By Chris Pitts, RVT, of Broadway Animal Hospital.
Traveling with a puppy means being prepared. Prepared to get your puppy out to eliminate often. Prepared with vaccines. And prepared with distractions.
First and foremost, before you travel with your puppy, make sure his vaccines are up to date. Parvo virus is the biggest concern for a puppy. It is a virus that is transmitted via a fecal-oral route and can remain in the soil for months even after contaminated feces are removed. All your pup has to do is walk over the contaminated ground and then lick his paw and he has been infected. Disease signs are lack of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea, and possible eventual death. Your puppy needs one distemper/parvo vaccine every three weeks from the time they are six to eight weeks old until they are over 16 weeks of age to be considered fully vaccinated. The full effectiveness of the series is considered complete ten days after the last vaccine.
Rabies would actually be of second-most concern as long as you are keeping your puppy on leash and away from potentially infected wildlife and other dogs. This is because Rabies requires direct contact with a rabid animal. The rabies vaccine can be given between 12 and 16 weeks of age. Many veterinarians try to give the Rabies vaccine at 16 weeks of age, when it typically corresponds to the end of the distemper/parvo vaccine series. If your puppy does get bit by another dog, try to find out if the other dog has been vaccinated for Rabies. If he has not, or if a wild animal bites your pup, get to a veterinarian and get the Rabies vaccine.
Making sure your puppy can get out to eliminate every couple of hours is key not only to his potty training, but also to keeping him healthy. Dogs that have to hold their urine longer are more prone to urinary tract infections, and skin issues from licking at urine droplets as they try to hold their urine. If you think your puppy may end up spending long hours in a hotel room on your trip, it might be better to let him stay at a boarding facility or to hire a house-sitter.
Puppies are notorious for chewing. A good strong Kong toy with a little snack stuffed into it can be a great distraction for your puppy while he is left in his crate when you need to go out to dinner. The Kong will give him something to keep him occupied, and the crate will ensure he does not chew up the hotel couch while you are out tasting the local delicacies. Preferably, you would find a dog friendly restaurant and bring your cutie-pie with you, but when you can’t, go for a sturdy Kong and a crate.
Last, but not least, please keep your puppy on a leash while you are out and about. Not only are puppies still learning their commands, but there is so much in the world that is so exciting to them. A new smell to follow, a new animal to chase, and friendly people with yummy food to sample can all result in a lost puppy. Keeping your pup leashed will increase the chance you spend more time relaxing on your trip, and less time worrying about what could have happened to your lovely little dog.