PupETravlr on March 29th, 2010

I’ll be out of touch for the next week or so, as I’m taking the doggies on a road trip.  I am taking some time off of work so that we can go to Florida — whoo hoo!  I found a great Orlando pet hotel to stay at, and since we’re driving down, we’re stopping on the way to visit friends in Saint Louis, Missouri.  They offered to put us up so that we don’t have to look for dog friendly hotels at our halfway point.

Today, though, I wanted to talk about something that always worries me — the possibility of losing my dogs while I’m on the road.  When you are in an unfamiliar place, having a dog run off would be disastrous, especially if you are on a time table.  Here are a few things I do to help protect me from that happening.  They are not fool proof, but they sure make it much less likely.

  • Lots of recall training.  Recall is your dog’s ability to come right back to you when you call.  Unfortunately, this is a skill that many people don’t take the time to teach.  I highly suggest, if you plan on traveling with your dog, doing a lot of practice on coming when you call, with a dog trainer if necessary.  It’ll make it much less likely that you won’t be able to get him back if he runs off in a strange town.
  • Microchip.  Microchips can be done by your vet, and don’t cost all that much when you consider the peace of mind they can give you.  The chip is placed between your pet’s shoulder blades, and can be scanned by any vet or the pound.  As long as you keep the chip updated with your most current address and phone number, you can be contacted if your pet is found.  Don’t forget to use your cell phone number as a contact number, as someone calling your home won’t do you much good if you are on the road!
  • Always keep a collar and tags on your dog.  Be sure that his tags also have your cell phone number on them, and that he wears his rabies tag, too.  A rabies tag is especially important, considering many places are pretty strict about pets having them.  Carrying a copy of your pet’s latest immunization records might not be a bad idea, either, in case your pet gets out of his collar.

It’s impossible to protect against losing your pet entirely, but it is important to take all the right precautions.  These are some things you can do to keep your pet as safe as possible — and your trip stress-free!

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PupETravlr on March 25th, 2010

The weather is getting warmer in many places, so it seems like a good time to talk about not leaving your pets in the car.  This is important to know, especially if you take your pets on road trips frequently.  Leaving them in the car while you go inside for a bite to eat is simply not an option.

A lot of people don’t realize that even if it’s only 70 degrees outside, the inside of a car can quickly become quite hot, especially if the car is painted a dark color and parked in direct sun.  Think about how many times you’ve had to crack the windows, or air out the car after it’s been parked in the sun for a while, even on an unseasonably warm winter’s day.  It doesn’t take much for the inside of a car to get too hot.

So what happens to your pet when you leave them inside a hot car?  Well, the heat causes disastrous, and usually permanent, damage to their organs.  It happens pretty quickly on a hot day, too.  By the time you see a dog in obvious distress in a hot car, it is probably already too late — even though the dog is still alive, his organs may already be beyond help.

If you do accidentally leave your pet in a hot car, the most important thing to do if you want to save them is to get to an emergency vet RIGHT AWAY.  Immediate vet care is the only thing that can save a pet once the damage to their organs has started.  This is another reason why it’s good to always look up the emergency vet clinics in the area where you will be staying, so that you don’t have to waste time trying to figure out where to go.

Finally, don’t be tempted to crack the windows and “just run in real quick.”  First of all, cracking the windows actually does very little to prevent the temperature in your car from rising.  And secondly, you never know what will delay you, making your stop anything but quick: Long lines, spotting someone you know, or even a freak accident could delay your return until it’s too late.

For your pet’s sake, be sure you never leave them alone in the car on a warm day when you are traveling.  If you know you are going to have to go to the bathroom at rest stops, plan your trip so that you are traveling at night or during the cooler parts of the day, so that you can safely leave your pet in the car.  If you are at your destination, the solution is easy — just leave your pet in the hotel if you know you are going to have to go into places where they can’t accompany you.

PupETravlr on March 22nd, 2010

I’m thinking about taking another trip soon, as soon as I feel my cat is doing well enough.  As of right now I’m thinking of taking a couple of days off of work to visit family friends in the southeastern United States.  My mom’s friend in North Carolina has offered to put me up so that I won’t have to spend money to stay at a pet friendly hotel in Charlotte.  I’m pretty good about shopping around for the best rates, so the savings aren’t much, but I guess every little bit helps, right?

