Helpful hints to make sure you’re prepared to take your four-legged companion on your next trip.
By Deanna Mather Larson
Your motorhome sits in the driveway, ready to go. Everything’s packed, including Rover’s favorite dog biscuits, or Fluffy’s cat toys. But do you know which states allow your pet clear passage and which require it to have a health certificate from your veterinarian? What course of action will you take if it gets sick or lost during your journey? Are you prepared if it has an accident on your coach carpet? Following are some helpful hints to make your motorhome adventure carefree for both you and your pet.
Are your papers in order?
Recent headlines reporting animal diseases that affect humans have reinforced the need for vigilance against disease outbreaks in the United States. To transport your pet to another state, you will need to have your veterinarian complete a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection, or CVI. This document indicates that the animal appeared healthy and showed no signs of contagious or communicable diseases on the date the veterinarian inspected it. You may travel many miles and through many states without having to prove that your pet is healthy, but states can set up random checkpoints to inspect the transport of animals. If you can’t produce a certificate, your pet may languish in quarantine until inspectors are convinced it’s not a health threat.
States also require your pet to have an up-to-date rabies vaccination. State vaccination regulations vary; many allow a three-year vaccine, but others require annual boosters. Depending on which states you visit, your puppy may need its first shot at three, four, or six months. Your veterinarian or representative with your state’s department of agriculture should be able to supply you with a list of each state’s specific requirements. To simplify your travel plans, have your pet vaccinated annually and carry its health and rabies certificates with you during your trip.
Chipping in to find your pet
Losing your pet would ruin your trip, to say the least. So, don’t rely solely on identification tags “” a cat or dog can slip its collar. The most effective means of finding your pet again is a microchip implanted between the pet’s shoulder blades by your veterinarian.
If someone finds your pet, they can take it to a veterinarian or animal shelter where a technician, using a special scanner, will determine whether the animal has had a chip implanted. If so, the scanner reads the chip’s number, and someone from the vet’s office or shelter then calls that number into a recovery center, which contacts you with your pet’s location. The scanners used at these centers can read every chip regardless of the manufacturer, and the centers boast a high recovery rate.
Chip implantation is a simple and safe procedure for your pet. Your vet uses a hypodermic needle to insert a rice-sized chip just under the skin. Implanting typically costs from $35 to $50. To register your pet, you must complete an enrollment form with your contact information and send it in to be entered into the national database. Recovery centers may charge a nominal fee.
Carol Titus is convinced that an implanted chip saved her dog’s life. When Hanachi, her shiba inu, disappeared into the desert outside of Las Vegas, Nevada, an extensive search yielded no clues. Six weeks later, Ms. Titus received a call at her home in Oregon from Companion Animal Recovery. A veterinarian holding Hanachi had called the recovery center and had given them 10 minutes to find her owner. “If it had taken 15 minutes, he would have put her down, she was so gravely injured,” Ms. Titus said. Once contacted, she called the veterinarian and persuaded him to try to save the dog. After three surgeries, 63 stitches, and two weeks in the veterinary hospital, Hanachi was flown home to Ms. Titus, where she lives today. And she still has the implanted chip that saved her life.
Insuring your pet’s health
Surprise veterinary bills can quickly overwhelm a travel budget. For protection against these expenses, some pet owners are turning to a growing trend: pet health insurance. More companies are providing this service every year, but it’s important to realize that all companies “” and policies “” aren’t equal. Some extend protection in select states, while others authorize you to use only certain veterinarians. If you’re interested in purchasing pet insurance, investigate a company to be sure its coverage meets your needs. One way to check a company’s reliability is to find out the name of the underwriter “” the financial backer that funds claim payments. Check with your home or auto insurance agent for the underwriter’s rating, or ask a representative from the pet insurance companies that you’re considering. A Standard & Poor’s or A.M. Best Company rating of “A” or above will tell you that the company can pay claims as promised. Also, individual states have agencies that require an insurance company to prove its viability and ensure that it meets all state laws. If you have any doubts or questions, contact the state agency in charge.
Several major pet insurance companies operate under similar guidelines. Most cover your pet no matter where you go in the United States, and medical care must be provided by a licensed veterinarian. You pay the vet, submit the claim to the insurance company, and the company reimburses you. These companies have payment options, and they offer discounts for multiple-pet families. They also exclude pre-existing conditions. Their differences are in the procedures they cover; the amounts they pay; the size of the deductible and percentage covered; and options for routine and extensive care. When shopping for insurance, compare each company’s plans to ascertain which is right for you and your pet.
Several years ago, Linda Howard’s beloved golden retriever, Ben, was diagnosed with cancer. Despite the vet’s efforts to save him, Ben died, leaving Ms. Howard with a $900 bill. When she got Gus, a chocolate Labrador retriever, she researched pet health insurance and immediately took out a policy on her new dog. One of the reasons she chose to get the insurance immediately, rather than wait, was to make sure Gus was covered for any illness or injury throughout his life. “If you get a policy when they’re puppies, there are no exclusions,” she said.
