It’s summertime and that open road is calling. Whether you’re heading to a family reunion or exploring new places on your own, road trips are often a staple of summer. If you’ve got a furry family member with you, the trip can become a bit tricky. Did you know that 29 million people travel with their pets each year? Take a look at our checklist for going on a road trip with your dog.
Road Trip with a Dog Checklist
Crate, carrier, barrier, or harness – You'll want your dog to be secure in your car, both for their safety and yours. Small dogs underfoot can cause accidents, and any dog not properly secured can be hurt or killed in a car crash, or even just a close call. Dogs not in a hard-sided crate or carrier should always ride in the back seat instead of the passenger seat, since airbags can hurt or kill dogs who are sitting on or belted into the front seat. Smaller dogs should probably ride in a closed carrier, and larger dogs can be belted into the back seat or just separated from the front seat with a barrier. Dogs should NEVER ride in the open flatbed of a truck -- animals have been killed from falling out.
Leash, ID tag, collar -- You probably take all of these on quick excursions, like neighborhood walks, anyway, but be sure to bring them on your road trip. The ID tag may become especially important if your dog gets loose or lost. Consider getting one made with your cell phone number on it as opposed to your home phone for extended trips.
Bedding, bed, or towels -- Your dog will probably appreciate curling up in their own bed when you reach your destination for the night. And old towels set across the back seat can help keep your car cleaner and your dog more comfortable at the same time.
Water and water bowl -- Travel water bowls are a great way to make sure your pup stays hydrated during a trip. Take a rest stop every few hours to let your dog breathe some fresh air and slurp up some water.
Food and treats -- If you'll be gone for several nights or more, you'll of course want enough food for your dog for that many days. It's probably best to bring your dog's regular food as opposed to buying along the way. Changing a dog's food suddenly can cause stomach upsets.
Chews and chew toys -- Give your pet something to gnaw on while they drive through parts unknown. Having a chew toy can keep your dog engaged and interested in something fun instead of worrying about when they'll get home again.
Calming / car sickness meds if needed -- Some dogs experience car sickness as a symptom of a vestibular imbalance from the motion of a car ride. Ask your vet if a medication might help your dog feel better. Some vets do prescribe Cerenia for dogs to treat motion sickness an prevent vomiting.
Copy of health records and vaccinations -- Hotels, campsites, and parks along the way might want to make sure your dog has all their vaccinations. And if your dog ends up needing emergency care on the trip, you'll want to have their health records on hand.
Veterinarian contact information – If your dog does need veterinary care while you're away from home, you'll want to have pinpointed some good vets along your route. Take your own veterinarian's contact information as well, so you can reach out with questions.
Medications -- Anything your dog takes every day at home will be needed on the road. Take a few days' worth of extra medications as well, in case something unexpected happens and you're not home as soon as you thought you'd be.
Brush or comb -- You wouldn't forget your own toiletries, so be sure to bring along your dog's brush to keep them feeling comfortable as you go.
Cleaning supplies and poop bags -- You wouldn't want to forget these! Bring odor neutralizers, cleaning sprays, and lint rollers to keep your car, any hotels rooms, etc. in good shape. And of course, you'll need poop bags.
A recent photo of you with your dog -- Just in case you get separated and lose your dog. A recent photo of you with your animal can help you reunite if your dog is picked up by the pound or a shelter.
Remember – never leave your dog unattended in a car. Temperatures can become deadly in a matter of minutes, even with a window cracked. Bring your dog inside with you whenever you can, or have a travel buddy take your dog for a quick walk around the gas station until you're ready to go again.
More on Traveling and Pets
Checklist for Kenneling a Dog or Cat
What Are the Best Dogs to Travel With?
Cat and Dog Airplane Rules Checklist