Anyway, since one of my recent posts on day trips with your pet, I’ve been thinking about doing a post on choosing a travel water bottle or bowl for your pet.  I’ve tried several different kinds, so I can offer some insight on what I like and don’t like.

I have this portable pet water bowl, which is basically a water bottle with a rubber “bowl” attached to it.  The bowl fits snugly around the bottle when not in use; to use, you just turn it inside out and lay the water bottle down.  It is designed so that the water flows back inside the bottle when your dog is done drinking, so that less water is wasted, but of course it’s not perfect.  Still, it’s a very clever design and a useful travel bowl to have on hand for your dog.

I also have a collapsible fabric water bowl, like this travel water bowl.  They are a great idea, because then you can carry one water bottle for the both of you, or even fill the bowl at a drinking fountain if you need to.  The drawbacks are that whatever is left in the bowl when your pet is done drinking is basically wasted, as you have to dump it out to collapse it, and also that they can spill if you don’t set them up carefully or if your dog pushes it around while drinking.

I also saw this travel water bottle that can be used by both you and your pet.  It comes with a waist pack for easy carrying, and a bowl for your pet to drink out of.  I don’t have this one so I can’t offer any words of wisdom, but it sure looks like it would be the most convenient of everything I’ve seen, particularly because the waist pack makes it so easy to carry everything you need.

Luckily, most products like this are pretty inexpensive, so you should find it easy enough to try a couple out and see what works best for you.  The most important thing is simply that you have water available for your pet on hot days – even if this just means squirting water from your bottle into his mouth!

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PupETravlr on March 17th, 2010

Traveling with your pets starts getting complicated when you cross country borders.  Then it becomes more than just a matter of finding pet friendly hotels or booking a plane ticket for your pet.  Because of the concerns of bringing diseases into the country from other places, many countries require an animal to be quarantined upon arrival, or at the very least, to have a health certification from a vet.

Traveling into Canada is probably the easiest for Americans who want to travel with their pets.  You can go back and forth across the U.S./Canadian border all day with your pets and no one is going to care.

Traveling into the U.K. is also fairly easy, as they have a program there called PETS (Pet Travel Scheme) that was set up to allow people to travel with their pets more easily.  As long as certain conditions are met — such as coming from one of the approved countries, or the animal having been vaccinated for rabies, for example — you can bring your pet into the UK without having to quarantine them.

Certain other countries require your pet to have a health certificate, usually from an APHIS Accredited Veterinarian.  This verifies to the country that your pet is free of any of the diseases they don’t want in their country, and is a much better alternative than quarantining your pet.

Quarantine may or may not be required, though.  Some countries require it only when certain conditions can’t be met, such as providing immunization records for the pet.  Other countries require it across the board.

Knowing how various countries deal with pets coming into their country is important if you are planning on traveling internationally with your pet.  You may need to plan for it in advance, for example, to ensure that you have all of the requirements (such as a health certificate, or certain immunizations) met before your trip.  You may also need to plan your trip according to which countries will allow you to travel with your pet without quarantining them.

If you need more information, this page on international pet travel lists out all of the countries and what their requirements are.  You can also find out more information online by doing a quick Google search.  Be sure to do all your research ahead of time, so that you can better plan for your trip!

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PupETravlr on March 14th, 2010

It just occurred to me that this is spring break time.  When I was in college, I used to love hiking and going places on spring break, and of course this is also a great time to take your dog with you — especially with the weather starting to warm up in many places in the country.

Most people like to head somewhere warm during spring break, such as California or even the Pacific Northwest.  If this is you be sure to check out this San Diego pet hotel for great rates and friendly service.  There is also a great pet hotel in Seattle that I’d highly recommend.

I also know people who like to spend their spring break in less frequently traveled places.  For instance, a friend of mine who lives in Pennsylvania likes to stay in the nearby Pocono Mountains, where there are lots of resorts to choose from — in pretty much every price range.  Other popular destinations include more exotic places, such as Hawaii or the Caribbean, or of course Europe.