Shortly after the pet insurance policy went into effect, Ms. Howard realized its value. She had taken Gus for a walk in a field near her home. It was a familiar place and Gus was having fun under her watchful eye, when he discovered something irresistible in the grass. Suddenly, Gus was desperately ill.
“I recognized all the symptoms of poisoning,” Ms. Howard said. “I quickly took him to the vet. He had to have his stomach pumped, be on intravenous fluids, and stay at the vet facility for two days.” What Gus had discovered in the field was a caustic substance used to clean out clogged drains.
Gus survived, and Ms. Howard’s only out-of-pocket expense was the pet insurance policy’s deductible. Ms. Howard said she never regrets writing the check for the pet insurance and never lets the policy lapse. “It’s less than a dollar a day for me to make sure Gus is taken care of,” she added.
A home away from home
Traveling with your pet can be convenient and effortless with help from the many specialty catalogs and stores that offer pet-related merchandise. Collapsible kennels allow your cat or dog to enjoy the outdoors without being on a leash, and usually can be set up in minutes. Put a lightweight dog deck inside the kennel, or set one up by the motorhome’s door, and solve the problem of your pet tracking dirt onto your carpet from outside.
When age catches up to your cat or dog and it can’t climb the steps into the coach, you can buy a pet ramp that folds for easy handling and storage. If your dog gets excited about being away from home and pulls on its leash when you’re taking a walk, you can use a halter that clips on its collar and restrains it without choking (PetEdge, 888-637-3786, www.petedge.com; and Therapet Pro Products catalog, 800-367-3647, www.dogsoutfitter.com).
All manner of tools make waste cleanup easy. Should your pet have an accident on the furniture or carpet, enzyme-based sprays can remove stains and eradicate odors. (Equalizer by EVSCO Pharmaceuticals is available through your veterinarian. You can get Simple Solution, Nature’s Miracle, and Nilodor brand products through PetEdge.)
Stomaching the trip
Motion sickness remedies abound. Your cat or dog may never get sick when traveling, but a particularly bad stretch of road or a stressful situation may turn its stomach. Bonine from Pfizer Inc., an over-the-counter motion sickness pill for people, works for dogs, too. Your veterinarian can determine the dosage. Some natural products also offer relief. Bach Original Flower Essence has Rescue Remedy in a liquid. The two-drop dose can be administered orally or rubbed on the pet’s nose, ears, or paw pads. Two homeopathic companies, Boiron and Hyland’s Standard Homeopathics, sell anti-nausea remedies. Always check with your veterinarian before you try any new medication on your pet.
Since you pack all the comforts of home in your motorhome, you might as well include your pet. Traveling with your pet can be a rewarding experience. Whether it’s a weekend jaunt or a cross-country trek, with a little planning, your furry friend will enjoy spending time with you on the road. And that makes the whole adventure much more fun.
For more information about pet recovery chips and pet insurance, contact the sources listed below.
Companion Animal Recovery
PetCare Pet Insurance Programs
This company offers four plans for dogs and five plans for cats. The plans pay 100 percent of claims, minus the $50 deductible per incident. Policies are underwritten by Lincoln General Insurance Company.
Premier Pet Insurance
This company offers three plans. The plans pay 80 percent of claims, with a $100 annual deductible. Each policy has a per-incident limit and an annual limit. Policies are underwritten by Clarendon National Insurance Company.
Veterinary Pet Insurance
This company offers two plans. Each has a $50 deductible per incident and pays 90 percent of claims per the benefit schedule allowance. The plans have per-incident allowances and annual maximums. Policies are underwritten by Veterinary Pet Insurance Company.
Doggone Traveling News
Motorhomers who never leave home without their canine companion can discover dog-friendly places to visit and fun things to do with their pet in the “DogGone Newsletter.” Published by Robyn Peters, the bimonthly newsletter is about fun places to go and cool things to do with your dog.
Although the newsletter is not specifically for RV travelers, it does offer information about beaches, parks, and facilities that welcome dogs, as well as activities that both the dog and its owner can enjoy together. Each issue includes feature articles written by other dog lovers detailing their travels, as well as regular columns such as Travel Pointers, Readers’ Adventures, Road Trip, Surfer Dog’s Products For Pooches and Cool Internet Finds, and Nose For News.
The 16-page newsletter is available by subscription only. Send a check or money order for $25 (U.S.), $38 (Canadian), or $48 (all other foreign) to DogGone Newsletter, P.O. Box 19498, Boulder, CO 80308-2498. Subscriptions also can be ordered using a Visa or MasterCard by calling (888) 364-8728 or (303) 449-2527, or visiting www.doggonefun.com. Back issues are available for $5 per issue.