Whether you're visiting Aunt Alice in Hoboken, or want to finally see the Grand Canyon, there's no need to leave your senior dog at home. If your dog has been accustomed to traveling all his life, he can be a rewarding travel companion well into his Golden Years. In fact, older dogs are mellower and tend to be better hotel guests than younger dogs.
The only type of travel that may be too hard on an older dog is air travel in the cargo compartment of an airplane. Unless your older dog is small enough to ride with you in the passenger section, he will likely be more comfortable staying at home.
Before you go, be sure to read up on dog-friendly hotels, resorts and events. If there is a place you'd like to stay at, don't hesitate to call them and ask if they accept dogs. Also, many websites and travel guides are frequently updated with information on pet-friendly travel.
As part of your travel planning, pack your dog's "suitcase" with the things he'll need to stay healthy and comfortable on the road, including:
- Food and water bowls
- Regular food, drinking water, and treats
- Collar and leashes, including identification tags with your permanent and temporary addresses and phone number
- A supply of your dog's medication. Be sure to write down the name and dosage so it can be replaced if necessary
- Plastic poop bags or newspapers to cover the floor
- Dog brushes/combs
- Pet crate, if he uses one
- Favorite toys
- Flea and tick repellent, tweezers for removing ticks
- A copy of your pet’s vaccination records and veterinarian’s phone number
Dos and Don'ts
Now that you're ready to hit the road, here is some travel advice to help make travels with your pet hassle-free:
- Do avoid exotic food. Cajun-style beef chunks might seem delicious, but they could upset your dog's stomach, giving him gas, or worse, diarrhea. Stick with your dog's regular food.
- Don't give your dog food for about four hours before a trip if he has a tendency to get queasy. Stop when possible at regular intervals to offer water, as many dogs may pant while traveling, which may cause thirst. If your pet is prone to vomiting, ask your vet about products that treat carsickness in dogs.
- Do keep your dog on a leash whenever you are in unfamiliar territory.
- Don't ever leave your dog in a car alone. He can suffer from heatstroke, which can be fatal.
- Do make a pooch-only area in the back of your car. A pet crate is the best and safest way for your dog to travel. You can also try a car seat harness designed for dogs. Either way, it's a good idea to put down a plastic tablecloth. The cloth side will stick to the seat and the plastic side is easy to wipe down if messes occur.
- Do give your dog a break about every three hours to let him stretch his legs and have a toilet break. Make breaks more often if necessary.
- Do leave your dog with a competent person if you can't take him with you. Be sure to leave the dog-sitter with your contact numbers, your vet's contact info, your dog's feeding and activity schedules, and medicines. It is also a good idea to leave a written note with your pet-sitter informing people that he/she is authorized to bring the pet to your vet for treatment should the need arise.