I, on the other hand, always preferred heading up into the mountains with my dogs.  I love living in Colorado, and there are some great dog-friendly hikes and towns in the Colorado Rockies.  I like to pack some water and maybe a lunch (unless I plan on stopping somewhere along the way), and hitting the trails for hours at a time.  I wish I had some pictures to show for it, but with two dogs my hands are always too full for a camera!

If you want to hike with your dog this spring break, you may be able to find a guide at your book store.  For example, this one — Best Hikes with Dogs: Colorado – gives all the good hikes to take your dog on.  It’s a good guide, because otherwise you might choose a trail that doesn’t allow dogs, such as the challenging Hanging Lake Trail.

So what are your plans for spring break this year — or, if spring break already passed, what did you do?  And did you do it with or without your four-legged fur children?

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PupETravlr on March 12th, 2010

Tomorrow is supposed to be beautiful and sunny, with a high in the mid 50s, but Sunday isn’t looking so hot — the forecast is calling for possible rain and/or snow.  As a result, a weekend trip is out of the question — though it would have been anyway, since my cat is sick.

Instead, I’m thinking of taking advantage of the nice weather tomorrow.  A day trip sounds like fun, as we haven’t been able to take many of these this winter — too snowy and cold most of the season.

On day trips, I like to take the dogs and go for a hike.  That’s probably what we’ll do tomorrow — the trails in the lower elevations are finally starting to dry out, and I’ve been itching for a nice weekend day when I have a chance to get out and enjoy it.

When you go on a day trip, it’s important to remember that you are not just packing for yourself — you are also packing for your dog.  You know that you will get hungry and thirsty as the day goes on, but don’t forget that your dog will too — and your dog shouldn’t be drinking out of streams or pools of standing water any more than you should.

I’m hesitant to feed my dog too much before, during, and after a lot of physical or mental excitement, so I do tend to keep feedings to a minimum.  I usually give a small meal in the morning before we leave the house, leaving enough time for my dogs to digest it before all the activity.  It’s usually okay for them to digest in the car while we drive — but some dogs get too excited about the car and get sick, so keep this in mind.

I also always bring water for the dogs.  I like to use either something like this travel water bottle, or one of those portable dog bowls that you can fold up and carry in your pocket.  The nice thing about the dog bowl is that you just have to carry one water bottle — just pour a little water from your bottle into your dog’s dish, and let him drink.

If you’re going on a long hike, it’s good to carry a few first aid supplies with you, too.  I like to have a pair of tweezers, in case one of my dogs gets something stuck in the pads of their foot that I can’t get out with my bare fingers.  I also like to carry some type of wound cleaner and a small bandage roll, just in case one of us gets hurt.

Finally, don’t forget food for yourself — if you are planning on being pretty active, chances are you will need to eat periodically to keep your energy up.

If you are planning on visiting businesses during your day trip, be sure to do your research ahead of time, just as you would when looking for dog friendly hotels.  Some places let you have your dog lie under your table on the patio while you eat, while others won’t let anything through the door that walks on four legs.  Be sure you know what restaurants, parks, and other places will be accepting of your dog during your day trip.

Well, that’s about all I can think of right now.  I guess I had better get to bed soon, as I want to get an early start tomorrow!

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PupETravlr on March 10th, 2010

Traveling with our pets is partly for the pets, so that they don’t spend the time locked in a kennel, but it’s mostly for us.  I don’t know about you, but anytime I travel without my pets, I end up missing them quite a bit — I miss the warmth of my cats sleeping on me at night, and the enthusiasm my dogs greet me with every time I walk in the door.

It’s hard to admit, but sometimes traveling with our pets really isn’t in their best interests.  And staying behind may not be as bad as we think.  Instead of kennels, you can now board your dog in cage-free doggie daycare facilities, where they can play all day long.  As happy and exhausted as my dogs are every time I’ve boarded them at daycare, I’m pretty sure they were too busy having fun to miss me.  Then there are the times when I’ve had a favored friend stay at the house with them when they’re gone — I’m pretty sure they didn’t miss me then either.

