By Bill Barboni, DVM and Chris Pitts, RVT, Marin Pet Hospital, San Rafael, CA
Our senior dog friends can be sensitive to change. Therefore, preparation is key to traveling with our older companions.
Building a sense of familiarity for your dog while on your trip is imperative to keeping him comfortable. If your dog is crate trained, then the crate has become your dog's den and is already a familiar place to him. Bring the crate. A blanket and a toy from home can provide the scent of home.
Be prepared with your dog's usual food. Older dogs are more prone to gastrointestinal upset than younger dogs. A change in your dog's diet is a great way to ensure you spend your trip doing a lot of cleaning. Feel free to splurge on gourmet treats for yourself while you are on the road, but where your senior dog is concerned, keep it as home-like as possible.
If you dog takes medications, make sure you have enough to get through your trip. Call your veterinarian a week in advance to get your refills ready. While you are at it, ask your vet to make a copy of your records to have on hand while you are out of town. Also, look up either a local vet or veterinary center at your destination so you know where to go if your dog needs medical attention.
Older dogs tend to get disoriented easier than their younger counterparts. Your furry friend may not be able to find his way back to the car from a strange hike like he used to. Keeping your dog on leash will keep him from wandering off. In addition, make sure your dog's tags and microchip information are up to date. Have a current picture of your dog on your cell phone. This way you can show the picture around if you need to.
Take into consideration what your time commitments will be on your trip. If you are going to spend most of the day away from your dog, then leaving him at home with a pet sitter may be a better option. A dog left alone to his own devices in a strange hotel room can cause a lot of damage trying to get out.
With a little forethought, your senior can be quite cozy on his trip with you. Take lots of pictures!