Road-Tripping with Fido – Tips for Car Travel with Your Dog

Roadtrip - your dog

As loving pet parents, we often take our dogs with us on roadtrips. Whether across the country or just across town, we need to think ahead about the trip and how well our dogs will fare. Should I feed him before we go? How often should I stop for potty breaks? From food to fun, here are some things to consider before buckling up Fido for the road.

Should I feed my dog before I leave?

To answer this question, consider your dog’s normal toilet routine. Most dogs need to defecate between 20 to 60 minutes after they are fed. The best thing to do here is feed the dog at least an hour in advance of leaving, so that he has time to do his business before you get in the car. If your dog has a tendency towards motion sickness, you may want to feed even earlier, or – if the trip is short – wait until you get to your destination.

Should I feed the regular amount?

If you feed your dog early enough that he can do his business before you get in the car, or if your trip is relatively short, then feeding the regular amount is probably OK. This is, of course, considering he does not get car sick. If you are not able to feed in advance, your trip will be several hours, or if your dog does get car sick, I suggest giving him just enough to take the edge off his hunger. In these cases, it is better to feed smaller amounts more often throughout the day.

Can I give him special treats along the way to help keep him calm?

Going on a road trip – especially a long one – is not the time to feed your dog something that he is not accustomed to. Stick with the familiar. It is also important that you pack enough food for him for the entire trip to ensure you don’t end up having to purchase an unfamiliar substitute, or feed him fast-food hamburgers along the way.

your dog poodle

We’ll be staying in hotels in route, and won’t have much time in the mornings.

A dog’s schedule is vital to his stress levels, and therefore his health. A stressed dog can easily get diarrhea, and believe me – I know from personal experience that is no fun on a road trip. First, be sure the hotel/motel you choose has plenty of grassy or dirt areas where you can walk your dog, both upon arrival and in the morning. Many dogs will not do their business on concrete, and the subsequent results will not be good. Secondly, you should plan your driving schedule so that you have plenty of time – both in the evening and in the morning – to feed your dog, give him time to digest it, and then do his business. Keep in mind that the surroundings are going to be new to him. He may be stressed, or he may just want to explore. Either way you should allow extra time to keep him happy and healthy.

My dog’s toilet habits are not predictable.

In this case, plan on stopping at east every two hours along the way to give your dog the opportunity to do his business. Be prepared for the trip to take longer than would otherwise be necessary. Make sure you have the proper clothing in the car for this purpose, such as a rain jacket or warm clothing for both you and your dog. You may be outside for a while!

What about water?

Water is critical for a dog, as getting dehydrated can cause lots of other health issues. Don’t allow them to over drink, though. Offer them short drinks every couple of hours and be sure to allow them ample opportunity to relieve themselves along the way.

The key to a successful roadtrip with your pooch is consideration and preparation. You should give as much thought to his comfort along the way as you give to your own. Being mindful of his need for food, water, climate control and toilet needs will help everyone arrive at your destination both safely and comfortably.

Cherri Megasko is co-owner of the pet and wildlife blog Cats, Dogs and Polliwogs.  She is a full-time traveler who is currently on extended holiday in Belize with her husband, Greg, and Yorkshire Terrier, Winston.