Owning an RV makes it easier than ever to travel with your pets. You don’t have to worry about finding hotels that will allow them. And you no longer have to board them or find a pet sitter when you’re on vacation. Most pets adapt well to travel and many even enjoy the change of scenery and the pace of traveling.
Starting Your Pet RVing
Most animals take well to RVing if they’re allowed to do so at their own pace. Once you buy a trailer or RV, introduce your pet to it gradually. They’ll need to smell and explore at their own pace. Allow them to explore the RV or trailer a bit at a time. Bring some of their favorite treats with you so you can give them a treat as they do explore. Put one or more of their favorite toys, or their bedding in the RV as well.
Let them get used to the RV before simply tossing them in and taking off. Spend some time in the RV with them for a day or so while it’s parked at your home. This way they will get used to coming and going in and out of it. Feed them a couple of meals there and even spend the night in the RV with them. If you have a cat, show them where their cat box will be. The more privacy they have, the better cats like it, and the more likely they are to use the cat box rather than a corner of the bed or the RV. Decide early on where your pet’s bed will be, and get them used to it. Stock the RV with your pet’s own dishes, bowls, leashes and other items and leave them there so you don’t forget to bring them every time you camp.
Crossing Into the USA or Other Provinces
If you’re planning to cross over into the USA, even for the day and your pet is on board, you’ll need several items for the crossing. Pets excluded from crossing must be exported or shipped back to another Canadian locale, or, sadly, destroyed. Animals such as turtles, snakes, birds and other animals may not be admitted – and no monkeys of any kind are permitted to cross into the USA.
Proof of current shots is needed for dogs, but not for cats. This includes rabies vaccinations, proof of distemper, parvovirus, parainfluenza and hepatitis shots and a health certificate. Border officials will also look for visible signs of illness or disease in all animals.
When accompanying your dog, only a valid rabies vaccination is required, but if shipped separately, a dog of 8 months of age or less must be certified within the past 72 hours. The veterinary certificate of health must certify that the animal was not younger than six (6) weeks of age when vaccinated against distemper, parvovirus, parainfluenza and hepatitis. For a dog of 8 months or older, there is no difference whether accompanied or not.
Assistance dogs that are certified in canine vision, hearing ear, or other special skills are exempt from import restrictions when the person assigned the dog accompanies it into or out of Canada.
If you frequently have several dogs with you at one time, you may be asked to certify that they are your personal pets and that they are not for resale. Some campgrounds also have limits on the number of animals you may have, and some charge an extra “pet fee.”
Some campgrounds have breed restrictions on animals believed to be aggressive or dangerous, such as Rottweilers, Pit Bulls, Doberman Pinchers, and German Shepherds. If you have one of these breeds, be prepared to dry camp or to spend extra time finding a campground that allows such breeds. Many campgrounds will allow a restricted breed if you can show proof of insurance (homeowners or similar) on the dog. Their concern of course is liability, not so much that you have a particular breed.
Dog owners must not bring pit bulls into the Province of Ontario in contravention of that province’s ban. For information on Ontario’s pit bull ban, visit the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General’s web site.
Other campgrounds may restrict the size of dog – only allowing “small dog breeds,” or up to a certain weight (25 to 50 pounds) of dog.
Very few campgrounds allow dogs to run loose, except if they provide a fenced in enclosure provided on the grounds just for that. National parks and other public spaces also require a dog to be leashed. In some parks, particularly in the USA, unleashed dogs in National Parks may be shot and killed on sight if a ranger believes they pose a risk to wildlife. Your dog may not be shot, but you can get a hefty fine for allowing your dog to run free.
Truly pet friendly campgrounds will provide anything from pet sitting and walking, to areas especially for animals. Call ahead and confirm that your animals will be welcomed, not just tolerated. Find this out by asking if there is an extra pet fee, if there are restrictions to where the animals may walk if on a leash, and if they are allowed in public areas such as near water or group camping areas.
