From Winding Roads to Wagging Tails: A Guide to Pet-Friendly Road Trips

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Preparing for a Road Trip with Your Dog or Cat

Summer is right around the corner, and that means it's time for a road trip. While hitting the road is all about free-spirited fun, it’s essential to be prepared if you're planning to bring a four-legged passenger along for ride. Whether you're visiting some National Parks with your dog or an out-of-state family with your cat, traveling with pets requires preparation to ensure their comfort and safety.

The first step when planning a road trip with your pet is ensuring they are up for it. Consider the following: their health, vaccinations, parasite prevention, identification, and comfort in the car.

Making Sure Your Dog or Cat Is Healthy Enough for Travel

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Before hitting the road, ensuring your pet is up to date on their vaccines and parasite preventives is crucial. Between high-traffic areas like rest stops and hotels, your pet can have a higher chance of exposure to infectious diseases and parasites. And, if your pet hasn't had a recent vet exam, it's a good idea to schedule a check-up before your trip. The last thing you want is an underlying illness surfacing when you are hundreds of miles from home.

Lost Pet Prevention

While updating your pet's vaccines, don't forget about their microchip. If they already have a microchip, update it with your current contact information. A vet, shelter, or animal welfare organization needs to be able to contact you if they find your lost pet.

If your pet doesn’t have a microchip, now is the time to strongly consider getting one, which you can easily do at your vet’s office. ID tags are vital (and should also be updated), but sometimes they can fall off, or your pet may wiggle their way out of their collar. A microchip is a surefire way to ensure your pet is identifiable. It's standard practice for animal control, shelters, and vet clinics to scan found pets for microchips.

For added protection, consider a Lifetime Protection Membership from 24Petwatch, which offers access to lost pet recovery specialists 24/7. An instant search can be launched using 24Petwatch resources and networks with local shelters and vet clinics to help find your pet wherever you are in North America.

Car Comfort and Safety for Pets

If your pet is not used to long car rides, you'll want to take some time to get them acclimated before the big trip. Start with short rides and increase the time progressively if they react positively. Be sure to include some comfort items like beds, blankets, and their favorite toy, and always keep them secure with a seatbelt for dogs (or a car-safe crate) and a car-safe carrier for cats.

Talk to your veterinarian if your pet experiences travel anxiety, car sickness, or gets overly stressed on car rides. They may prescribe something to help them relax or alleviate tummy troubles. While many dogs can experience car anxiety, it's even more common for cats to have difficulty acclimating to the car. In some cases, utilizing a pet sitter or boarding service may be better than forcing an anxious pet to endure a long road trip. It might also be better for your human passengers — several hours in a car with a vomiting dog or cat is no fun for anyone.

Roaming with Rover: A Checklist for Road Trips with Dogs

Ready to hit the road with your pup? Make sure you have all the essentials for a dog-friendly road trip.

Car Setup

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Packing List

Dog Road Trip Dos and Don'ts

Wandering with Whiskers: A Checklist for Road Trips with Cats

Ready to cruise with your cat? Make sure you have all the essentials for a cat-friendly road trip.

Car Setup

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Packing List

Feline-Friendly Extras

Traveling long-distance with a cat in the car can be a different experience than with a dog. Giving them breaks to stretch their legs and explore is often more complicated, unless they're already leash trained. If your cat is accustomed to using a harness and leash, bring it. If not, and you have time before your trip to explore that option, it could be helpful, but don't force a cat that is not engaged. Some cats would much rather hide in the car.

For longer trips, some cat parents opt for a larger crate setup that can accommodate all their cats' things and give them more space to move around than a traditional carrier. It's convenient in hotel rooms, but ensure they have a hiding spot or cover the crate with a towel. Consider the length of your trip and your cat's needs to plan for extra items that might help them feel more comfortable.

Cat Road Trip Dos and Don'ts

Planning a Pet-Friendly Route

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Road trips with pets can require extra planning, but ensuring your four-legged passenger is safe, happy, and comfortable is worth it. Using apps like Bring Fido, you can map out pet-friendly stops along the way, including hotels, restaurants, and even veterinary clinics for emergencies.

It's also a good idea to try and stick to your pet's walking and feeding routine as much as possible, but don't feed them in a moving vehicle. Plan mealtimes around rest breaks so they have time to digest before hitting the road.

Lastly, don't let your pet get overexerted. All the excitement of being in the car, mixed with new places and activities, can be taxing, especially for older pets. Ensure your pet is getting enough time to rest, and as tempting as it may be, try to refrain from sharing fast food with your pet. Fast food stops might be a "rite of passage" on a road trip, but even just a few French fries can become an upset stomach (and a messy backseat) for an already nervous or excited dog or cat.

The Final Stretch on Pet-Friendly Road Trips

With an ever-growing list of pet-friendly hotels and various car accessories to keep your pet safe and comfortable — it's easier than ever to take a road trip with your pet. All you have to do is ensure your pet is ready for the journey.

Take the stress out of your travel with a Lifetime Protection Membership from 24Petwatch. You'll have access to vet telehealth, discounts on dog walking and pet sitting services, and lost pet recovery specialists standing by 24/7 in case the unthinkable happens while on the road. 24Petwatch has reunited over 730,000 lost pets and will be there for yours too!

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