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How to plan a dog-friendly road trip
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How to plan a dog-friendly road trip

While traveling with your canine companion, a 15-minute break is advised after every couple of hours. This allows your pet to stretch their legs and hydrate as required
Remember to carry all the articles your dog regularly uses, such as food and water bowls, leash and collar, and a few toys to keep them engaged.
Timely breaks are important in any road trip, but you must be especially careful while traveling with dogs.

A road trip with your dog may appear to be intimidating, but with a bit of planning, it promises to be a lot of fun. Cathy Francis, a 33-year-old from Bangalore, shares that she and her husband love taking trips with their four dogs. She shares that while one of the dogs — usually the oldest — takes his place in her lap, the others spread out on the back seat and have an enjoyable trip. “Getting them into the car and ready to go takes some effort, but they soon settle down. They love being in the car and staring out of the window,” she says.

But how can one ensure a comfortable road trip for their dog? Happiest Health spoke to veterinarians and pet parents to make it simpler for you.

What to do before a road trip with your dog?

Get them used to being in the car

Chances are high that if you’ve frequently used your car to take your dog to vet appointments or the groomer, your little one might not enjoy being in the vehicle. Trips to the park or short drives can help them build positive associations with the car. Moreover, with this, you begin preparing your dog for a road trip. You can also identify if your canine companion has car sickness and prepare accordingly.

Visit your vet

Dr Indhuja, veterinary surgeon, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Welfare Department, Moyar, Tamil Nadu, shares, “A visit to the veterinarian before a road trip helps ascertain if your dog is safe to travel, especially if they have been ill recently.”

Pack all the essentials

Remember to carry all the articles your dog regularly uses, such as food and water bowls, leash and collar, and a few toys to keep them engaged. You should also pack sufficient food and ample clean water for pet-friendly travel. Cleanup essentials such as tissues and newspapers should also be kept handy.

Feed your dog well before your road trip

Before leaving on a trip, plan your dog’s meals. Veterinarians recommend feeding dogs three to four hours before traveling to avoid nausea and vomiting. Cathy shares that they usually leave on road trips early in the morning, so she feeds her dogs an early dinner that’s light and easy to digest. “It’s best to feed your dog a bland meal that’s low on fat before a trip,” says Dr Indhuja.

Watch out for carsickness

If you have taken shorter trips with your dog, you should know whether they are carsick. However, it can catch you unaware at times. Cathy shares that her first two dogs were fine on road trips, but their third canine companion, Matcha, has motion sickness. “It was completely unexpected,” she shares. Certain tips and tricks — including medication — work for most pets. However, nothing seemed to work for Matcha. Over time, his family figured out that an empty stomach and regulated food and water intake work allow him to stay comfortable on road trips. And to make cleanup easier, you can cover the car seat with a rubber sheet and keep newspapers and toilet paper handy.

How to ensure your dog’s comfort during a road trip?

Ensure comfortable surroundings

Your car needs to be comfortable for your dog. You can avoid the harsh sunlight by planning early morning rides or using sunshades on the windows. Air conditioning can also keep the car cool. However, remember to roll down the windows to let in some fresh air from time to time and let your furry friend peek out to take in the exciting new sights and smells.

Don’t let carsickness ruin the trip

Some dogs can be prone to anxiety and motion sickness while traveling. You can play soothing music to keep them calm or engage them with a chew toy. “Before preparing for the first road trip with your dog, you can make a few shorter trips that help in identifying carsickness,” shares Dr Indhuja. Simpler methods like using essential oils or distracting the dog with a toy can help manage the issue. If such remedies do not work, your vet can prescribe anti-anxiety medication. And cleaning supplies can help clean up any spills or messes!

Take frequent rest stops

Timely breaks are important in any road trip, but you must be especially careful while traveling with dogs. “Incorporate a break of 15 minutes after every two or three hours of travel,” suggests Dr Indhuja. “During this time, take your dogs out to stretch their legs and relieve themselves.” The activity also helps them stay calm and relaxed once they are back on the road. Remember to leash your dog before getting them out of the car to keep them safe.

Be careful with food while traveling

Vets advise against feeding your dog in a moving vehicle, as it can add to stomach discomfort and cause them to throw up. Instead, plan the meal times during rest stops. Pet parents say that some dogs can be too excited to eat even during a stop. Cathy shares that she provides them with biscuits, but doesn’t press them too much if they are too excited or jumpy to eat.

As the moving vehicle can be uncomfortable for your dog, it’s best to stick to familiar food. Complete dry dog food is a great option as it can be easily carried and portioned out for serving. Experts recommend serving light meals to avoid discomfort after meals.

Watch out for dehydration

Keeping your dog hydrated is vital to having a safe and enjoyable road trip. “Provide water freely at every rest stop,” says Dr Indhuja. However, talking about her experience in handling a dog with carsickness, Cathy says that in such cases, it’s best to give your dog just enough water to moisten their mouth.

Dr Indhuja stresses that pet parents should watch out for signs of discomfort in dogs, such as dehydration, which can be visually assessed by sunken eyes and a dry nose and tongue. Excessive panting is a sign that your dog is trying to thermoregulate, she says. She advises dog parents to perform the skin tent test to check for dehydration. “When you pull the skin over the nape of the neck of your dog and let go, if the tent formed disappears within a couple of seconds, your dog is adequately hydrated. However, if the tent lasts for longer than a few seconds, they are dehydrated,” she explains.

Takeaways

  • Taking your dog on a road trip requires planning. One needs to carry ample food, drinking water and all the daily essentials used by the dog.
  • A vet visit before the trip helps ensure that they are fit to travel
  • Dogs should be fed a light, easily digestible meal three or four hours before the journey. While traveling, pet parents can provide dogs with water freely to keep them hydrated.
  • Home remedies like essential oils and stimulating toys could help avoid nausea. Vets can also prescribe anti-anxiety medication when needed.

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