Traveling with Your Furry Friends

Published Categorized as RVs

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A Guide to RV Travel with Fluffy or Fido

Traveling from place to place frequently can sometimes be stressful, so why would anyone want to do that with pets? The answer to that is simple, because our pets are an extension of our family. For me, life seems a little emptier without being able to share it with a good dog such as my Lizzie, an Appenzeller hound dog that loves to travel almost as much as I do.

When I first started traveling in my RV, I had another dog named Diogee. I adopted her late in her life, or so I thought because she ended up living longer with me than her previous owners. She lived to be over 16 years old, which is remarkable for a German Shepherd as their life expectancy is usually 10-12 years.

When she died, I was devasted. In fact, I told myself that I’d never put myself through that kind of heartbreak again. But as time passed, I began to feel lonely without a dog in my life and I found myself online looking for ads on Craigslist from people that needed to re-home a dog and that’s how I found Lizzie.

I got her from a gentleman that lived on a boat so in a sense she has been a nomad all her life. He got her as a puppy because he loves beagles and after she passed the 40-pound mark, he quickly realized she wasn’t a beagle and she was too big to live with him on his boat. It took us a couple of weeks to bond, but now I can’t imagine my life without her traveling by my side.

In this article, I’ll be sharing some of my thoughts and tips on traveling with your furry friends. I know of some people that travel with gerbils, ferrets, rabbits and even one couple that I recently interviewed for an upcoming article, that travel the country in a van with their pet turtle Sheldon, all while chronicling it on their You Tube channel Van Life Sheldon’s Travels. However, in this article, I’ll be focusing on cats and dogs because that is what most of us travel with as a pet. With that said, let’s look at some of the factors involved when choosing a pet to share your adventure.

Choosing a breed

Many dog lovers have particular breeds that they are loyal to and that’s fine. Myself, I’m not a fan of small dogs. Those types of dogs always seem to be too uptight and neurotic for me, so I prefer not to be around them. However, I see a lot of people that travel with smaller dogs and I have always wondered if some people choose the size of their dog based upon the size of their RV, or if they think that just because they have down-sized their living space they also need to down-size their choice of dog.

You should also be mindful that some RV parks choose to allow certain breeds into their facilities because they assume that certain breeds are more aggressive. I was once turned away from a campground because Diogee was a German Shepherd and they deemed that breed as “too aggressive” for their campground. I also had a vet tell me one time that statistics have shown that more people are afraid of black dogs and since she was all black and a shepherd, I guess that played into the paranoia of more people.

Pet safety tips when you’re on the road

When traveling, make plenty of stops

While I try not to have “marathon” road trip days where I’m going from one location to another that are several hundred miles apart, it does occasionally happen, and I always try to stop every couple of hours to give me and Lizzie a break. Usually when I do one of those marathon driving days, I’m on the interstate highways where rest stops are readily available.

When you do stop at an interstate highway rest stop, always remember to check for pet friendly areas where they can relieve themselves if necessary. Some of these facilities have these pet friendly areas and others don’t. Regardless of whether they have an area where your dog can relieve itself or they don’t, always remember to pick up whatever your fury friend deposits and dispose of it properly.

When I’m traveling, I plan well ahead of my stay or stop at a campground or rest stop and I always confirm the length of the stay at that campground or site I plan to visit. I also always make sure that my pooch is welcomed into that campground and if not…I find another place down the road. These are the things you need to do as a full-time RVer with a pet.

Should my dog or cat travel in my tow vehicle or the trailer?

Personally, I always have Lizzie in the truck with me when we travel because she’s a dog and wants to be near me all the time. I also think it’s safer for her to travel in truck as I can keep my eye on her too. However, I have met some people that were fine with letting their dogs ride alone in the camper, but it’s not very common. On the other hand, I’ve met several people that let their cats ride alone in the trailer because it was home to them and they never let them outdoors, so they believed it was less stressful for them than riding in the vehicle while being crated.

Healthcare for your pets when traveling

If you’re traveling full-time with your pets finding a veterinarian can sometimes be challenging, especially if you’re in remote locations. I like to have a primary vet that I return to annually for Lizzie’s checkup, but when I’m on the road and arrive at a new location, one of the first things I do is a search for a veterinarian’s office that offers emergency services. This way, if some sort of accident or something that needs urgent attention should arise, I’ll be prepared and won’t be wasting valuable time trying to find out where to go.

Have your pet’s information and medical history ready

Naturally, it’s important to keep your pets up to date with their shots and heartworm pills, but it’s also important to have their medical history and records readily available should you need to visit another vet. If your fury friend needs daily or monthly medications, then you should speak with your regular vet about stocking up that medication, so you’ll have it while you travel.

While keeping a plan in mind for emergencies and healthcare is certainly important for your pet, always have them micro-chipped with your contact information. Also, be sure to keep that contact information up to date with the organization that stores it and is responsible for contacting you should you become separated from your friend.

Finding pet friendly places and activities

Most people don’t take their cats out to places, so this is really more for the dog lovers than the cat folks. I try to find places that allow dogs to visit and I plan many activities with her in mind. For example, I once visited the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Arizona and was pleasantly surprised to find out that they allowed dogs as long as they were leashed.

I also like to explore small towns, especially if they are historic or have interesting downtown districts and I usually will take Lizzie for a walk when I do. Quite often, I will find nice little restaurants that will offer patio seating that welcomes dogs and their owners. For some reason, small towns in the Rocky Mountains such as Breckinridge, Colorado, Telluride, Colorado and even Flagstaff, Arizona are very open to dogs dining on the patios of their breweries and restaurants. National parks are also a great option, as are many natural hiking spots.

Food for your pets

This is something you want to keep in mind if you feed your pets from locally sourced suppliers. I feed my Lizzie a common brand of dog food that is readily available at major retailers nationwide. If your pet has special dietary needs, then this is something you should prepare for as well.

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I highly recommend that you store your pet food in airtight containers. This is especially important if you store your extra food in the access bays of your RV. It’s not unusual for mice or other rodents to find their way into those areas and they can easily chew through the bags and make a mess of things. Bugs can also be an issue, so it’s best to keep all of your pet food secured in airtight containers whether it’s inside or outside of your living spaces, and since dry pet food can get stale with time and humidity it’s the best thing to do for your pet too.

Being prepared and understanding your pet

This is absolutely the most important thing you can do for your pet. Be prepared for any problem that may occur in the area you may be visiting and be prepared to change the plan if it’s something you may have overlooked. I had to go to a hospital in Arizona one time because a scorpion got into my RV and made itself to home in a damp dishcloth in my sink. Things happen and you and your furry friend should have a plan in place. Have a pet checklist that you cross off before you depart as well.

My friends, thanks for following along here and I hope to see you out on the road someday. Safe travels to you all.

By Brian

Born and raised in Michigan, contributing writer Brian C. Noell is a retired hospitality industry professional that now works remotely as a visual artist, writer and photographer as he travels around the United States in an RV with his dog Lizzy, an eighty pound Appenzeller hound dog.