RV Pet Vet: Traveling safely with your pet

RV Pet Vet: Traveling safely with your pet

Ask the RV Vet

With Dr. Deanna Tolliver, M.S., DVM
YourRVvet@gmail.com

Many of us started RVing because we wanted to travel and take our pets with us. And for the most part, life with a pet in your RV is not much different than in a house. But there are some safety issues you need to be aware of.

Slide-outs. We love the extra space a slide-out creates, but you need to be extra vigilant about where your pets are before you move the slide. Last week, a reader named Barbara commented that her pet had to be taken to an emergency hospital in Florida “after I, unfortunately, squeezed our very large cat down to several inches when I retracted the slide.” Luckily, the cat survived and is fine now, but as she advised: “Know where your pets are before pulling in the slides.”

Getting lost. I’ve heard many heartbreaking stories about dogs and cats that escaped from the RV and wandered off, some never to be found. Think about it: No matter how good a pet’s homing instincts may be, if you’re in a campground for only a few days, that may not be enough time for your locations to be “home” to your pet. Keep an ID on your pet’s collar, MICROCHIP YOUR PETS, and keep your contact information current. Collars and harnesses with reflective tape add a measure of safety.

Temperature control. Living in an RV can be like living in a tin can: When the sun beats down, temps can rise quickly. If you leave your pets while you’re out exploring, be aware of the weather forecast and take steps to ensure your pet’s comfort. Remember, the normal temperature of dogs and cats is around 101.5; they are already warmer than us to begin with.

Safe travel. Otto was a Pug belonging to clients of mine. They loved him very much and took him everywhere. On a trip to Colorado, a car pulled out in front of them and they couldn’t stop in time to avoid a collision. Otto had been sitting on the back seat, but at impact, he was thrown forward to the passenger side floor. Initially, he seemed only a little dazed, but they realized later in the day that he couldn’t see. He sustained enough head trauma that his optic nerves were damaged and he was blind.

ALWAYS confine your pets while they’re in a moving vehicle. If they’re small, put them in crates that are secured by the seat belts. Larger dogs can wear special seat belt harnesses.

RV steps. Some motorhomes have only two steps to navigate, while some taller fifth wheels may have four or five. Older and smaller pets may have trouble getting up or down and should be watched so they don’t fall.

Some RV steps have drain holes to keep water from pooling. My dog Chiquita ended up with a dislocated toe because one of her toenails caught in one of those holes; she did a somersault and fell to the ground. Luckily that was her only injury. I solved that problem by applying adhesive anti-skid reflective treads to the steps.

Upset tummies. You can help minimize digestive upsets (diarrhea) by not changing their food while traveling. Keep in mind that you might not always be able to find their regular food in a different city. Stock up, or another option is to see if you can order the food online and have it delivered to your campground.

I know RVers who give their dogs and cats only bottled water. That way, their water supply is essentially the same wherever they go.

Unfriendly dogs. If you walk your dog or cat (yes, I’ve seen several cats on leash) in a campground, you’re bound to encounter other pets also being walked. Regardless of how friendly the other dog may seem, be very careful before allowing your dog to have a “nose-to-nose” meet n’ greet. Keep your leash taut so you can quickly pull your dog away if either one of them starts a kerfuffle. In a dog park, keep your dog leashed until you ascertain that all the other dogs are friendly.

Stickers and coyotes and ticks…Oh my! You need to be aware of any parasites or wild animals or plants that may be a problem in a new place. Ask at the campground office at check-in. If ticks are a problem, use a preventative on your dog or cat. Stickers can be common in the West. Carry a pair of tweezers on your walks so you don’t have to try to remove a sticker with your fingers. These are also helpful for removing ticks. Think of the impending disaster if your dog decides to investigate a cactus!

Don’t leave any pet unattended outside. The reasons are numerous, but particularly if you are boondocking or in a primitive area, coyotes may drool in anticipation of a tasty meal while stalking your little dog. Keep a lookout for snakes while in the desert, as well as predatory birds.

Traveling with your pets can be fun. They depend on you to make sure it’s also safe.

Happy Traveling!

Dr. Deanna welcomes your questions. Email her at YourRVvet@gmail.com 

Dr. Deanna Tolliver has been a full-time RVer for a little more than 3 years, although she has been an RVer for several more. She pulls a fifth wheel with her 1-ton dually truck. Her travel companions include 4 small dogs (3 Chihuahuas: Tootie, Chiquita, and BooBoo, and a Yorkie, Janie), and a 36-year-old Yellow-Naped Amazon Parrot named Toby. She has a BS and MS in biology and zoology, respectively, and a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Missouri, Columbia. She owned a veterinary hospital for many years and recently handed over the reins to a new owner. Her hobbies include sewing, especially quilting, crafts, reading, and writing. 

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8 thoughts on “RV Pet Vet: Traveling safely with your pet

  1. Jillie

    What do you do with a dog that gets car sick every time she goes for a car ride? We got motion sickness pills and have yet to try them on her. Otherwise what a mess.

  2. C

    We use paper key tags (key ring tags) each time we are camping and write our campsite number on them. We attach with our dogs normal tags to collar. It’s a cheap way (they are like 50 for $5) to put some extra identification on your dog in case it gets loose in camp ground.

    1. Dr. Deanna

      Great idea! Thanks for sharing.

  3. Cheryl

    Love all your info. We started using distilled water in the jug; much cheaper than bottled water and less containers to recycle. Plus we always fill the jugs up with home water for the first few gallons. This cuts down on overall cost but doesn’t take up that much room. Using the Zero filter system is also an option, although I have read some controversy about their systems effectiveness.

    1. Dr. Deanna

      Good idea, Cheryl!

  4. Janet Noble

    Thanks for adding Dr Deanna!

    I have to correct one thing and add another.

    IF you chose to allow your dog to meet and greet another dog, do NOT do so on a taut leash! This can cause an aggressive reaction – think of the restrained person in a bar fight! The best method is to have the leash loose but be prepared to pull your dog away.

    The way to do this is to have only as much length of leash as you would need to pull your dog quickly away between your hand and the dog’s collar. Then move your hand towards your dog’s collar, making the leash loose but of such a length that you can quickly remove your dog if necessary.

    WATCH the interaction closely rather than looking at the person who has the other dog! If you do not know the signs of an impending problem, learn them. It is easier to deal with a problem before it starts.

    Also know that it is NOT necessary for your dog to be other dogs’ friend! They are NOT going to be e mailing each other after you leave the park! If you choose to do so, that is fine but do not feel pressured into it!

    Last but certainly not least, put your dog on its leash BEFORE opening the door of your RV! Would greatly reduce the number of incidents with people and other dogs as well as lost pets.

    Also work with your dog on NOT leaving the RV, even if the door is open, until they are told to do so. Work on it a minute or two every day! May not be fail safe but the moment they take to decide to be naughty and run out may save their lives, giving you that moment to control them!

    1. Dr. Deanna

      Hi Janet,

      Thanks for your thoughtful response. You bring up some good points. As you can see by the length of your response, it would take an entire column to address all the behaviorial issues regarding traveling with your dog in an RV.

      1. Janet Noble

        My poor Rottie has been attacked SEVEN times in RV parks by off leash dogs, mostly small ones! All behavioral issues could be controlled by one phrase, ON LEASH!

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