One of the great benefits of traveling by RV is the fact that we can bring along our pets. We don’t have to hassle with finding animal-friendly hotels, or leaving our sad four-legged friends in the car while we go out to eat. In America, pets are part of the family, and RV travel is all about having plenty of space and fun for the whole family, pets included. According to the RVIA spring 2015 survey, 61% of RV owners bring pets along on trips. Most RVers bring their dogs (93%) but there are plenty of cats, birds, ferrets, snakes and horses too. That’s why we’re devoting this two-part blog to some of our favorite travel companions.
Just like traveling with other humans, there are tricks to traveling with our pets happily and safely. Here at Guaranty, a lot of us RV with our animal travel buddies, and we talk to RVers all the time who use the dog grooming service at the Guaranty RV Travel Center. Over the years, we’ve learned that with a little planning ahead, establishing routines, and putting some safety measures into place, traveling with animals can make camping and road trips even better.
Before You Go: Planning Ahead Will Make Everything Easier
There are three planning-ahead steps that will make your camping or road trip go more smoothly…
First and foremost, plan your itinerary to be pet-friendly. Some campgrounds and national park trails don’t allow pets. Usually this has to do with safety issues. For instance, one or our favorite Central Oregon RV destinations is the Big Obsidian Flow at Newberry Crater, but there is no shade on the hike and no water, and there are obviously sharp obsidian shards everywhere—it’s no place for dogs (or ferrets!). And in the summer, it’s also no place to leave your dogs in the RV while you go hiking because it’s going to be too hot. So rather than arrive at your destination only to discover that you have to turn around and go somewhere else, spend time Googling the stopping places on your itinerary before you pack the RV to leave. While you’re at it, check campgrounds, trails, historical sites, etc. By knowing ahead of time that Fido can go everywhere you’re going, you’ll alleviate a lot of stress for everyone, including your pets.
Second, you’ve heard us talk about RV packing lists before; we can’t say enough about how much they help speed up the packing process and keep us from forgetting the things we need when we get to our destination. So it should come as no surprise that we make packing lists for our pets too. Your list will be unique to your pets’ needs, but here are some things you’ll always want to include:
Food and treats (and a can opener if you’re going to need it)
Food and water bowls
Health records, vaccination records, etc. (more on this below)
Any medications your pet needs, including flea and heartworm prevention medications
Pet emergency kit (more on this later)
Collar with ID tag (make sure it includes your cell number)
Old towels for cleanup of dirty paws, etc.
Pet bed and toys
Plastic bags for poo pickup
Leash, leads, etc.
Third, get your pet’s tags, immunizations and health records together before you go. You’ll only have to do this about once a year, so a little work now means you’ll be ready to take off in the RV at any time for months to come. Ask your veterinarian for a digital copy of all immunizations and any pertinent health records that you can store on your phone, tablet, etc., or get paper records and keep them in a waterproof file (a Ziploc bag will do a good job) in the RV or tow vehicle. You’ll need this information if you have an emergency and need a veterinarian on the road. Keep your veterinarian’s phone number with your records, so you can call if necessary and an emergency vet can confer if they need to. Also add to this file current photos of your pet in case they get lost.
A note here: if you’re traveling with dogs, always make sure you are up to date on heartworm prevention medication. Every three years, the American Heartworm Society (AHS) gathers data on heartworm nationwide. They test data from thousands of veterinary practices and shelters and use it to create a national map showing the average number of heartworm-positive cases per clinic. As you can see on the map, heartworm is spreading and there are few places in the U.S. without reported cases. So protect your pooch when you take him or her RVing!
Ways to Help Your Pets Be Happy Campers
Pets, especially dogs, appreciate consistency and routine, so traveling can be made better if they have things they know and if you establish a daily schedule. With both of those in place, they’re much more able to enjoy new adventures. Bring their favorite bed, blanket and toys with you—things that smell of home. If they have a dog crate or kennel where they feel safe, bring it along. Establish routines from day one. For instance, try to feed your pets at more or less the same time, both morning and night, and follow this by a romp or a walk, especially if you’re on a road trip. Not only does this routine help them feel like they have a handle on what’s going on, it gets them exercise that will make them want to sleep when you’re on the road, and it has the added benefit of getting them on a bathroom schedule that will make your life much nicer. Make sure you give them a good workout; unless your pet is very old or infirm, pee-pit-stops aren’t enough exercise when you’re on the road (for humans either!).
Similar to the “bring things that smell of home” tip, also bring plenty of whatever food they’ve been eating. Changes in diet can lead to an animal with a stomach ache, and that always ends messily in one way or another—you really don’t want to deal with that in your RV. So make sure you’re not going to have to run to the store for food and find out they don’t carry the brand your pet eats. For longer trips, plastic bins stowed in your outside storage area are a great place for pet food.
While you’re on the road, keep your pets in front with you. If you’re pulling a travel trailer, fifth wheel or toy hauler, your animals should be in the tow vehicle, never in the RV. This is partly about safety (more about that next week), but also about your pet’s peace of mind. Look at it from their point of view: left in the RV by themselves, they’re alone in a moving vehicle with no means of knowing where you are. Things are whipping past the windows, the vehicle can sway, things might fall out of cupboards, etc. And remember that different animals react to stress differently; your cat might find a place to hide, but your dog might chew up the couch. It’s best to just avoid that possibility altogether.
With some good common sense, planning ahead and establishing routines, most pets can become the happiest of campers and the truest of road trip companions. Next week we’re going to add some good pointers about safety and emergencies, leaving your pets in your RV when you’re gone, and campground etiquette.
For more information about RVing with pets see part #2 of our blog.
If you have any questions or if we can be of assistance in your next RV adventure, be sure to give us a call.