Tips and Tricks for Overlanding with Pets

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It’s no secret that we’re animal lovers here at EarthCruiser. Bend, Oregon, has the reputation as one of the most dog-friendly towns in the U.S.A., and we fit right in at our chosen home. From founders Lance and Michelle’s trusty German shepherd, Strewth, to employee and owner pets ranging from chihuahuas, labradoodles, huskies to rescues (and even the occasional cat), it’s a rare day at headquarters that doesn’t involve an animal or two. Pets and overlanding seem a match made in heaven. Who doesn’t love bringing their furry companions with them to enjoy and explore the outdoors? Here we offer a few tips to make sure both you and your pets get the most out of your overlanding adventures:

Prepare Your Vehicle for Your Pet

The first thing to consider is how your pet will ride in your vehicle. Do you plan on keeping it in a kennel or crate, securing it with a seatbelt or safety harness, or having it ride in the cab or house of your vehicle? All can offer pluses and minuses. One important consideration is what would happen to your pet should you have to make a sudden stop or turn. You’ll also want to keep in mind their comfort, including airflow and temperature, and how easily you’ll be able to keep an eye on them while traveling. I have a Belgian Malinois that loves to bark at cows, and as much as I’d love her to ride shotgun, my ears appreciate her being tucked into a kennel where she no longer feels the need to protect me from roadside livestock.

One of our recent Terranova owners made the special request to have us delete the rear seat of her cab to provide a roomy platform for her pups. This additional room means she can install kennels and beds as desired. We have owners who have modified cabinets for litter boxes and installed safety harnesses for their pups in the dining area benches. Older and smaller animals may need an extra step or ramp to enter your vehicle. Consider having one made for the perfect fit. The versatility of our vehicles opens up possibilities for most any sized pack.

Prepare Your Pet for Travel

Whichever way you’ve chosen to contain your pet during the journey, make sure it is familiar and comfortable with it before you embark. Have them practice sleeping in their kennel or on the bed they’ll be using on the trip, take a short drive with them in their new harness, and introduce your kitty to its new litterbox locale.

You’ll also want to ensure your critter is in top shape before traveling, particularly for longer trips or international destinations. Have your veterinarian perform a pre-trip exam, ensure you’re up to date on vaccinations and have an ample supply of any medications needed. Print out health and vaccination records to have on hand at borders or in case of emergency trips to a new vet.

Putting your pet on a good flea, tick, and heartworm treatment is a good plan, as traveling means they may be exposed to new and potentially harmful insects and parasites. Ask your veterinarian for details. Consider taking out a pet travel insurance policy if traveling with your animal frequently, internationally, or for longer durations.

Research Your Destination for Paperwork Requirements

If you plan on international overlanding with your pet, you’ll want to do some research in advance of your trip. Each country has its own rules regarding what paperwork you’ll need to provide, quarantine requirements, and if you’ll need to apply in advance. Traveling with a ferret? The definition of which animals are considered “pets” varies from country to country, with many only considering dogs, cats, and birds as pets. To make things even more confusing, some countries have different requirements depending on if you’re arriving via air or a land border and from which country you’re arriving. While a few websites purport to keep all this information up to date and in one location, I’ve yet to find one that I’d trust to be 100% accurate. The last thing you’d want to do is arrive thinking you’d followed the rules only to be turned away at the border, have your pet confiscated, given immunizations on the spot, or become quarantined. Your best bet is to refer to the consulate of the country in question. Be sure to also research the requirements of your home country for when you make your trip home – which may also vary depending on which countries you’ve visited.

If COVID has taught us anything, it’s that health and vaccination requirements can change at any time. The same is true for animal health and what you’ll be required to show at a border. Most countries will ask for proof of vaccination against rabies by a licensed veterinarian. Some will further require vaccination records for parvovirus, distemper, and canine hepatitis. Puppies and kittens who are not old enough yet to receive full vaccinations may be challenging to bring overseas. Some countries have breed restrictions, and some require that your animal be microchipped.

You’ll want a way to contain your pet outside your vehicle, such as a crate or pet carrier. This way, customs can inspect your vehicle and visually inspect your pet’s general health and condition without risking their safety or the safety of your animal. Even if not asked, doing so is a good way to stay in the good graces of officials at borders and any police, agricultural, or military inspection sites you may come across.

Research Your Destination for Animal Health Concerns

Even if you’re not crossing international borders, it pays to research your destination. Find out about potential hazards in advance by checking the weather in order to be prepared for temperature extremes. Ask your veterinarian about any parasites or diseases to look out for and dangers such as venomous snakes you could encounter.

Quality pet food can be challenging to find outside of developed countries. Suppose your pet has food allergies or is a picky eater. In that case, consider bringing enough food for them to last the entire trip, assuming customs and agricultural regulations allow you to do so. Also, consider researching easy-to-prepare meals for your pet from human-grade ingredients. Standards ensuring the safety of pet food, treats, and toys may not be as stringent abroad as they are at home, and it’s wise to bring items from home, if possible.

Assume animals you see on the streets have not been vaccinated and may be a possible vector of rabies, distemper, or parvo, one more reason it’s often safest to keep pets on a leash in developing countries. Driver awareness in watching for animals may differ abroad; always keep a close eye on your pets around other vehicles.

Consider taking a pet first aid and CPR class before traveling. The Red Cross offers online training, as well as an excellent app. Numerous groups, including Pet Tech and many pet insurance companies, offer in-person and online training. Consider purchasing a first aid kit specifically for your animal or supplement your existing kit with pet-safe supplies.

Finally, remember that most pets thrive with routine. Traveling can be tiresome for us and even more so for our animal companions. It’s important for them to have a safe, quiet place to sleep where they can get adequate rest. By looking out for their health and safety, you can be sure of a happy, healthy companion for all your overlanding adventures.

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