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Dog road trip essentials: These 5 items just might save your travel plans

If you’re planning a fun vacation with your dog, you have lots of company. According to the American Pet Products Association’s most recent pet owners survey, 25 million pet parents stay with their dogs in pet-friendly hotels. That’s not at all surprising as our dogs are part of the family and it’s hard to leave them behind when we go on holiday. So from camping with your dog to boating to urban sightseeing, we aim to include our beloved canines and often can! These are the dog road trip essentials you need.

What to pack for a dog on a road trip: Getting started

Preparing well in advance is key to having a successful getaway with your pet, no matter the nature of your excursion. That includes updating contact information on your dog’s ID tags and making sure his harness, leash, and collars are in good condition. You’ll also want to have enough dog food in stock so you don’t run short while away from home.

Dog standing at crate door in back of a car.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Your essential dog travel checklist

1. A pet travel harness or crate

Experts at the American Automobile Association recommend restraining dogs while traveling in a vehicle to avoid driver distractions and to prevent serious injury in a collision. Restraining in the front seat is not recommended as the airbag can kill a pet in a crash. To keep your dog safe while traveling, the nonprofit Center for Pet Safety encourages pet parents to select high-quality harnesses and travel crates that the organization has crash-test certified.

2. A pet first aid kit

A well-stocked pet first aid kit is a necessity in case of an emergency while on the road. You can purchase a pet first aid kit online or make one yourself. The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center recommends including the following items:

  • absorbent gauze pads
  • adhesive tape
  • cotton balls or swabs
  • fresh 3% hydrogen peroxide to induce vomiting (always check with a veterinarian or animal poison control expert before giving this to your pet)
  • ice pack
  • disposable gloves
  • scissors with a blunt end
  • tweezers
  • antibiotic ointment
  • oral syringe
  • liquid dishwashing detergent (for bathing)
  • small flashlight
  • alcohol wipes
  • styptic powder
  • saline eye solution
  • artificial tear gel
  • most recent health record with vaccination status

When you get to your destination you can add the name and contact information of the local animal hospital to your first aid kit.

3. A dog travel bag organizer

When you’re spending a lot of time traveling in the car, you want to keep things organized. Having a dog travel bag is a great way to keep your pooch’s items neatly in one place. For example, the highly-rated Mobile Dog Gear Week Away Tote is lightweight and comes in two sizes for medium or large dogs. It includes two lined carriers for food or treats, numerous zippered pockets, and two collapsible bowls.

4. A travel water bowl and container

It’s important to keep dogs hydrated on long road trips to avoid overheating. Carrying a case of bottled water in the car takes up a lot of space, which might not be readily available when the car is loaded for vacation. The Lixit Dog Travel Water Bowl got rave reviews from Amazon shoppers who like to travel with their dogs. The container holds three quarts of water and the attached bowl is designed to prevent spills and splashes in the car.

5. A supply of dog poop bags

Responsible pet parents always pick up after their dogs and never leave home without poop bags. It’s important to pick up dog poop whether or not the law requires it. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), dog poop contains pollutants that are harmful to local water systems as well as to humans. And veterinary experts say that dog poop can transmit parasites such as hookworms, whipworms or roundworms to other pets and humans.

Make sure you never run out of poop bags while on vacation: buy in bulk before your trip. Earth Rated Dog Poop Bags are a best-seller on Amazon and for good reason. These strong bags are made of recycled material and are large enough to pick up after giant breeds. Along with a supply of poop bags, consider packing a container for holding used bags. The Dog Poop Bag Holder by Tuff Mutt has an odor-blocking lining for storing used poop bags until you can get to a trash can.

A complete dog travel packing list

Packing lists aren’t just for people. Creating a checklist allows you to make sure you pack everything your animal companion will need while away from home. In addition to the essentials mentioned above, here’s what you should pack for your dog:

  • pet medications
  • leash, harness, and collar with updated ID tags (pack backups of each)
  • dog raincoat
  • dog food and treats
  • can opener (for canned dog food)
  • food and water bowls
  • bed and blanket
  • chew and puzzle toys
  • pet wipes and towels
  • grooming supplies
  • pet-safe cleaning products and paper towels
Pug sitting near luggage and a pet carrier.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

In the weeks before your trip, it’s important to take your dog for a health checkup. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, many states require an up-to-date Certificate of Veterinary Inspection when traveling. You can get that certification after your dog has been examined. Your veterinarian will also make sure that your pet is fully vaccinated and protected against diseases or parasites that may be an issue in the areas you’re visiting. Hitting the road with a healthy dog ensures that the whole family can enjoy a safe and fun vacation.

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Vera Lawlor
Vera was the pet columnist for 201 Family magazine and has contributed pet and animal welfare articles to Bone-A-Fide Mutts…
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