I think one of the best things about RVing is being able to take your pets along! We have two dogs: an 11-year-old Lhasa apso named Moogie and a 9-year-old bichon named Caesar. They are great travelers, and whenever the RV is pulled up into the driveway, they are so excited to hit the road that they just about pack their own bags and bring them aboard.
Traveling with your pets saves the money and worry entailed in boarding them, and after all, they are happier with you anyway. Preparing a few things in advance, however, can makes things easier on all of you.
Whether you plan on traveling into Canada or Mexico or just cruising around the United States, carrying a printed version of your pet’s health records and information along with current rabies and vaccination certificates and tags is a must. You can request copies of your pet’s vaccination and rabies certificates from your veterinarian. I highly advise having pets wear ID tags on their collars in case they should ever get lost. If you have any pertinent medical information, make sure the tag includes that as well. There is a website, www.gotags.com, where you can order medical ID tags for your pets at a reasonable price and have them engraved with whatever information you need for their conditions.
Keep the information (along with your own medical information) some place easily accessible, such as in an envelope taped to the inside of a cupboard or closet door of your RV. Include a current photo of each pet in case it should be needed to help authorities identify a lost pet. Microchipping the pet is a good idea, too, but the downside is that many shelters do not have a microchip reader.
If you have Internet access, there are several websites that have free printable vaccination and medical records charts that you can print and fill in to take with you. Here are some:
Many of us have pets with special conditions. Our Lhasa is blind and diabetic, is susceptible to frequent and severe eye infections, and requires insulin shots twice a day. We actually found most of this out while we were on a trip. She developed an eye infection on the road and we found a nice country vet in Wyoming that gave her drops and told us she had a corneal ulcer. By the time we made it to California, the ulcer had grown and she underwent surgery the next day for a corneal graft. That was when the surgeon told us that she was diabetic as well. My point is, things can happen on the road. Be prepared. I would highly recommend traveling with a GPS navigator of some type. This comes in handy if you need to look up veterinarians on the road, although sometimes you can find a local phone book at a gas station or truck stop and achieve the same result.
Always stock up on medications for your pet before you leave for a long trip. You may not be able to get the same medications in another state or have to wait hours or even days to get the prescription verified from your vet back home. The same goes for special or prescription foods. Our bichon, Caesar, is on prescription food to help prevent bladder stones, and we always make sure to calculate how much he will need for a trip and then add a few extra cans in case we are out longer. If you come prepared, you will reduce stress for yourself and your pets.
If you have a pet that is blind, deaf or handicapped, take time before the trip to get him used to your RV and where things are located. This is crucial for a blind or crippled animal. After Moogie went blind, we put her in our RV every day for a week or so before we took her out for a long trip. She had time to sniff and explore without the added stress of actually moving. In the case of a blind or deaf pet, it is an added bonus if you can make or find a shirt, vest or scarf that boldly announces their condition. Some people don’t realize an animal that may come forward quickly, even on a leash, is doing so because it is blind and doesn’t know anyone is in its path. They may think the animal is charging them viciously. On the other hand, I have experienced many well-meaning people rushing up to pet my blind dog, and it scares her. I have made Moogie little shirts that say “Blind Dog” on them, and now people ask if they can approach her.
Realize that no matter how much your pets love to travel with you, going from the normal routine at home to a travel routine will cause them stress until they get used to it. Our dogs always end up with loose stools for the first week of traveling even though they are on the same food and feeding times as they are at home. We carry anti-diarrheal tablets to help that problem. If this is something you experience, ask your vet the proper dosage for your pet.
With any special needs pet, it takes a little planning. We look like a floating pharmacy when we take our pets, but we have learned what to pack to save excess visits to unfamiliar vets.
Over the years of traveling with our pets, we have learned a few tips and tricks to make things easier.
• Invest in a few plush, rubber-backed bathroom-sized rugs for your RV. We have found that putting plush rugs on our sofa, chair and the passenger side dash where most pets love to sit will protect them from damage.
• Make up a pet medical first aid kit to carry with you. Things like styptic powder and a nail trimmer can be lifesavers when your pet gets a nail caught in the heat vent or something outside. Stock the kit with Benadryl for allergic reactions, a vet-approved pain reliever, some peroxide for cleaning out small wounds, and a roll of that wrinkly self-adhesive roll tape that sticks to itself for binding up small wounds or torn nails. We even go so far as to carry a plastic “cone” or E-collar in case we need to keep a pet from licking a wound.
• Bring along plenty of chew toys, rawhides or other treats to keep a bored animal busy. Scenery may be a thrill for you, but your pet may be getting bored!
• Don’t forget small plastic bags or a scooper to pick up animal waste from your pet when traveling or staying at an RV park.
Finally, go with the flow. Remember that your pet can sense your stress and also needs time to get used to the road. If your pets seem stressed out at first while traveling, be patient. It’s a break from their normal routine and they will adapt. If your pets are afraid of thunderstorms, understand that with their sensitive hearing, it is a hundred times scarier in an RV with fewer places to hide. Time, patience and planning is the key to happy traveling with your four-legged buddies, and as we age and our pets age along with us, it’s a nice feeling that they can enjoy new adventures and places with us. Because if pets could speak, they’d agree that they belong by our sides!
LeAnn Snider lives in Clear Lake, Minnesota. She and her husband, Perry, sell antique pocket watches online and are musicians and songwriters.
Nikki is a writer and editor for Do It Yourself RV, RV LIFE, and Camper Report. She is based on the Oregon Coast and has traveled all over the Pacific Northwest.