As you plan your next family road trip or camping vacation, you’ll put together a detailed list of all the stuff to take along that keeps the crew in high spirits.
Clothes, shoes, first aid supplies, and the kids’ favorite snacks and toys all make it on the essential gear list. That’s how you make sure you have a happy, enjoyable, and memorable holiday.
Of course, no family vacation would be complete without your four-legged buddies. Their to-do list is a little different, so here are some of the things to take care of in the weeks leading up to the trip.
1. Make Sure Your Dog is Microchipped for Identification
One of the first things all pet parents should do when bringing their new dog home is to get a microchip inserted under their skin. These microchips are essential to identify your dog in case they get lost.
If you haven’t already got the microchip fitted, visit the vet and take care of this really important task. Before traveling, you’ll also want them used to wearing a sturdy collar with ID / Contact information attached.
Include contact details such as your name, phone number, or other contact information to keep the dog safe if they get separated.
2. Train Your Little Friend to Be Comfortable in a Crate
Invest in a well-ventilated crate or carrier, preferably made with soft sides. Check the size carefully, so it is spacious enough for the dog to lie down, sit, stand, and turn around. Start with crate training for a few minutes each day until your buddy is comfortable with spending long hours in it.
Keeping the dog secure in their crate for the trip is always preferable. It keeps your dog safe from falls in case you have to brake suddenly and you’ll be able to drive without a well-meaning face getting in the way. When you load your animal into the car, remember to secure the crate safely so that it doesn’t bump or slide around with the car’s motion.
If you choose not to go for a traveling cage, there is a wide range of safety harnesses or seat belts specially designed for dogs.
3. Adapt Your Friend to Driving Around
Start by taking short drives around the block so your dog is used to remaining in the crate while in the car. Letting them stick their heads out the car window is never a good idea. You risk injury from flying objects or gravel kicked up by passing tires ending up in their eyes. Instead, place chew toys in the crate to keep your pet entertained and busy.
Expert vets suggest that you get waterproof seat covers and rubber floor mats for added protection. You’ll want the little guy safe and happy all through the vacation and back.
4. Pack in Nutritious Meals
While humans can adapt to whatever food is available on the trip, it’s always advisable to bring a high protein dog food that your buddy is used to eating at home. Trying new foods is never a good idea in case your dog develops digestive disturbances or is allergic to some of the ingredients in untested kibble. You could end up with an unhappy pup, and these issues aren’t exactly pleasant for people sitting nearby, either.
Always go with a familiar brand that your pet enjoys. You’ll ensure that they’re energetic and happy all through the trip.
Instead of making do with whatever water is available, bring a bottle from home. Also, pack in favorite bowls for feeding and drinking, so your little one has familiar objects to make them feel secure in a new place.
5. Schedule Vaccinations for Protection Against Diseases
Do a bit of research for information about the possibility of canine diseases in the location you’re visiting. Talk to your vet and get the required vaccinations to keep your friend protected—for instance, heartworm, which is a mosquito-borne disease. If you’re traveling in summers to the country, a farmhouse, or mountain resort, you’ll want to watch out for Lyme disease and ehrlichiosis, both of which are carried by ticks.
Since dogs are closer to the ground and could contact other animals, consider getting them a vaccination for Lyme disease. Whether or not your furry friend is vaccinated, check them over for ticks in the evening after any play time spent in the woods or around long grass.
6. Add Exercise in the Weeks Before Traveling
If your dog will be running around and playing during vacation, you might want to introduce more exercise into their daily routine gradually. A sedentary lifestyle with only occasional exercise leads to the degeneration of the canine cruciate ligament. This tissue connects the bottom of the thigh bone to the top of the femur and allows for proper movement. A sudden spurt of activity can rupture this ligament, and you might end up having to get ACL surgery for dogs -- one of the most common injuries for man’s best friend.
In the weeks leading up to the vacation, go on long walks around the block and maybe some extra play sessions in the backyard.
7. Bring All Other Essential Supplies
Put together a complete traveling kit for your buddy full with a leash, grooming supplies, a first-aid bag for pets, and medicines you might need, along with a waste scoop and plastic bags for responsible disposal. Your vet can guide you best on how to prepare for any unique needs.
Make the time to brush down your friend carefully after spending time outdoors. Dogs tend to pick up fleas that embed deep inside the coat. Since it usually takes up to two days for the flea to start spreading, you’ll want to get rid of them quickly. Also, do a visual examination of the fur to identify signs of fleas and ticks.
If your buddy is not used to being around strangers, you might want to train them before the trip. Getting used to new people is a skill that requires repetition for many dogs.
8. Remember: Never Leave a Dog Locked in the Car
Make it a practice never to leave the dog alone in the car. In summers, the excessive heat building up inside the vehicle can result in heatstroke. On a normal 85-degree summer day, a car can reach a dangerous 119 degrees in just half an hour. If it’s winter, the cold air trapped inside the closed spaces can lead to hypothermia where the core body temperature drops too low.
Dogs have a higher healthy body temperature than humans, around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Dogs risk mild hypothermia when they drop below 99 degrees Fahrenheit. Frostbite is another real possibility you should protect against, especially if unprotected paws are touching cold sidewalks, ice, or snow.
9. Work Out Your Dog’s Feeding Schedule for the Road Trip
Offer your friend a light meal around three to four hours before you load them up for the trip. Even if the travel time is extended, avoid feeding them on the road, and you’ll prevent the possibility of the little guy getting sick from motion sickness. When the family stops for a meal, take your dog for a run around the parking lot of the rest area. Exercise is essential to rev up metabolism, making it much easier to digest the meal you offer. Stick to dry food and enough water to keep them hydrated.
A family vacation is a fun time to bond with the family and spend time having fun. Your four-legged buddy will need extra care away from their familiar home environment. Prepare with essentials like food, water, medicines, and toys, and you’re sure to have a wonderful holiday. A quick visit to the vet before leaving is another of the must-dos before the trip.
Wild Earth is a biotech Pet Food Startup producing veterinarian-developed, high-protein, meat-free dog food, supplements and treats.
Wild Earth is headquartered in Berkeley, California and currently ships within the United States of America.