How to Plan a Smooth & Pawsome Summer Road Trip with Your Dog

There's nothing better than hitting the roads with your best friend as your co-pawlot. If you're planning your next summer road trip with your dog, there are a some important elements to consider to ensure a happy and healthy journey. Road tripping with your dog requires advance planning, from preparing your pet for the road, finding pet-friendly accommodations, trails and attractions, to packing the essentials.

Road trip with dog


Pick a dog-friendly route & destination

A spontaneous trip is a great way to discover new sites and places. It could be a nice hiking trail, a cool attraction, or a trendy local restaurant. But will your furry friend be welcomed? While leaving your dog in your car, especially during the heat of the summer, isn't a solution, make sure your route has plenty of dog-friendly options.

Also, if you have a specific destination in mind, make sure it is a dog-friendly town. Not only you want to be able to bring Fido to the local trails, but you also want to be sure there is a vet clinic on site in case something happens. Moreover, while some accommodation welcome pets, owners are not permitted to leave them unattended in units. Pick a destination that has plenty of dog-friendly restaurants, parks, trails, and attractions so your pawl can tag along.

If the dog-friendly town of Whistler in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia is up your alley, make sure to check out our Local's Guide to Pet-Friendly Whistler for lists of pet-friendly hotels, dog-friendly hiking trails, dog-friendly businesses, pet stores, and more!

Read more: Our Favourite Dog-Friendly Adventure Hikes in Whistler

Plan for breaks 

Road tripping with dogs require a lot of pit stops. Make sure you allow plenty of time to stop, not only for potty breaks but also to exercise. Because you want to keep them relaxed and comfortable during the journey, it's important to ensure your furry companion work out some energy during long stretches of car time. Frequent stops are not only a fun way to check explore new sites but also a good way to prevent car sickness. 


Check in with your vet

If you're heading out on a longer trip, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to make sure your pet is fit for the trip and that they have what they need to travel. If your pet has any travel anxiety or motion sickness, now is also a good time to check in with your vet about treatment options.

Additionally, if you’re visiting a new area, be aware of any potential risks to your pet’s safety. Discuss with your vet flea and tick medicine, heartworm medicine, and other precautionary measures you should take. This is especially important in terms of vaccines, as certain parts of the country are more susceptible to certain diseases.

Read more: Travelling with Pets in Whistler

Learn the symptoms of motion sickness

While motion sickness is most common in young pups and/or anxious dogs, especially if your dog isn’t used to the car, your dog can still be at risk. 

Symptoms of motion sickness include: whining, pacing, vomiting, lethargy, excessive drooling, and diarrhea. In addition, if your dog start showing signs like restlessness, shaking or panting before or during car rides, they could experience anxiety.  

Some prescription medications and supplements can help in these cases. Your veterinarian can prescribe medications that will help keep your pet relaxed and relieve nausea.

Dr. Lopez, a small animal emergency vet based in Whistler, BC, who has more than 10 years of experience as a veterinarian, mentions, "I think for travelling, pets that get really anxious in the car or that are going to be on a plane really benefit from some type of sedative or anxiety-reducing medication (minimally, trazodone, but some pets need something stronger)." 

Here are some tips to prevent motion sickness:

  • Incorporate small car journeys ahead of taking the trip
  • Have them securely fastened and feeling safe
  • Keep the car cool and maintain a calm car environment to reduce anxiety
  • Avoid food for a few hours before the trip
  • Visit your vet to discuss anti-anxiety/sickness medication if it persists

Read more: Tips for Tavelling Safely with Your Pets

Be prepared for emergencies

When you’re on the road, dealing with medical issues and accidents can be more complicated. Be prepared and bring the following things with you on your trip:

  • Make an emergency plan and bring a first-aid kit for pets
  • The telephone number of your veterinarian and a list of vet clinics & hospitals at destination and on the road
  • Medical insurance
  • Up to date flea and worm treatments
  • Up to date vaccination certification
  • Medication/supplements that are prescribed/recommended by your vet
  • Get them microchipped if not already!

