If you are planning to hit the road with your handicapped pup this summer, you won’t be alone. Many of our readers are pros when it comes to taking a successful road trip with a paralyzed dog. I discovered their wealth of information after a pet mom wrote about her concerns of driving 1200 miles with her dog when they relocated to a new city. Experienced pet parents flooded our website to reassure her and offer their favorite tips.
I have written several stories about the best places to find a pet sitter for a paralyzed dog, but until now I have never written about taking your pet with you. Traveling by car takes preparation and there are physical and emotional health issues to consider. But with advice from pet parent pros, road trips can be a breeze.
Things to consider before you take a road trip
- Check with your veterinarian to be sure your dog is healthy enough to travel.
- Ask how many hours (or miles) you should travel each day.
- Be sure your car is climate controlled for the area you are visiting. (If you don’t have air conditioning, do not travel through the desert).
- Map out places along the way where you can stop to express your dog’s bladder.
- Plan where you will stay each night and if the hotel, motel or campground accepts dogs.
Essentials for your road trip
- Pack your dog’s medications, diapers, pee pads and baby wipes.
- Take your pup’s lifting or support harness, booties and wheelchair.
- Take medical and vaccination records. Update vaccinations before you leave so your dog is protected for the area where you are traveling. (eg: Lyme disease or fleas)
- Pack a bed, bedding or soft crate for inside the car. Make sure it is secure so your dog is stable while the vehicle is moving.
- Be sure your dog is wearing an ID tag that includes your cell number.
- Bring your dog’s regular food, bottled water and bowls.
- Pack your dog’s bed, stroller and leash.
- Take your pup’s favorite toys.
- Pack a pet first aid kit and towels.
Pet parent tips for taking a successful road trip with a paralyzed dog
Liz – I drove my pup to North Carolina from Connecticut for a clinical trial and it was his first time being in a car for more than an hour. He did great the ride down (the ride home was an exception, he was loopy and not feeling great from some of the trial meds). Surprisingly, he barely slept the whole 10 hours because he was so curious about everything going on outside. My dad traveled with us and he sat in the backseat with Pudge. I recommend traveling with a buddy if you can. We stopped every couple of hours to stretch and let him scoot around a bit in his cart. I also have a backseat cover with a hammock that did a great job protecting my seats from fur and dog slobber.
Marie – Bring bottled water. Sometimes the water along the way can carry different bacteria than your dog is used to. This can cause diarrhea.
Kelly – I drive and fly with my paralyzed Frenchie. Heat this time of the year is the biggest issue. Be sure to have a cooling pad. We have driven a few 1600+ miles trips. I also fly her and other paralyzed Frenchies often (I run a Frenchie Rescue and take in the high medical needs from all over the country.)
Lauren – My dog and I travel with a hammock, stroller, baby wipes and bottled water.
Erika – We bring a backpack lined with pee pads and then diaper our chihuahua when traveling. Then if we stop to walk around, we just put him in the backpack on our chest with his head sticking out. We have even done this going camping and he loves it! At night or in the car he rests in a soft crate.
Carolyn – Our Weimaraner is hyper in the car so when we moved from Maryland to Colorado, we gave him a tranquilizer with his morning and evening meals. We also stopped every 3 hours. Our dog sat in the backseat in his bed and did very well for our 1800-mile trip. We traveled three full days and two half days.
Tracey – I did a trip with Jake. He sat in a raised car seat so he could see out the window (and he was secure). I put puppy pads on the car seat to catch diaper leakage. I brought chew toys, treats and baby wipes (a must as you will likely have to put him on the bathroom floor when you use the bathroom) Have a backup leash. Be sure you can reach the dog from the front seat. Also, zip lock bags in case you have dirty diapers you don’t want to smell!
Tina – Definitely a raised seat so my dog can see outside. He also needs a safe place to lie down on a flat surface when he is tired. Be sure to have “homey” comfort items your dog is used to like chew toys and treats.
Lori– I drove from New York to Florida with my paralyzed girl and she did great. It was summer so I brought wee pads and express her on the grass at rest stops.
Kelly – Look at the route so you can plan ahead for bathroom breaks. Put a bag with supplies on the floor of the front seat so you can reach them easily.
Lily – I adopt elderly, sometimes medically compromised Great Danes. I prefer to drive rather than fly because I can get to a veterinarian if I need one along the way. I pack a good orthopedic foam bed for the back of the car and pad the entire area so the dog can’t fall if you have to stop quickly. Consider also using a harness and seatbelt.
Shawna – I traveled from Boston to Las Vegas with my paraplegic 12-year-old pug Winston. I made sure his crate was soft sided and that it gave him maximum space. I worried about him being too warm so I took Ziploc bags and filled them with ice. I also took a battery-operated fan and cooling mats that you fill with water and place in the crate.
Mary – We take Bucky’s pillows, blanket, toys, and the washable incontinence pads we use with him. We also pack his stroller. When we arrive at a hotel, Bucky is often restless because he is curious about his new location. Since he can’t walk very far even in his wheelchair, we put him in his stroller and explore the hotel together.
Shauna – Last year we took our girl who had recently been diagnosed with Degenerative Myelopathy from Michigan to North Carolina. She did great. This year we did a Lake Superior circle tour.
Doreen – Treat the road trip like a vacation. Plan fun stops and rest stops along the way.
Christina – Put down extra padding in the car.
Emmy – To calm stress, I diffuse lavender oil. Put a drop of oil on a wooden clothespin and affix it to the air vent. Leave it up for an hour or so. When you take a break, do a light, five-minute massage of his whole body. He’ll be stiff from sitting still, just as you will. I always use a cheerful tone and words. “We’re having an adventure! You’re going to smell so many new things!” That way the animal is excited about what’s going on. Have fun!
Paula – I take a pill organizer when I travel with my dog. It has his regular medication and pain pill (just in case). I also keep my dog’s veterinary records, my veterinarian’s contact information and at least one emergency contact person on my cell phone.
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