the people.
Tip 8 - Have A Pet Emergency First Aid Kit In The VehicleBuy or put together a first aid kit for your dog. It should include basics such as bandages, gauze, antibiotic solution, antibacterial cream, tweezers, needle and thread and scissors. In addition any medications that your dog needs should be packed and kept either with the emergency kit or with your personal supplies. You may also want to bring the prescription just in case you need to stop at a vet along the way to have it refilled if they medication becomes lost or left behind somewhere.
Tip 9 - Have A Current Picture and Written Description Of Your Dog With YouIn the unlikely event that your dog becomes lost on your trip, having a current picture, even one online, and a written description already prepared is a great help when contacting shelters and rescues. Often at these stressful times people have difficult remembering everything, so having it prepared in advance can speed up the process.
Tip 10 - Watch For Signs Of Stress Or Anxiety Always monitor your dog in the vehicle. Excessive panting, whining or moving about can indicate they need to get outside for a bathroom or exercise break or that they are becoming stressed and anxious. If your dog is a nervous traveler, talk to your vet in advance to see if there are any natural or prescription medications you can use when needed to help your dog relax in the vehicle.
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