Four Paws, Four Wheels and a Hankering to Hit the Road:
(Part II of “Have Paws … Will Travel”)

Road trip. The very words evoke freedom and adventure. With summertime upon us, aren’t you tempted to jump in the car and just hit the pavement? Have your fantasies been squelched because you aren’t sure about long distance travel with your pet? Perhaps you’re a little unsure where to stay as you traverse over hills and valleys, rivers and fjords, from state to state?

Well, rest assured because more than 40 percent of pet owners in the U.S. travel with their pet. And you can, too. It’s easy, enjoyable, affordable and with a little planning you and your “kid” can jump in the car and hit the highway. If your little precious jumps with joy at the words “bye-bye” then he’s a perfect candidate as your companion on the next road trip or planned vacation.

First things first, though … Preparation. Get your pet ready, pack up a few essentials and with a full tank of gas, you both are on your way.

Tips on Car Travel:

1. Pet Identification — Get an ID tag for your pet. Include his name and your contact information. The Web site sells a variety of tags including the type that slides onto the collar, which some prefer over the traditional hanging type that can catch on fences or shrubbery. Another option is Home Again (, which for an annual fee of $14.99 enters your pet’s information into a national database for tracking and emergency purposes.

2. Pet Health — Perhaps this seems obvious, but is your pet healthy enough to travel? Talk to your vet and get a clean bill of health. If you’re moving, ask your vet for recommendations of vets at your destination.

3. Pet Safety — Provide a safe environment for your fur-person while in the car. It’s tempting to roll down the window and let your dog hang out. However, the ASPCA ( warns against doing this. Imagine the force of a pebble when it hits your windshield; that same force can injure your dog’s eyes or ears. Roll down the window just enough to give her fresh air. And never leave her alone in the car. Warm days equate to smoldering heat inside a car.

4. Pet Comfort — Use a carrier providing plenty of room and ventilation. Or consider a pet harness that secures your pet to the seat belt attachment; this protects your pet from “flying” through the car should you have a sudden jolt or stop in the car. Some animals prefer the harness as it gives them a sense of feeling snug in a moving car.

5. Pet Stops — Make stops every 2 or 3 hours to give him a chance to stretch and get his “land legs” back. The Web site provides a list of dog parks located throughout USA and Canada (and lots of other great travel information, too).

6. Pet Nutrition — Naturally you’ll be feeding your pet during your journey. Schedule meals so she has a couple of hours to digest her meal before hitting the road again. Some pets do get motion sickness and a full stomach of food doesn’t help the situation.

7. Pet Suitcase — Animals are creatures of habit. Traveling can put a kink into the routine you have developed for your pet. Experts recommend the following items to help make your pet’s journey feel as routine as possible.

  • Food: Especially important today with the recall of various pet foods. Don’t forget the can opener if you use wet food.
  • Water: Carry bottled water to ensure your pet isn’t exposed to unfamiliar tastes or questionable water sources. At least two gallons is recommended by the ASPCA.
  • Food and water dishes: Include a spoon for scooping and mixing.
  • Pet Medication: An obvious item to include if your pet takes medication; ensure there’s ample supply while on the road.
  • Pet file: Include documentation on rabies shots, medical history and a photo of your pet in case he makes a break for it. Having these documents is highly recommended if you’re crossing over state borders.
  • Leash: The best procedure is to put the leash on before he exits the car and only remove it after he’s back in the car.
  • Blanket and extra towels: To cover the car seat, sure, but also for those rest stops and unexpected spills or accidents.
  • Plastic bags: To use after he’s done his duty and to store trash.
  • Wet wipes: Very handy for messy moments, like muddy paws.
  • Grooming supplies: Especially important if you’re taking a long trip to keep up the routine of grooming; include brushes, combs, nail trimmers, etc.
  • Fave-rave toys: Just a couple to give your pet something to do when she gets bored.
  • Treats: This goes without saying, because they are such good girls and boys.

If your pet stresses during car travel, here’s one recommendation to condition him before your journey. Take him on a short trip to the park. During the trip, talk to him and give him attention. You don’t need to stay at the park for very long, just long enough to demonstrate that he isn’t simply confined to the car. On the drive back home, provide more soothing words and attention. End it with a treat for being so good and brave. Before too long, your pet will get accustomed to trips knowing he will plant his paws on firm ground again.

Once you’re on the road, you’ll need lodging that is pet-friendly. Fortunately the hotel industry recognizes the family status of pets. This list provides a database of hotels, resorts and B&Bs by city, state and country. The Web sites are updated, though some are dependent on the hotel providing those updates. It is recommended to call ahead and ensure they are still pet-friendly.

You’ll find some of the resorts offer pet massages, pet welcome baskets, a pet menu and even litter trays for kids of the purring nature. For example, Loews, in addition to special “furry” amenities, offers informative brochures on ways to make your pet’s trip satisfying, such as places to walk your dog and pet friendly restaurants. (for hotels in Canada)

Follow the lodging rules for pets. This privilege is such a remarkable opportunity, we should all have a vested interest to be courteous guests so the hotel industry continues to allow pets as guests.

In the end you both can enjoy a great road trip and memorable vacation. Before you know it, you’ll both be old hands at traveling together with plenty of adventures to share as true road-warriors.


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