8 Tips for Keeping Your Senior Dog Safe on Holiday Road Trips

As the holidays approach, many of us begin planning road trips to visit family and friends. If you’re a senior dog guardian, this means figuring out how to best travel with your sugar-faced friend. For older dogs, long car rides can be especially difficult and challenging, so I’ve rounded up eight tips for keeping your senior dog safe and comfortable on your holiday road trip. With a little extra planning, you can ensure that both you and your dog have a happy and stress-free journey.

1. Make Sure Your Senior Dog is Healthy Enough for a Road Trip.

Traveling with your senior dog can be a great way to bond and make memories that will last a lifetime; however, it’s essential to make sure your furry friend is up for the adventure before hitting the road. That’s because as our dogs age, they may become less tolerant of car rides. This can result from a number of things, including pain, anxiety, and motion sickness.

A good precaution is to get him a check-up with his veterinarian to make sure he is up-to-date on his vaccinations and doesn’t have any underlying health conditions that could be aggravated by travel. If your dog has arthritis, for example, long car rides can be painful. Your vet can suggest ways to make the trip more comfortable for your dog.

Just as people can suffer from motion sickness, dogs can too. If your dog is prone to car sickness, there are certain measures you can take to help, such as breaking up the ride into shorter trips or feeding a light meal before travel.

Another topic for discussion is how to keep your older dog comfortable during stops. If your holiday getaway requires a long road trip, you’ll need to make sure your travel buddy has plenty of opportunities to stretch his legs and take potty breaks. Your vet can give you advice on how often to stop and how long each break should be.

If he’s given the green light to hit the road, you’ll want to start slowly, taking short car rides locally before embarking on a long drive. This will help him get accustomed to the motion of the car and the noise level, both of which can be stressors for senior dogs, and hopefully prevent any car sickness.

Finally, it’s important to talk to your vet about what to do in case of an emergency. If your dog has any chronic health conditions, be sure to pack any necessary medication and know where the closest 24-hour veterinary hospital is located.

2. Pack a First-Aid Kit and Keep It Updated with Your Dog’s Latest Medications and Health Information.

When you’re packing for a road trip with your dog, don’t forget to include a first-aid kit. It’s important to err on the side of caution and be prepared for anything when you’re traveling with your dog, especially if you’ve got a senior onboard. You never know when he may need some medical attention while you’re on the road.

Keep in mind the following tips when packing a first-aid kit for your senior dog:

  • Make sure you have the latest copies of your dog’s medical records, including immunization records, prescription medications, and any other relevant health information.
  • Pack an assortment of gauze pads, bandages, antibacterial ointment, hydrogen peroxide, antiseptic wipes, and instant cold packs.
  • Include a list of emergency contact numbers for your veterinarian, ASPCA poison control center, and local animal shelters.
  • If your dog has any special dietary needs, be sure to bring along enough food and treats to last the entire trip.
  • Don’t forget snacks and extra water for both you and your dog.

Pack everything you’ll need for the trip in an easily accessible place so you can make pit stops as needed. By following these simple tips, you can help ensure that your senior dog has a safe and enjoyable holiday road trip.

3. Keep Him Safe With a Crate or Seat Belt Harness.

Safety should be your top priority when road-tripping with your gray-muzzled companion. After all, he is part of the family, and you want him to enjoy the travel as much as you do. One of the best and easiest ways to keep your senior dog safe in the car is to invest in a crate or seat belt harness. This will help to prevent him from being thrown in the event of a sudden stop or accident. In addition, a comfortable crate will give him his own space to relax during long drives.

Seat belt harnesses are designed to attach to your dog’s regular collar and fasten him to the seat belt. When choosing a seat belt harness for your dog, there are a few things you should keep in mind. First, consider the size and weight of your dog. You’ll want to make sure the harness is comfortable and not too tight. Second, think about how active your dog is. If he tends to move around a lot, you’ll want to choose a harness with more straps or padding for extra security. Finally, consider the material of the harness.

Opting for a crate? Look for one that will provide a safe and comfortable space for your furry friend, meaning it is the appropriate size for your dog. It should be large enough for your dog to stand up and turn around, but not so large that it would be difficult to secure in the car. Consider the material of the crate as well. A wire crate, for example, may provide good ventilation, but it can also be noisy and uncomfortable for your dog. A plastic or soft-sided crate may be a more cozy option provided that it’s well-ventilated and escape-proof. Lastly, think about how you will secure the crate in the car. It should be securely fastened so that doesn’t slide around or tip over while you are driving.

With these things in mind, you’ll be able to find the perfect travel crate or seat belt harness for your furry friend, but if you’re not sure which option is right for your dog, consult with your veterinarian or a pet expert. They can help you choose a product to keep your senior dog safe and secure on the open road.

4. Be Especially Careful When Braking or Making Sudden Movements.

When driving with senior dogs, be extra careful. They are more prone to injuries and may not be able to handle abrupt braking or movements as well as younger dogs. When stopping, make sure to do so gradually. And if you need to make a sudden turn as you go (sing it with me now) “over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house,” do your best to avoid jerking the wheel.

As much as possible, keep an eye on your dog while driving, in the event that he starts to get restless or uncomfortable. If possible, make frequent stops so he can stretch his legs and relieve himself.