Sometimes you can’t take your pet with you when you travel because it simply wouldn’t be fair to them — perhaps it’s a busy business trip, and you will hardly be spending any time at the hotel.  Or maybe you are flying, and your pet hates to fly.  Those are both good reasons toleave your pet behind when you travel.

Another good reason is for the sake of your pet’s health.  That’s something I’m dealing with right now — one of my cats hasn’t been feeling well, and hasn’t been eating well as a result.  In fact, he is doing poorly enough that I will probably put off my next trip another week — I’m concerned about going anywhere until he is eating a little better.

Owning pets is a lot of fun.  They are wonderful companions, and can be great travel companions too.  But we can’t become so enamored of their company that we forget what is best for them.  Owning a pet means that we have to be able to recognize — and do — the responsible thing, for the sake of our pets.  This might mean boarding your pet somewhere or getting a pet sitter, or it may mean putting off your trip if your pet gets sick.  To me, owning a pet is like being a parent — it is fun and rewarding, but it also means responsibilities.

PupETravlr on March 6th, 2010

vaccinationWe’ve had a rash of good weather lately, and I’ve been gearing up for my next trip.  I’m long overdue for a visit to a friend in the PNC, so I’ve been looking for a pet hotel in Seattle.

Before we go anywhere, though, I want to be sure to get the dogs in to see the vet — they are both due for shots.  It’s obviously important to keep your pets’ vaccinations up-to-date, but especially if you travel a lot — not only are you looking at a greater chance of exposure to the diseases we vaccinate for, but you also need to consider local vaccination laws.

Here is a list of vaccinations you should be sure your dog has before traveling:

  • Rabies - Because rabies is so serious, vaccination against it is required by law.  Some states still require yearly vaccination, while others acknowledge that a single vaccine protects a dog for several years.  Many vets have become concerned about over-vaccination, but if you frequently travel through areas that require yearly rabies vaccinations, you may want to comply.
  • Leptospirosis - This is a disease that dogs usually pick up from standing water, so if you go on lots of walks or visit dog parks on your travels, your dog may come into contact with this.  This vaccination only lasts a year, so unlike some of the other shots, you’ll have to get it at your dog’s annual exam.
  • Giardia - Dogs can get giardia by drinking water outdoors, or by eating the feces of animals that have giardia infections in their small intestines.  The vaccine from giardia doesn’t actually prevent the disease, but it keeps it from spreading by lessening the symptoms and limiting the amount of giardia that is in the dog’s feces, so it is an important vaccination for all dogs to have.
  • Lyme disease - This vaccine is only really necessary if you live in an area where ticks are common, or if you expect to be traveling in such an area.  The American Lyme Disease Foundation has a map that shows the areas in the United States where the risk is highest.  You really only need to vaccinate where the risk is medium or high.
  • Bordatella - Also known as kennel cough, bordatella spreads when dogs are kept in close quarters with one another, such as when you kennel your dog.  Most kennels require a vaccine against this highly contagious doggie disease, so if you plan on kenneling your dog instead of taking him with you, you’ll need to get this vaccination.  Be warned that it only lasts 6 months, so you will have to get it twice a year in order to keep your dog current!

Most vets recommend that you be sure to maintain an aggressive vaccination schedule if your dog is high risk.  Traveling a lot is considered high risk, because traveling causes stress and stress weakens the immune system.  At the same time, when you are traveling your dog is constantly encountering new things — new puddles to drink out of, new poop to sniff — so the risk is higher in that sense, too.

If you are thinking of traveling with your dog, be sure that his shots and other care is up-to-date before you leave.  Also, don’t forget that vaccines generally take a couple of weeks to be completely effective, so you will need to be sure to plan ahead.  For more information, this article is a really great resource on vaccinations!

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PupETravlr on February 28th, 2010

I was recently reading a couple of articles about breed-specific legislation (where municipalities ban certain breeds of dogs because they are viewed as being aggressive or dangerous) and which breeds are really the most aggressive.  You can read the articles here: The Three Most Aggressive Dog Breeds and Dog Bite Statistics.  Many people will find the truth surprising.

Getting sued or getting your dog taken away for biting somebody is every dog owner’s worst nightmare.  Even if your dog isn’t aggressive, it’s a possibility — you can’t control how people are likely to act, and as the second article discusses, courts routinely ignore personal responsibility.  People aren’t held accountable for what they were doing to the dog before they got bitten.

