Taking a Road Trip With Your Dogs? Keep Them Healthy With Checklist

Check out these tips before hitting the road with your pup this summer.

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Summer’s here! Show of paws: Who’s ready for a rrrrrrroadtrip? Undoubtedly, this season is one of the most popular when it comes to traveling and sightseeing with our canine companions in tow. But even when the forecast calls for sunny skies and great temperatures, hitting the highway in search of new adventures can still cause some hassle … especially when your hound’s along for the ride.

Fortunately, smart planning can maximize your peace of mind … along with your canine’s safety and wellness. Just keep in mind this “C-for-Canine” Checklist:


First, the “ruff” stuff. Ask yourself honestly — how well does your dog actually tolerate time in the car? If you’ve never road-tripped, then think about shorter errands. Does your pup quiver and drool uncontrollably in the back seat? Is car sickness an issue? Then it might be kinder to leave him in the caring hands of a reputable kennel or pet sitter. In the right atmosphere, these visits can serve as a great chance for healthy socialization — nutritious treats, predictable schedules, training sessions, fun playtime, and exercise with other dogs. For especially travel-averse pups, this can sometimes be the most supportive option.


Before you actually depart for your trip, make a couple trial runs anyway. Take a few longer jaunts across town; maybe an hour’s drive along the highway, or out in the country. This helps acclimate your pup to the sound and feel of your vehicle in motion — minimizing stress and stomach upset.

The crate escape by Shutterstock.


Do you use a special canine car seat, crate, carrier, and/or seat belt harness when traveling? Take these items out a few weeks before the trip, and let your pooch sniff everything thoroughly. And if you use special bungees or ties to prevent crate slippage while your car is in motion, always test these out with an empty crate in advance.


Think about what would help promote your dog’s general comfort and well-being in a confined space like the car. A snuggly bed? A favorite blanket? Make a list in advance, and set these items aside. Also consider taking along botanically based, drug-free calming products like Bach Rescue Remedy, Ark Naturals Happy Traveler, and/or the ThunderShirt.


Sticking to a similar diet can help avoid digestive problems. Kibble, for instance, can be pre-portioned in airtight zip-lock bags. If the same brand comes in a canned formula, take some cans along and mix it in. At my house, we especially like all-natural, freeze-dried raw foods that can be hydrated with water. They’re lightweight, easy-to-pack, and quick to prepare. Bravo, K9 Natural, and Primal Formula are brands we’ve used with success. If you’re switching things up (especially if you’re incorporating raw options), start mixing new foods into your dog’s dish about three weeks in advance. Begin with a 1:4 ratio of “trip food” to current food, and make sure it’s well-tolerated before increasing. We also add a teaspoon of canned pumpkin to help keep elimination (cough cough) “running” smoothly. As a side note, never leave your bottled water in a warm car — toxins can seep in from the plastic.


Are your canine’s ID tags up-to-date? Has your phone and address information been properly updated with the microchip manufacturer? Is he due for new vaccinations, or a refill on flea/tick preventive? It’s always smart to check beforehand.

Rest-stop relaxation by Shutterstock.


Don’t ever presume that the friends or family members you’re staying with are “okay” with canine visitors. Always get an advance invite, and become well-acquainted with house rules (no dogs on the couch, no canine contact with the toddler, etc.). If you’ll be staying at a hotel, double-check that their dog-friendly policy is still fully intact before you leave your house. Reserve in advance, and get confirmation.


Plan your travel route ahead of time. Free spirits, I mean it — don’t underestimate the headaches you’ll avoid. Know where you’ll be stopping for the night. Look at a route map to identify rest stop areas. Also, pack a decent supply of poop pickup bags — and never leave your dog unattended in the car. Overheating is a life-threatening issue, and out-of-state theft can definitely happen.


When you’re traveling with a pet, pad your schedule. Allow added time for emergency potty breaks, or a leashed roadside romp session in a secure space. This avoids digestive stress, prevents joint stiffness, and keeps your pup calm and comfy. Sure, it might take you a bit longer to get where you’re going — but as many dog-lovers will attest, traveling with a happy hound often makes the journey itself your most memorable experience.

So what are your favorite canine travel memories? Any special travel suggestions you’d share with other dog lovers? Provide your thoughts and insights!

Top photo: French Bulldog in car by Shutterstock.

Marybeth Bittel

Marybeth lives in the Midwest with her wonderful husband, and her rescue dogs Grant and Maizy — all of them Heinz 57 mixed-breed types. A freelance writer and marketing consultant, she’s been rehabilitating severely abused rescues for over two decades. She’s currently working toward specialized certifications in animal nutrition counseling. Connect with her on LinkedIn or check out her family Instagram feed.


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