5. Bring Along a Blanket or Bed for Security and Comfort.

Senior dogs may tire more easily on road trips than their younger counterparts. A good quality blanket can provide your dog with a sense of security and comfort in unfamiliar surroundings, help him stay warm, and protect him from the sun and wind. An extra layer of warmth can be helpful for older dogs, who tend to be more sensitive to cold weather.

A blanket is also a great way to keep their hair off your seats and clothes. Just ask my Head of Shed who loves snuggling up on his Three Wags blanket and mats, which transport wonderfully for on-the-go adventures. They’re durable, washable, soft, and not overly bulky, making them convenient for travel.

senior Siberian retriever rides in the back of a Toyota RAV4 on his sunflower dog blanket from Three Wags

Are you traveling with more than one dog? A blanket can also help them stay separated and avoid any conflict. We’re a single dog family, but I’d imagine car rides with two are similar to those with multiple little ones, minus the chorus of “Are we there yet?”

6. Remember a Favorite Toy.

Does your dog have a favorite toy? For Hunter, it’s hands down his squeaky shark, the one toy he makes sure he never leaves behind.

Bringing along a cherished toy not only provides senior dogs with a sense of security but helps to keep them entertained during long car rides and encourages then to burn off some of that extra energy. Toys also provide an important source of mental stimulation, helping to keep senior dogs sharp and engaged.

In addition to beloved, make sure to pick something that is durable and easy to clean. After all, there’s nothing worse than arriving at your destination to find that your dog’s favorite toy is covered in drool.

7. Keep Your Dog Mellow and Relaxed During the Trip by Playing Soothing Music or Offering Calming Treats.

Road trips can be a ton of fun, but they can be particularly stressful for a senior dog since their anxiety can make for a long and uncomfortable trip. Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to help keep your sweet senior composed and relaxed.

Playing soothing music or putting on a calming podcast can help to ease your senior’s anxiety. You can even try music specifically designed for dogs! This type of music is often slow and contains sounds that are known to be relaxing for dogs, such as the sound of a heartbeat or the ticking of a clock, and is specifically calibrated to be within the range of frequencies that dogs can hear.

Studies have shown that soft music can lower your dog’s heart rate and blood pressure, reduce panting and wheezing, promote a feeling of well-being, encourage better sleep, and even alleviate pain. And best of all, it’s something you can enjoy together!

And of course, treats are always a good way to keep your dog happy. Just be sure not to overdo it since too many treats can lead to an upset stomach. You’ll want to avoid feeding him too close to travel time, but a small snack before buckling in may help to settle his stomach.

If your dog does start to get car sick, there are some over-the-counter remedies you can try, but remember that it’s always best to consult with your vet first.

8. Be Patient.

Traveling with a senior dog can be a great way to bond and create new memories together. If you’re planning a road trip with yours, be patient and give yourself plenty of time. Your dog may not be able to move as quickly as he used to, his senses may not be as sharp as they once were, he may become easily disoriented in unfamiliar surroundings, and he may need more frequent breaks, but that doesn’t mean he can’t enjoy the trip! Just take things at a slower pace and enjoy the journey.

Safety Comes First When Bringing Your Senior Dog on Holiday Road Trips.

Senior dogs can still enjoy traveling to new and exciting destinations, but it’s important to take a few precautions to keep them safe along the way. By following these tips, you and your senior dog can have a worry-free holiday road trip!

Have you ever taken your senior dog on a road trip? What tips would you add? Leave me a comment below. I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Did you enjoy this post? Great, there’s more coming your way because it’s part of a photography blog circle featuring pet photographers from all over the world! Our weekly theme is filled with helpful tips for ensuring your pet has “A Safe Holiday Season.” Seattle dog photographer Holly Cook shares some tips for photographers to keep Santa safe this year and is the next safety checkpoint in this week’s circle. Continue to click the link at the end of each post in the blog circle until you eventually find your way back here. If you get lost along the way, just look for the trail of dog hair. I won’t be far off…

9 thoughts on “8 Tips for Keeping Your Senior Dog Safe on Holiday Road Trips

  1. Cahlean Klenke says:

    Those are great traveling with a pup tips! I love that they’re geared towards senior dogs, but would work for adults too!

  2. Elaine says:

    Your focus on the senior dogs with these great pet travel tips were well done! Our dogs have been trained to travel in a nicely padded crate, where they immediately lay down and fall asleep. Dogs running loose in a car or with heads hanging out of the window is a pet-peeve (no pun intended) of mine.

    • Bark & Gold Photography says:

      Thank you! Yes, an unrestrained animal in a vehicle is just an accident waiting to happen. Even scarier is when you see someone driving with little dogs on their lap!

  3. Terri says:

    How to know when senior dogs whine on road trips if just excited or are in any type of pain/or discomfort or if they are maybe overly anxious? I’m always just guessing on what it could be.

    • Bark & Gold Photography says:

      Great question, Terri!

      When your senior dogs starts whining on road trips, keep an eye on how they’re acting—if they seem relaxed and the whining isn’t too constant, they’re probably just pumped up; however, if they’re tensing up or having trouble moving around, they may be feeling some discomfort or stress. Think about past trips and what sets them off, and check out their surroundings too. If you’re still not sure what’s up, chatting with your vet is always a solid move for some expert advice ahead of road trips. Trust your gut (after all, you know them best).

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