Traveling with your senior dog

Taking a senior dog on summer vacation with you? Here are 8 ways to keep safe and comfortable while traveling and at your destination.

With summer on the way, you’re probably thinking about vacation time. You may be planning to take your dog with you to the cottage, campground or a pet-friendly resort. But what if he’s getting older? No matter what your dog’s age is, his enthusiasm for being your travel buddy doesn’t falter, but you do have to take steps to make sure he stays safe and comfortable. This eight-point checklist will help ensure a relaxing traveling experience for both of you.

1. Get a clean bill of health

Before traveling any distance with an older dog, have him checked out by your veterinarian, just to make sure everything’s okay and that he’s physically up to the trip.

2. Safety first!

Ensure your dog is going to be safe and comfortable on the journey. Keep him secure in the car, whether he rides in a crate or kennel, or has a doggy seat belt. Being jolted around if you have to slam on the brakes is hard on any dog, especially an older one whose mobility and joint health may not be what it was. Provide a soft bed or blanket for him to lie on and help cushion his joints on bumpy roads. Other necessities include a old towel or baby wipes, and extra pee pads, in case your old pal has an accident.

Provide a soft bed or blanket to help cushion his joints on bumpy roads.

3. Prioritize nutrition

Pack the food your dog is used to eating, to avoid tummy upsets, and don’t forget to bring along any medications or supplements he’s taking. A pill box marked with the days of the week, available at any pharmacy, is a simple way to organize and keep track of what he needs to take every day. It’s also wise to bring a supply of water from home.

4. Prevent motion sickness

To help prevent motion sickness, don’t feed your dog less than two or three hours before leaving, and make it a light meal. The homeopathic remedy Cocculus indicus can help prevent motion sickness, while Bach Rescue Remedy can reduce the anxiety that may lead to an upset stomach.

5. Keep him cool

Ensure the temperature inside your vehicle is comfortable for your dog – not too hot, but also not too cold. Keep the AC on if the weather is sweltering, but don’t turn it up so high that it’s blowing cold air on his body. And of course, never leave him alone in a parked car, not even for a few minutes.

6. Make frequent pit stops

Make a pit stop at least every two hours to let your senior dog relieve himself, loosen up any stiff muscles and get some fresh air. Remember to clean up after him.

7. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate!

Make sure your dog stays hydrated and offer him water at rest stops. Adequate hydration is vital for dogs of all ages, and helps with kidney function, especially in older animals.

8. Help him adjust to new surroundings

At your destination, do what you can to make the cottage, cabin or room you’re staying in as homelike as possible for your senior. Remember that unless you’re at your own cottage, this will be a foreign environment to him. Some older dogs may find the change in surroundings confusing or disorienting, especially if they don’t see or hear as well as they used to. Spend time acclimating your senior by showing him where his bed, food and water bowls are.

9. Take it easy

Whether you’ll be boating, hiking or swimming, tailor your activities to your senior dog’s energy levels and capabilities. Keep hikes short, take a more leisurely pace, and avoid rough terrain if your dog is arthritic. If starts hanging back or panting a lot, it’s time to stop for a rest. Offer him water and a healthy treat. Older dogs are more prone to heat stroke, so if the weather is hot and sticky, avoid exercise during the daytime hours. If you’re boating, or swimming in unfamiliar waters, a doggy lifejacket is a must. Whatever activity you’re sharing with your dog, make sure he has access to fresh drinking water, and a comfortable shady place to lie down in when he needs to rest.

Keep hikes short, take a more leisurely pace, and avoid rough terrain if your dog is arthritic.

Patience is key when traveling with a senior dog. We sometimes don’t want to admit it when our canine companions are getting older, so it’s important we remind ourselves to take things more carefully and slowly when traveling and vacationing with them. By taking the right precautions, and adjusting your pace a little, there’s no reason why your dog can’t continue being your travel buddy well into his golden years.