Happy Trails

By Vicky Katz Whitaker

February 1, 2008 5 min read

HAPPY TRAILS

More than half RV owners travel with their pets

Vicky Katz Whitaker

Copley News Service

Fido may be top dog among RV owners who take their animals with them when they travel, but no matter what type of pet you own, if you want to take it along on your next RV trip you'll need to plan ahead.

That's the word from animal experts backed by statistics that show 57 percent of the nation's 8 million RV owners travel with their pets, most of them dogs. Bringing along the family pet should not be a last-minute decision, they say. In fact, it may take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks to make sure your dog or cat is ready for the trip. Before you leave you may need to:

- Visit the vet.

- Buy special crates, water and food bowls that can withstand the rigors of being on the road.

- Teach your pet to relax on long rides.

- Get special identity tags, even a microchip to track your pet if it gets lost.

- Check out campsites and parks to make sure your pet will be welcome.

- Gather the names and phone numbers of vets and emergency animal hospitals along your route.

Visiting the vet tops the list, since you will need to know if your pet is in good health and is up to date on shots and medication to protect it from rabies, heartworm, Lyme Disease, even fleas.

"You want to make sure your pet is healthy to travel and that there are no medical problems," says Humane Society of America issue specialist Kelly Connolly.

Make sure to obtain and take along a printout from the vet showing when and what shots your pet has been given, she adds. You may be required to show it in order to park your RV at some campgrounds and parks.

"You'll also need it to cross into Canada, Mexico or another foreign country," Connolly points out.

Plan to keep your pet in a travel crate that can be strapped in when you're on the road. "It's a matter of common sense," says Dr. Greg Hammer, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association.

In addition to being a potential distraction to the driver, a dog or cat left to run loose in an RV can be tossed around and injured if you have to stop short or go around a sharp curve, he warns.

"Animals that are not prepared to travel can suffer sickness and anxiety," adds Dr. Hammer, a Dover, Del., veterinarian. He urges pet owners to spend adequate time readying their animals for long trips normally associated with RV travel. "Some animals are bad about travel, even driving a mile down the road, but you can get them used to it by traveling with them for short periods of time."

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, in its online animal advice section on Pet Travel Tips (www.aphis.usda.gov) says you can help your pet acclimate itself to its on-the-road home by letting it spend varying lengths of time in the carrier before you leave. Tossing in an old T-shirt you have slept in for a night or two may be one way to help calm the pet.

The American Society for the Prevention and Cruelty to Animals, with the help of its staff of animal behaviorists and pet experts, has developed a line of 22 pet travel and safety products such as collapsible food and water dishes, light-up dog collars, reflective safety leashes and a portable pet enclosure, all of which can be used by RVers aware of the potential of their pet wandering off at a campsite or park. Once available only online, the collection recently became available at Shopko, a Midwest general merchandiser, which returns a portion of the purchase price to the Society to underwrite its work.

It's important to spend the time to plan your RV trip with your pet in mind, says the American Veterinary Medical Association's Dr. Hammer. "Treat your animal like you want to be treated. Make your pet's trip enjoyable."

RESOURCES

- The American Veterinary Medical Association offers a free and comprehensive six-page brochure, also available online, on "What You Should Know About Traveling With Your Pet."

- RV pet travel advice is available at the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association's Web site, www.gorving.

- You can download a free list of pet-friendly campsites online at www.petfriendlytravel.com.

- the National Park service provides RVers with a park-by-park list of pet rules and regulations. Just enter "pets" on its search engine at www.nps.gov.

? Copley News Service

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