If you’ve had a longtime travel companion in your pet, it can be difficult to watch the negative effects of his age begin to change that dynamic. As he ages, your pet will likely become less active and you may begin to notice that he has more difficulty getting around, especially when it comes to getting in and out of your car or RV.
It’s important to keep in mind that traveling long distances can be stressful for pets of any age, and particularly for older pets. (In general, dogs are considered middle-aged at around seven years old, and cats at closer to 10 years. Larger breeds also age faster than smaller ones.)
Yes, your pet getting older can mean some tough adjustments for both of you. But with the right precautions and preparations in place you may discover that just because your pet is nearing her golden years doesn’t mean she’s ready to hang up her traveling boots just yet. Of course, it’s always best to schedule a vet visit to assess your pet’s general health before you set out on your adventure.
If you’ve decided your older pet can still make the journey and it’s time to pack up the RV and hit the road, here are some things you’ll want to keep in mind to ensure a safe and comfortable trip for both of you.
- Give her ample opportunity to stretch. Remember that pets are plagued by some of the same maladies as humans in their golden years. Make sure to plan plenty of stopping points along your journey. This would help your pet to get out and stretch to avoid stiff joints and aching bones once you reach your destination. And if your pet isn’t already taking a joint supplement, you may want to talk to your vet ahead of your trip to see if this may be an appropriate time to add one. Conversely, if your aging pet takes longer to get comfy these days (and still has a strong bladder), you may also decide that it’s best to let her stay put for a while once she’s comfortably settled in your RV.
- Do all of the things you normally do to ensure your pet’s comfort at home (and then some). If he has a favorite bed or blanket, bring it along, as well as any other items that will make him feel more settled and content. You’ll also want to provide plenty of love and reassurance along your journey to keep your pet feeling secure.
- Stick to her schedule. Stay as close as possible to your pet’s regular schedule when it comes to feeding and administering any regular medications. It can be easy to get off routine when you’re traveling, but the more closely you adhere to your at-home habits, the better it will be for your pet and the happier she’ll be.
- Don’t let him over-do it. Too much walking around or exercise, especially if it’s not something your older pet does as much of these days at home, can be exceptionally taxing when traveling to new and unfamiliar places. Regardless of age, pets (particularly dogs) will be curious in new surroundings and eager to check things out, but make sure not to let your pet overexert himself.
- Offer water frequently. Your pet’s drinking habits will change as she ages. For some this means they’ll drink less, and for some — especially those whose kidneys are showing their age — this means they’ll drink more. Make sure there is frequent access to fresh water while you’re traveling and easy access to water once you’ve arrived at your destination.
- Make their environment comfortable. Whether lodging in your RV or a hotel or motel, it’s always important to consider the location and surroundings in which you’ll be staying when your pet is in tow. It’s especially important to monitor the conditions of their environment during any times you will be away from them. You’ll want to make sure there is adequate space based on your pet’s size, and that you’ll be able to keep the space cool or warm enough for your pet’s complete protection and comfort. You’ll also want to make sure to keep your pet away from any potential dangers in the outdoor surroundings of your destination.
- Make it easy for her to go potty. Even younger animals with stronger bladders are going to pee more in unfamiliar places. Pair the instinct to pee on everything in an unfamiliar environment with an aging bladder and you’ve got the potential for more accidents than normal. Make sure you provide plenty of potty breaks or constant litter box access to your elderly pet when traveling.
- Be prepared for unexpected emergencies. No one likes to think of emergency situations when it comes to their aging pet, but it’s always best to be prepared. When you’re traveling with a senior pet, be sure to bring her vet records along just in case of an unexpected trip to an out-of-town vet. Many vets now offer online records, making your pet’s important information accessible from anywhere, at any time.
Just like humans, pets get more finicky with age — and that can make travel more challenging. But if you prepare adequately it can help ensure your pet is up for the trip. Making a visit to the vet and assessing your travel plans based on the list above, you can have a wonderful time when you hit the road together.