Dogs make the best travel companions; they’re happy to go wherever you want
By Kim Campbell Thornton
Andrews McMeel Syndication
Vaccinations on board, we broke out of COVID confinement in May, loaded the car with our two dogs and their paraphernalia -- a considerable amount with seniors who require special food and medication -- and ventured to Oklahoma and New Mexico for a six-week visit with family and friends we hadn’t seen in more than a year.
Our dogs are experienced travelers and settled right back into the rhythm of being on the road. We did, too, but as always, we picked up some new tips based on our experiences. As you and your animal friends hit the road in the coming months, the following advice may help smooth your path.
-- Confirm what a hotel means by the term “pet-friendly.” One of our stays was at the historic La Fonda in Santa Fe. On the plus side, the dogs could join us at lobby-side tables for meals at the in-house La Plazuela restaurant and treats were handed out lavishly by staff, but we discovered on check-in that we would not be able to leave our sleepy dogs in the room in their crate while we had dinner with friends. We had to confer with the concierge, who made several phone calls before finding a pet sitter who could stay with them in the room at the last minute -- at last-minute prices.
-- Location, location, location. When booking, ask for a room on the first or second floor. Forget a view; you’ll be grateful when it’s time to hustle your dog outdoors for that potty trip first thing in the morning or last thing at night.
-- Bring more pet food than you think you’ll need, especially if your pets eat a brand that isn’t found everywhere. The store locator on the company’s website might say that stores in the area you’re visiting carry its food, but often the selection is small, limited to treats or isn’t available in the form your pet is used to eating.
-- Ask if your veterinarian can recommend a colleague in the area where you’ll be traveling, or get recommendations from friends and family in the area. Harper was getting fluids every week while we were traveling. My husband is pretty good at administering them, but a few times she yelped when he inserted the needle, which made all of us unhappy. We were able to take her to a veterinarian I knew of in Tulsa who checked her over, administered the fluids and shared advice on ways to place the needle so it would be more comfortable for her.
-- Watch for endemic hazards. We have foxtails in California, but our suburban housedogs don’t ever come in contact with them. But in the gorgeous riverfront backyard of our Airbnb in Embudo, New Mexico, they were at high risk from them, especially Harper, who likes to sniff everything. Red ants were another concern. It seemed impossible to avoid them as we walked the dogs in and out of the various homes where we were staying. Fortunately, we had only one incident that might have involved an ant sting, and Keeper recovered quickly with some TLC.
-- Beware of bloodthirsty hitchhikers. We knew we were heading to tick country and we kept a close eye out for them, but at least one slipped past our defenses. I took Harper to the veterinarian the day after we returned home, and he came out to the car bearing the body of a deer tick (Ixodes scapularis) found on her neck. Next time, I’ll add a tick preventive to their complement of medication.
-- Enjoy the trip. With young pets, it’s a chance to build a bond and enhance social skills. With dogs in their prime, it’s an active vacation filled with hiking, dog sports and exploration. With seniors, you’re looking back with love, remembering past trips fondly and hoping for a few more as you go together into the future.
Help scared pets
Q: My pets were really frightened by the recent fireworks, even though we kept them indoors. How can we help them get back to normal?
A: When they’ve gone through something scary, animals can experience stress and anxiety like that suffered by war veterans or disaster survivors. Dogs may break housetraining or cats stop using the litter box. Sometimes they bark or meow for no apparent reason, hide or behave aggressively when they didn’t do so before. Dogs may pant, pace or lose weight.
You can help by the way you respond. Here are some steps to take to help your pets decompress and start to feel safe again.
Provide them with a small, secure area where they can retreat from other pets, noisy kids or household activities. That can be a crate or a space in a little-used closet or bathroom, for instance. If you’re squeezed for space, use a screen or other barrier to partially block off an area in a bigger room.
Place a favorite toy or a piece of clothing you’ve worn in the safe space. Your pet will be comforted by your scent.
Offer interactive play, such as chasing a ball or batting at a peacock feather. The activity can help alleviate stress -- but go at your pet’s pace. Stop when she’s no longer interested.
Maintain a normal routine for feeding, play, grooming and walks.
Be calm when you leave the house and when you return. Lavishing pets with attention and affection before departures or on returns can contribute to the development of separation anxiety.
Never punish pets for anxious behaviors. That can increase their fear. Instead, help your pet succeed.
If your pet continues to appear anxious or stressed, schedule a veterinary exam to make sure there’s no underlying physical problem that’s causing the behavior change. -- Mikkel Becker
Do you have a pet question? Send it to email@example.com or visit Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker.
Pet care savings
-- Seniors living on a fixed income may worry about the costs of living with a pet, but AARP has tips on ways the pet-loving life can be affordable. Contact nonprofit Pets for the Elderly about reduced shelter adoption fees from 56 shelters in 35 states. Some shelters aid pet owners who need help with veterinary bills, food or other pet care needs. For pets who need prescriptions, ask the veterinarian if a generic form of the medication is available at a lower cost. Pharmacy discount websites such as GoodRx also have lower prices for some pet meds.
-- The American Veterinary Medical Association is attempting to set a Guinness World Record for the world’s largest virtual pet party, and you and your pet can attend. It’s scheduled for Thursday, July 29, at noon CDT, kicking off AVMA’s 2021 virtual convention. Entertainment includes a live concert featuring a Prince tribute band performing at First Avenue in Minneapolis. Attendance is free. Register at AVMA’s website -- ebusiness.avma.org/Meetings/AVMAMtgMain.aspx?type=VCONV -- using the code MEOW21.
-- Seeking pet-friendly housing? Help may be at hand thanks to lobbyists and pet industry insiders meeting in October with Congressional legislators. Pet journalist Sandy Robins reports at FearFreeHappyHomes.com that during Pet Week, hosted annually in Washington, D.C., by the Human Animal Bond Research Initiative, lawmakers will have the opportunity to learn about the importance of pets to human health and quality of life and study evidence about the financial and psychological benefits of pet-friendly rental policies. A market research study commissioned by Michelson Found Animals Foundation in conjunction with HABRI discovered that -- among other facts and figures -- a rental’s pet policy ranks second only to budget when pet lovers search for homes, and that residents in pet-friendly units stay 21% longer than those in non-pet-friendly units. -- Dr. Marty Becker, Kim Campbell Thornton and Mikkel Becker
ABOUT PET CONNECTION
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet care experts headed by “The Dr. Oz Show” veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker, founder of the Fear Free organization and author of many best-selling pet care books, and award-winning journalist Kim Campbell Thornton. Joining them is behavior consultant and lead animal trainer for Fear Free Pets Mikkel Becker. Dr. Becker can be found at Facebook.com/DrMartyBecker or on Twitter at DrMartyBecker. Kim Campbell Thornton is at Facebook.com/KimCampbellThornton and on Twitter at kkcthornton. Mikkel Becker is at Facebook.com/MikkelBecker and on Twitter at MikkelBecker.