If you have ever traveled with pets, you know how much enjoyment they can bring to your lives and your adventure. In a recent survey, over 75% of RV owners travel with pets; in fact in most cases they bought the RV strictly to be able to take their pets more conveniently.
RVing with pets is not difficult although it takes time and dedication. It means potty breaks and exercise time; packing toys, food, medicine, grooming items. It might mean having to locate a veterinarian while traveling, or spending less time at attractions so you can attend to your pet’s needs.
Before You Go
Before you hit the road with your pet, you will need to contact your vet to not only get the latest vaccinations, but also because many campgrounds now also require a current health checkup as well. This includes checking for fleas, ticks, lime disease, and other issues that may not be covered by typical vaccinations. Make sure you obtain a certificate of vaccinations and the health checkup and keep them in your RV.
Also keep a list of current medications your pet is taking and a copy of any prescriptions in case of an emergency on the road. Many pet owners will scan these documents and prescriptions and create a PDF file to store in an email account or take a picture and keep them in their phone. If your pet is on any prescribed medication make sure you have enough for the entire trip or that you are able to access on the road for fulfillment.
The old method of pet identification is the tag on the color, however when traveling out of city or out of the state, this information may not be enough to help locate them in case of emergency. There are several permanent ID methods such as tattoos and even the microchip which has become smaller and less of an invasive issue for pets. Pet Tracker has developed a collar with GPS capabilities and even a monitoring system that will send a signal to your mobile device if the pet’s vital signs such as ambient temperature or heart rate get to dangerous levels.
Pet Restraining Devices
You should never travel with any type of pet without a restraining device. Not just for the safety of the pet, but the safety of people inside the RV if a sudden stop or impact occurs. According to AAA an unrestrained dog weighing 10 pounds becomes a 500-pound projectile and an 80-pound dog at only 30 mph will exert over 2400 pounds of pressure! Also, unrestrained pets can cause distractions for drivers and even create a dangerous situation if they get under or around brake and fuel pedals.
There are several devices available at pet stores such as Petco and PetSmart for whether you are traveling in a car/truck pulling a trailer, or a motorhome. RV owners pulling trailers will need to have their pets inside the tow vehicle and restrained using a harness or cage. One type of harness fastens to the body of the pet and connects to the seat belt, while another has a harness on the pet and a “tether strap” across the vehicle which provides a little more mobility. If you use a soft cage, carrying bag, or larger cage, the cage must be secured in the vehicle as well.
Traveling with pets in a motorhome provides more challenges as the seat belt locations are not placed in the best position to attach the harness. Most are in a side facing sofa, booth dinette, or swivel and reclining chair. I recommend customizing your rig with D-ring connectors or loops placed in out-of-the-way locations such as under the sofa, next to a wall, or even on the side of the wall to secure the tether strap or enclosure in a forward-facing position.
Food and Water
Some pets are very sensitive to certain types of food and will have severe digestion problems if you run out of their “normal” food and are required to substitute. Make sure you either have enough food for the entire trip, or are positive you can find the same food on the road. Just because your food was available at Petco in Iowa, doesn’t mean they carry the same brand at Petco in Colorado. Trust me, I found out the hard way. An 85-pound dog with digestion problems in an RV on the road is not fun!
Same goes for water. Most campgrounds have well water which is hard and unfiltered. If your pet is used to the soft water from your home system, test a few bottled waters before you go and keep in mind the un-softened water from your outside home system has been treated by the local water treatment plant, and is totally different from well water found at campgrounds.
You spent quite a bit of time training your pet to go the bathroom in the appropriate spot, but now you are taking them on the road and into unfamiliar territory without the normal ability to signal when they need to go the bathroom. They are in the tow vehicle or motorhome and as we travel we are not typically stopping until we need fuel or the “humans” need to go the bathroom.
Schedule more stops and develop a routine for bathroom breaks. I also like to take along a PoochPad from Petco which I have used to train several dogs in my home and relatives’ homes. There are other products on the market too, all of which are synthetic turf with a diaper system underneath.
When stopping at a fueling station, be careful about opening the door as pets can get excited about a new place and can run out into traffic on other fueling lanes. They might also become interested in dangerous fluids on the ground, like oil, transmission fluid, or even worse… antifreeze. I typically like to find an out-of-the-way location to take our pets out with a leash and let them exercise and go to the bathroom away from the congestion of the fueling station. Be careful of the pet runs at rest stops and fueling stations though; walk the area yourself first and look for broken glass and other trash that might be a hazard to your pet.
Most campgrounds have restrictions in place for aggressive pets and abusive owners. Some even post breed, quantity, and size restrictions. However I have found that most campgrounds will evaluate how well your pet(s) are mannered and trained as well as the control you have. It’s best to call the campground before arriving to discuss their specific restrictions.
At the Campground
Once you have set up camp the first consideration is containment of your pet whether inside or out. For pets outside, most campgrounds do not allow the “electric fence” system as it is not a permanent barrier for pets and other pets can walk into the area without restraint. If you wish to have a pet outside, you should either have a suitable fence or leash. If using a leash, make sure it is not a metal type connected to the pet and any conductive part of your RV. If there is an electrical surge in the campground system, it will travel to the pet and electrocute them. It’s best to connect a leash to a separate structure such as a picnic table or ground post.
Before letting your pet outside, comb the area for any dangerous situations such as broken glass, engine fluids on campground pads, and dump stations. Keep them away from all campfire rings, garbage cans, and especially the main dump station.
Finally, check with management on any wild animal threats. Even if the area you are camping in seems tame, even small predatory wildlife can present threat to pets.
Our pets are an important part of our lives and families, and can enhance our travel experience so much more with their presence. With a few precautions and proper planning, you and your pet can be safe, healthy, and happy while traveling together in your RV.
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