With spring on its way, maybe you have some road trip plans in the works. My senior dogs absolutely love car rides. What dog doesn’t? It’s one of their greatest joys. Thankfully, there’s no need to leave your dog behind even if they are older. With a little planning and the right supplies, you can have a safe and successful senior dog-friendly road trip. In fact, I took a road trip in January when I adopted my newest family member, Bamboo, who is 16 years young. He was rescued by the amazing K9 Spirit Organization. I picked him up in California and then we drove back together to his new home in British Columbia giving us time to bond. Whether you’re taking a trip to meet your own rescue fur baby or just for a little spring break fun, here’s how to navigate the road with your four-legged friend (or friends):
Plan Your Lodging Ahead of Time
It’s not always possible to find impromptu hotel rooms when you have one or more senior dogs in tow. Map out where you’ll stay in advance. You may even want to double-check that a hotel is pet-friendly by giving them a call. This will make your road trip stress-free.
Pack Like a Pro
Honestly, I always pack way more for my dogs than I do for myself. Having plenty of supplies and the right senior dog care products is the key to truly dog-friendly road trips. When your older dogs are comfortable, it makes the trip more enjoyable and they’ll be relaxed. Here’s what I typically pack when I travel with dogs:
- Blanket Pads: Dog Quality blanket pads combine the absorbency of a waterproof pad with the softness of a blanket and are a great way to manage dog incontinence and keep the seats of your vehicle dry. I bring a regular-sized one for Bamboo’s bed and a supersized one to protect the back seats of my Jeep where Lily and Winnie hang out during road trips. I also take a second supersized blanket pad to cover the bed where I am staying, whether it’s at a hotel or with friends or family.
- Baby Wipes: I use baby wipes to clean Lily after she goes potty because she can’t hold herself up high enough and tends to get urine on herself. I also use them to wipe down my dogs after they have a dirty dog diaper or belly band. My favorites are Aleva Naturals Bamboo Baby Wipes because they’re unbleached, alcohol-free, vegan and biodegradable.
- Disinfecting Wipes: I bring along disinfecting wipes for any messes in the car or hotel that need some superpower cleaning.
- Our Dogger Dog Stroller: The Dogger is a must-have for any trips. That way, we can explore when we make stops and at our destination, regardless of the terrain. If one of the dogs isn’t up for walking, we can all still stretch our legs while whoever needs a rest hops in the dog stroller.
- Lots of Water and a Water Bowl: Dogs need water regularly and for many pooches, as they get older, they drink even more frequently. Lily only drinks out of a regular bowl and won’t take water from a dog travel water bottle. Therefore, I bring a standard bowl for her. You know your dog best so bring along whatever works for their preferences to make sure they stay hydrated. There are a variety of no-splash and spill-proof dog bowls made especially for the car.
- Plenty of Dog Diapers, Belly Bands and Diaper Pads – I put a fresh, dry doggie diaper or belly band on each dog before we leave the house and I bring lots of extras. While you’ll still want to stop for bathroom breaks, many senior dogs battle incontinence and diapers and pads give them the extra protection they need. It’s amazing how much more comfortable and dog-friendly road trips and vacations are when you have that protection and peace of mind.
- Wet Dog Diaper Bag: Since I’m not typically able to do laundry on a road trip or while away from home, I bring along a Dog Quality Wet Dog Diaper Bag. Simply toss dirty diapers and belly bands into the bag and zip it shut. It’s leak proof and traps odors inside so you won’t have to worry about the diapers mixing with the rest of your luggage.
- Chews and Treats: Chews and treats are perfect for when dogs get fidgety and they just make it fun.
- A Towel: You can use a towel to dry wet paws and fur.
- Clothing: If it’s cold, I pack their jackets, hoodies and sweaters. Senior dogs tend to be more sensitive to heat and cold and I want to make sure they’re comfy and warm.
- Grippers: If I’m staying somewhere with hardwood, tile or laminate floors, I pack a few pairs of Grippers traction socks. This way, my older dogs feel confident roaming around their temporary digs.
- Plenty of Food: I pack enough food (and carrots, which are Lily’s favorite) for all of the meals they’ll eat while we’re away plus extra in case the trip takes longer than expected.
Don’t Forget About Getting In and Out of the Vehicle
As dogs get older, it’s not uncommon for them to face mobility issues, including arthritis. This can make it difficult for them to get in and out of a car or truck on their own. If they try to jump down, it may even result in serious injury. A dog ramp can be helpful for allowing dogs to safely enter and exit vehicles without forcing you to pick them up.
Try a Car Barrier if Your Dog Tends to Jump Around
There are a variety of dog travel safety products, including car barriers for dogs that prevent pooches from sticking their head up in the front seat or climbing from front to back. The barrier, depending on the type, attaches to the seats and keeps the dog behind it. If you have a dog who gets anxious during car rides and doesn’t sit still or jumps over the seats, a barrier can prevent them from blocking your field of vision or distracting you. While there are a number of other solutions as well aimed at car safety for dogs, including crates, carriers and dog safety harnesses, it’s super important to do your research before you purchase because some restraints on the market were found to do more harm than good. Experts suggest only choosing crash-tested, safety-certified products and ensuring dogs still have enough room to sit up and lie down. You can see a list of Center for Pet Safety-approved dog safety harnesses for cars here if you do decide to go that route.
Take Lots of Breaks
Even if you can drive for long stretches, it doesn’t mean you should when you’re traveling with dogs. Stop every two to three hours to get out and go to the bathroom, move around and get a change of scenery. This will keep dogs more comfortable and prevent them from getting too antsy. When Bamboo and I made our way home from California, we stopped a lot because I didn’t want to overdo it. I actually found it made the trip even more relaxing and fun for me too!
Watch Your Windows
Be sure to turn off power windows just like you would for a child. Your dog can accidentally hit the button and in their excitement, jump out or close the window on themselves and get hurt.
Never Leave Your Dog Unattended in a Parked Vehicle
Another of the most important tips for dog car safety is to avoid leaving your dog alone in a parked car or truck. In hot weather, a car can reach extremely high temperatures and cause heat stroke and on really cold days, it tends to hold in the chill, which can be equally as dangerous.
Dog-friendly road trips are absolutely possible with older dogs. I love bringing my dogs on adventures with me and by following these tips, your dog will be safe, comfortable and ready for the road. For more great tips on caring for senior dogs, sign up for the Dog Quality newsletter!