Is your favorite road trip buddy now a senior? Traveling with an older dog or cat is possible—and fun! You just need to make a few adjustments. Here are our best tips for traveling with your elderly dog or cat.
Wait! Who Are You Calling Elderly?
You might not think of your pet as “elderly,” but cats claim senior status when they reach 11 to 14 years old. Small dogs are considered senior citizens when they reach 11 to 12 years of age. Medium-sized dogs become seniors at 10 years old. Larger-sized dogs are seniors at 8, and giant-breed dogs are seniors at 7 years old.
When changes in our pets happen slowly, we sometimes don’t even notice them. But the subtle adjustments you’ve made to care for your dog or cat at home will require a little more thought on a road trip.
Preparations For Traveling With Elderly Pets
The memories made while traveling with elderly pets are precious. And with a few simple steps, you can make the trip more comfortable and safe for your senior travel buddy.
Consult Your Vet
You didn’t need us to tell you this, right? Before setting out on a trip with your elderly pet, check with your vet for any suggestions to keep him safe and happy. Also confirm that there are no required adjustments to your pet’s medication.
Set Medication Reminders
Packing for even an overnight trip gets more complicated as our pets age. If your vet has prescribed medication for your pet, set an alarm on your phone while you’re traveling to remind you of their normal dosing schedule. And don’t forget their regular meds like flea or heartworm treatments.
Plan More Frequent Breaks
You may be amazed at how easily your trip goes if you take more frequent breaks. Yes, I know you want to get to your awesome destination quickly. But stopping every two hours will help your older dog or cat enjoy the trip more. And you’ll arrive feeling less stiff, too!
If your traveling buddy is a cat, you can use disposable litter boxes in the car. Each day, set a new one on the floorboard. Just try one out at home first, so your cat finds it familiar!
Get A Ramp
Jumping in and out of a car every few hours can be rough on aging joints. So get a ramp. And make time to teach your dog to use it before setting out on your trip.
You will find many options for pet ramps online. Look for one that’s made to hold your dog’s weight and will fit in your vehicle.
READ MORE ⇒ Tips For Choosing & Using A Dog Ramp
Cushion Your Pup
In his younger days, your dog was probably fine lying on a concrete patio. But older bones need cushioning. And on cool days, hard surfaces can be chilly.
So remember to pack a simple cushion to make dozing under the table at pet friendly restaurants, wineries, or breweries more comfortable when traveling with elderly pets.
Bring Something Familiar Along
All pets – but especially those with diminished eyesight and hearing – feel more secure when they have familiar things around them. Along with all the other things you will need to pack for your pet, be sure to take their favorite bed or blanket so they’ll have a comforting place to curl up in places that are new to them.
If your dog is used to sitting next to you in the car, but will be crated for safety on a long trip, put something in the crate that smells like you. You might not think your dirty socks are much of a treat. But your pup who loves you will appreciate them. And one of the blessings of traveling with an elderly pet? They have probably outgrown the desire to destroy your belongings by chewing.
Plan Less Strenuous Outdoor Time
Your older dog might still love to explore. But pay attention to any struggles he’s having. As our dog, Ty, got older he lost none of his enthusiasm for hiking. But we started to notice that if our route included hills, Ty had a tough time climbing them without stopping to rest.
Choosing activities that are less strenuous, or trails with less elevation changes, will allow you and your dog to continue to enjoy your outings together.
Mind Extreme Temperatures
Both extreme cold and hot temperatures can affect older pets more.
We saw that high temperatures and humidity sapped Ty’s energy more quickly as he aged. So, in addition to searching out flatter hikes, we spent more time consulting the forecast when planning our activities.
READ MORE ⇒ Cold Water Tips for Travel With Pets
Consider A Dog Stroller
Ty lived to be 15 – truly an accomplishment for a Shar-pei! But the older he got, the less hiking he wanted to do. That doesn’t mean we no longer spent quality time outdoors! We also had a younger German Shepherd who still needed his exercise.
Doing things as a family was important to us, so we got Ty a dog stroller. If you have an elderly pet and another that still needs more exercise, this could be a good option for you, too!
READ MORE ⇒ Best Dog Stroller for Medium Sized Dogs
Enjoy Sightseeing By Car
When figuring out how to give Ty some rest while entertaining Buster, going for a drive was another popular option for us. Ty would generally curl up in his bed and sleep. And Buster would keep a watchful eye on everything and everyone we passed.
This is a great way to see wildlife refuges, national parks, and other sensitive places where dogs are not allowed on the trails.
In the future, I expect sightseeing road trips will benefit our young boy, Myles and his older brother, Maynard, too.
Sometimes you need to think a little differently to find the right mix for your senior pet. This is a time to get creative!
Once we happened upon a campground in the Bridger-Teton National Forest near Jackson, Wyoming, and rented a lakeside campsite for an afternoon. We strung up the dogs’ zip line, hung our hammocks, unpacked the picnic goodies, and spent a few hours enjoying the view. There were some trails where we took Buster for a stroll!
Another time we found a pet friendly scenic train ride, where Buster got plenty of stimulation, and Ty was able to curl up for a nap.
READ MORE ⇒ All Aboard! Pet Friendly Scenic Train Rides
When it comes to traveling with senior pets, you’re only limited by your imagination!
Keep Traveling With Your Elderly Pets
Dogs and cats (and ferrets, hamsters, rats, birds—heck, all pets) need enrichment every day. New smells and settings can provide that for them.
But most of all, they want to be with you. So take your senior pet with you on your next trip. Hopefully our tips will make it easy and fun.
Have you found other activities to do with your senior dogs? Share your tips below in the comments – we would love to hear from you!
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