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Dog Gone Trips

Dog Gone Trips by Gary Benton
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When I was in the military, I was ordered north to Alaska. Now, that in itself is enough to scare some folks, but I decided to drive to my new assignment with our dog traveling with us. The whole family considered our dog as part of our family, because he hiked, camped, and even went fishing with us, so there was very little discussion on taking him or not as we talked of the coming long trip. As I look back, the trip was hard on all of us, because I drove from Scott Air Force Base in Illinois to Anchorage, Alaska, but I suspect my dog considered suicide more than once along the way. See, he was sick most of the way, or so it seemed to me, but my kids have said numerous times it was but for a few miles and only once.

While our dog was well taken care of on the trip, he still experienced some motion sickness early in the trip. Additionally, later in the trip he developed diarrhea after we were forced to change his dog food because to his favorite brand was not available in northern Canada. The trip did, however, teach me a few things about traveling with dogs.

It is getting to be the time of the year when more and more people decide to take Ol’ Rover out with them when they hike, fish, camp, visit public parks, or just travel. While I agree it is a good idea at times, depending on the dog’s personality, make sure you’re allowed a dog or any pets in the area you are visiting. Some campgrounds, public parks, and other recreational areas may not allow pets at all; some hotels for sure won’t allow pets. If Rover is not allowed, or if you suspect he or she might not make a good companion for the trip consider a kennel, a friend to leave your dog with, or maybe think about have someone pet sit for you. Responsible teenagers will usually pet sit for just a few dollars, when compared to the cost of a kennel.

I would also start a dog out on short trips first to see how they handle the motion of the vehicle and to determine if they seem to get stressed over the confined space. Some dogs adjust quickly to the limited space of car or truck with no problems, while others appear to never get used to the idea and may get agitated. I can assure you that on long trips you will want a dog that is capable of traveling well, without any serious physical or psychological affects.

Prior to any trip, even in the local area with your dog, make sure your pet has been seen by a veterinarian on a regular basis and is healthy. Keep your pets shots up to date, carry any medications your dogs may need, and if you’re crossing a border into another country you might need the animals health record and a rabies shot within 30 days of entry. If you’re not sure what is required for your dog to be out in public, or to cross the boarder, talk to your Vet. If your Veterinarian does not have an immediate answer to your questions about travel requirements, he or she will usually know where to find it.

Keep your dog’s identification tag on them at all times and it might be a good idea to use a tattoo or implanted microchip to assist in recovery if Rover gets lost. Some people dislike the idea of their dog receiving a tattoo or having a microchip implanted, but I think it is a very good idea. If your dog is found and taken to the pound they will be able to determine whom he belongs to quickly with a tattoo or microchip. I also keep a current color photo of my dog, just in case he gets lost and I need help in finding him.

Now, some other considerations I have found to be helpful when traveling with a dog. Keep a good first aid kit just for your dog. Pets get hurt too and a small first aid kit will do the job of keeping the injury from getting infected. For small cuts, scrapes, or punctures, remember to clean the injury and then cover the wound to avoid an infection. However, with serious injuries a veterinarian should see your animal as soon as possible.

Also, consider comfortable bedding for your pet, especially if you are camping or spending long periods of time outdoors. If your dog has a favorite toy that they play with and it is small enough, bring it along as well. Your dog will enjoy playing with this toy and perhaps it will be something to assist in keeping the stress level of your pet down. A stressed dog does not make a good traveling mate and you can take my word on that statement.

Additionally, remember to keep your dog on any flea and tick medication they are taking when you are traveling. Ticks and fleas can be found in most places in North American, just about any place that has green grass and trees. You’d be surprised where ticks and fleas can turn up later too, and that is one thing you don’t need in your vehicle. Besides the obvious medical problems with ticks and fleas, the little pests are a real pain once they invade a car or home.

If the weather is warm or hot, do not leave your pet in the vehicle, especially with the windows up. Heat can kill a dog just as it does a person, but many pet owners often forget about a pet when they leave a vehicle to rush into a store. Also, keep a lot of fresh water on hand for your pet and keep them not only out of the heat, but also out of direct sunlight. Keep them comfortable and in the shade as much as possible.

Prior to your trip prepare by having enough of your dogs usual food on hand to last the whole trip. A sudden change in your dog’s diet may cause your pet to become ill. Take more frequent breaks if your dog seems to be affected by motion sickness. Also, carry snacks and treats you know your pet will enjoy and reward him or her after a long period in the car or truck. Depending on the roadside rest locations you choose as you drive on long trips, you might be able to take Rover for a walk and give him a treat as you take a break for everyone’s sake.

Traveling with a dog is not that difficult with a little forethought and planning. While long trips, like mine to Alaska are not recommended for some folks or dogs, they can be done with a little planning as well. For short spurts out to the park, camping, hiking, or just a fun day in the sun, keep your dogs’ physical and psychological health in mind. Make sure your pet is healthy, easy to identify, carry a first aid kit for your dog, and you have their favorite foods along. Also, watch the heat and give them lots of cool fresh water.

I’m looking forward to seeing you this summer as you and Rover travel together.

Note: This article is not designed to replace your veterinarian’s sound professional advice and it has been written to simply suggest some key points to assist you when traveling with a dog. A veterinarian should always be consulted when you have questions pertaining to the health and safety of your animal.

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