One of my biggest fears when I first started traveling with my dogs was that they would do something that would get me into trouble with the local municipality, such as run off or act aggressive toward someone.  Although I don’t worry about that as much anymore, I do think that anytime you are traveling with your dogs, you have certain responsibilities.  You are their owner, and you do need to protect yourself and them as much as possible.

Your responsibilities while traveling:

  • Pick up after your dog. If your dog poops at a rest stop or outside of your hotel, pick it up.  Dog friendly hotels and businesses will remain so as long as we don’t abuse the privilege.
  • Do your best to keep your dog from going potty in the hotel room. If you are going to travel with your dog, you have a responsibility to make sure he or she gets taken out often enough to avoid messes in the room.
  • Follow local leash laws. If your dog is supposed to be on leash, do it.  It’s not worth a ticket.  Personally, since I don’t want to have to worry about finding my dog in a strange city, I keep my dogs on a leash at all times when not in the car or the hotel room.  It’s just not worth the risk of losing one of them.
  • Know your dog’s limits. Honestly, if you know your dog feels threatened by people wearing funny hats, and a woman with a potentially fear-inducing hat starts walking toward you, turn around and walk the other way.  I’m being a little silly, but my point is, it’s best to avoid trouble whenever possible.

The other day when we were at the dog park, the owner of the dogs the girls were playing with said something about how rare real “dog people” are.  It’s true — a lot of people don’t like dogs, or can’t handle messes, barking, hair everywhere, etc.  That’s why finding dog friendly hotels and businesses can be such a hassle.  It’s important for us “dog people” to be fully appreciative of dog friendly businesses, and be sure to act as respectful and responsible as we possibly can.

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PupETravlr on February 26th, 2010
My brown dog, Emma

My brown dog, Emma

In my last post I mentioned a book I was skimming through at the time: Animals Make Us Human, by Temple Grandin.  I’ve also been reading a book called Inside of a Dog, by Alexandra Horowitz.  Can you tell I read a lot of books about dogs?  :)

Anyways, this book has been truly fascinating for me.  It’s not what you might expect, a book about how dumb dogs are and how we’re wrong to read human emotion into them.  It’s also not a book about how dogs are just like us.  Instead, it’s a research-driven book about what we actually know about what goes on inside our dogs: how well they can smell, how they interact with one another, how they solve problems.

One of the things I found the most interesting is the discussion about how highly developed their sense of smell is.  Horowitz refers to dogs all peeing on the same spot at the park as a sort of “conversation” — they can tell who has peed there, how long ago, etc.  So it really is a conversation to them — just one that we are (blissfully) unaware of.

Every dog owner has experienced the frantic sniffing of your hands and clothes after you get home from someplace interesting.  My dogs do a lot of that when I come home from a house where I was petting other dogs, for instance.  We don’t even think of it, but our dogs probably know everything about that other house and its dogs, just by the smells we carry home with us.

Hotel rooms must carry tons of smells — like a guest book of everyone who has stayed in that room recently.  I remember staying at an Atlanta pet friendly hotel once where my brown dog — the only one I had at the time — went crazy sniffing everything in the room.  She always does a fair amount of sniffing about, but never like this!  Even after she stopped sniffing everything, she seemed kind of restless that night.  It didn’t occur to me at the time, but she probably smelled something she didn’t like.  Who knows what — an unfriendly dog, trace scents from an old mess some other dog had made?

When you’re staying in hotels with your pets, there is of course nothing you can do about the smells.  Cleaning crews are human, and are going to clean a room so that it smells good by human standards.  But Horowitz says that a dog’s sense of smell is possibly as much as a million times better than ours, so what smells clean to us probably comes in as a cacophony of smells to a dog.

But I did think of an idea that might help dogs settle in to a strange-smelling hotel room.  If you don’t already, try bringing something with you from home to help comfort them — their bed, if it’s small enough, or perhaps a favorite blanket or throw pillow to snuggle with.  I don’t know whether or not it will actually help, but I would think that having a tangible link to home, even when in a strange place, ought to be comforting to an anxious dog.

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