Ask the RV Vet
With Dr. Deanna Tolliver, M.S., DVM
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.
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.