Dr. Lopez advises," Plan your route ahead of time and make an emergency plan (find out where the vets are where you are be travelling, and where the nearest 24h emergency care is). If you have a pet with lots of health problems (especially breathing problems or heart problems) and there will be no emergency care available where you are travelling….honestly, I wouldn’t go on the trip. In the ER I see a lot of pets with breathing problems (collapsing tracheas, heart problems, etc.) that get very anxious in the car, and by the time they arrive in Whistler they are in distress and can be very challenging to save. In retrospect, everyone always says that they should have just stayed home and usually the family feels really guilty about having brought them, which is OK if we save them, but hard to wash away if we don’t."

Make sure your pawl practices a good dog etiquette

If you're planning on exploring dog-friendly sites and trails, ensure that your dog is calm and polite and practice a good dog etiquette, whether it’s long car rides, busy coffee shops, or remote trails.

Dog hiking with woman

Read more: Keep the Trails Dog-Friendly by Following Dog Hiking Etiquette

Packing checklist

Road trip essentials 

  • Collapsible travel bowls for food and water – Collapsible bowls do not take up much space and are perfect for long car rides.
  • Dog food – Your dog’s food will bring comfort and familiar things you can pack. Measure out enough dog food for the entire trip plus at least another few days worth of food just in case. Keep in mind that some dogs eat less when in unfamiliar places.
  • Water and refillable bottles – Your dog will require a lot of fresh water daily. Make sure you bring enough for both of you and refill as needed during your stops.
  • Current veterinary records – Keeping vital information about your dog’s health on your phone, such as general health and vaccination records, can save you from trying to track this down on the fly. 
  • Pet first aid kit – Mishaps happen, whether it is a cut, a broken bone, an allergic reaction, or even just overexertion. 
  • Collar or dog harness + tag ID – It is essential that your dog has up-to-date identifications in case you both get separated while on your trip. If your dog isn’t microchipped, putting this on your list of things to do before you leave will give you some peace of mind. Also, if your dog is microchipped, make sure the information is current.
  • Important documents and phone numbers – Make sure to look up a few veterinary clinics and hospitals along your route and at destination, in case you need vet support on the road. Also, keep the phone number for ASPCA poison control or the Pet Poison Control hotline in your emergency numbers.
  • Medications/supplements – Medication/supplements that are prescribed/recommended by your vet
  • Leash – Accidents near the roads happen fast. Always leash your dog during potty breaks. Also, most dog-friendly trails require our furry friends to be leashed at all times and so it’s important to have a good quality leash on hand to be considerate of the local pet rules and regulations, as well as other people and wildlife on the trail.
  • Treats – What’s a road trip without some good snacks? Bringing a nutritious and rewarding treat can be used as a great incentive for a long trip.
  • Favourite toy/blankie – A new location may be overwhelming for your dog, so bringing a little comfort from home can help your furbaby feel secure and happy. 
  • Dog poop bags and accessories – You know what's cool? Picking up after your dog. If you’re doing a lot of walking or taking adventures, it’s handy to have a poo bag dispenser and a dog pocket to carry dog waste until you reach a bin.

Other essential items to consider

  • Collapsible crate 
  • Car seat
  • Car harness 
  • Flea remover 
  • Towel
  • Dog bed 
  • Life vest with handle
  • Soft muzzle
  • Extra leash
  • Sanitizer mist 
  • Hair brush 
  • Dog shampoo and conditioner 

Enjoy a smooth & pawsome road trip!

Going road tripping with your favourite co-pawlot can be challenging. But with some adequate planning, proper preparation, and a good packing checklist, you and your pawl can have a smooth, pawsome trip that you’ll always remember. 

Are you planning a summer road trip with your dog? If so, where are you going? Let us know in the comments :)

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Road Trip Essentials

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