If your animal has any special medical needs it’s best to have an extra supply of medication on hand for emergencies. Add a first aid kit for your pet to your own first aid supplies. This kit should include a tick removal kit, antibiotic ointment, aspirin, benedryl, and snakebite kit. Know how to perform basic first aid on your pet. It’s often impossible to find a vet in the middle of the wilderness when minutes count. Ask your vet about most common emergencies so you can create a first aid kit for your animal.
Animals in the wild, even if it’s just the wilds of a campground, can get stung, snake bit, attacked by other animals or wander off and get lost. They can get ticks, be harassed by flies and mosquitoes and generally suffer the discomforts that we humans do. Keep a closer eye on your pet if you plan to let them outside the RV for long periods of time – particularly if they’re usually an indoor animal.
Pets will often respond to travel, new surroundings and different water or a different schedule with an upset stomach, diarrhea or change in bowel or bladder habits, just as people do. Taking their usual food, plus a bit of rice or sweet potato along for upset stomachs helps most dogs recover quickly.
Fun and Sun
Animals can get sunburn, heat exhaustion and stroke too. Learn to identify the signs of distress in your pet. Generally panting, anxiety, pacing, eyes rolled back in the head, lethargy, and non-responsiveness indicate a critical problem with your pet.
Because animals don’t sweat they do need shade and cool water to release heat buildup. If you have a pet that stays indoors most of the time at home, they’re not going to adapt well to suddenly being chained or penned outside to a picnic table or RV. It’s wise to include your pet in as many activities as possible so they’ll have fun too. Fix them a burger (if they can eat it), take them on walks, and let them swim in the ocean or lake, or wade in a creek if that’s permitted. Shower them with extra attention.
They may love going for long walks and hikes with you, but only if their paw pads and physical condition are up for it. Check their paws frequently to insure stickers; thorns, seeds and mud aren’t building up between their pads. If your pet is licking or chewing on their paws, chances are something is stuck, wedged or hurt there.
Swimming, Wading and Water Fun
Many dogs love water and will enjoy getting in a lake or stream with you, or by themselves. Don’t assume they can swim for long periods of time. Most dogs not used to water tire quickly and can drown. Make sure they don’t swim out too far, or in a lake or larger body of water, put on a life vest designed especially for dogs.
Be aware that dogs can have allergies too. Watch for wheezing or other signs of distress. Check with your vet, but most medium to large dogs do well with over-the-counter allergy medications for humans, such as benedryl.
Tips For Traveling Ease
- If your pet has motion sickness or is anxious about travel start out with short trips in the car to get them used to traveling. You can also get anti-anxiety medication from your vet or use an over-the-counter herbal remedy called “Rescue Remedy.” It’s good for both humans and animals and helps ease anxiety without any side effects.
- Make sure your pet can be identified if they become lost or separated from you. Dog or cat collars with an ID tag that lists your cell phone, address and name is good, but plan on having your pet micro chipped with all their information and your contact information. Tattoos are another option – use your Driver’s License number or a permanent contact such as a vet’s phone number and name, or a pet ID service.
- Sometimes animals will become separated in a traffic accident, or RV fire, or in the rush of kids running in and out of an RV. Some manage to simply fall or climb out of an open window. Make sure that you can be reached quickly by providing both a cell phone and home phone number on the tag. Cats tend to lose their collars quickly so have them tattooed or micro chipped as well.
Pick Up After Your Pet
All campgrounds have a “pick up after your pet” rule. Obey it. Be sure and bring plenty of bags for disposing of your pet’s waste. Many campgrounds provide special areas for walking your animals.
In all the excitement of a new place, new smells and new people you may find your dog barking more than they ever did at home. Unfortunately this can get you kicked out of a campground if you can’t control it. Keep the animal inside, or take it for long exhausting walks so they’ll sleep and be less likely to bark throughout the day.