Travelling With The Elderly Dog

This summer we are travelling and camping with our 6 dogs, two of whom are elderly. Finn and McCoy are both 15 years old. It is hard to believe that these dogs are no longer young and able to dog the same things as the other younger dogs. A rapid change happened in the last year where I can see the difference in their ability to do things they could do just a short time ago.

This summer it has become crucial that we take time away from our usual routine and do some travelling. When we travel we obviously take our dogs. The older dogs cannot be left with someone else or in a kennel as they are past the stage of being able to tolerate adjusting to new things without help from us.

Special Needs

In my opinion, elderly dogs are seldom candidates for boarding kennels. Most are special needs dogs that require some type of round the clock care, even if it is just to be let out to the doggie bathroom. Finn is on a diuretic and so pretty much has to go pee every night. When  choosing our camp site we have to take into account the surroundings so that it is easy for them to negotiate the area in reduced light. I get nervous in the campground at night because of the possibilities of certain wildlife, so I need to be able to feel safe taking the dogs out in the middle of the night.

One thing we made a mistake on when buying our trailer is having only one door. Some trailers have two doors and this would have been ideal for setting up a night bathroom spot for the dogs. My idea was to set up an ex-pen around the second door and use the ground there for the dog bathroom. Of course this means the trailer would have to be close to the grass in order to have it be useful.

However, we currently have only one door on our trailer so we have to make do.


The entrance to most trailers also have steps. If your older dog has mobility issues, and most do have some, then you will want to teach your dog how to properly negotiate the steps. There is a slight trick to it but can be taught easily. Most younger dogs tend to want to jump to the top of the three or so stairs, which can work, but not if you can’t do it. To remedy this, simply have your dog on leash and teach her to WALK, step by step up a set of stairs. Your dog should be pushing herself up the stairs with one back foot at a time. This not only teaches a dog to be more careful on the stairs but it also strengthens the back leg muscles and will help the dog in the future with mobility. Then to make sure the dog remembers the lesson, practice going up the trailer steps.

If you dog is already having walking issues, you can teach him to put his paws on the first step (paws up) and walk them up as you lift his hind end up the stairs. This can easily be done even with heavier dogs since the dog will be carrying most of his weight on his front legs. You will be lifting with your legs not your back and pushing slightly forward as the dog walks. Make sure you practice this a lot beforehand if you think it might work for you and your dog.

If you cannot do this but are dedicated to camping in a trailer with your dogs with mobility issues, use a tent or buy a trailer with a lift. When we were looking for our trailer, there was one for sale with a lift. We ended up with a different trailer but were considering it. Now I see that there would have been great benefits to having that particular trailer.

Tent Issues

Of course if you have a tent then you won’t have the step issue. Tents can have issues all their own. Our problem was that some of the dogs wanted to jump through the tent screen window. I am assuming this is because they could not see that there was a screen there. It is a good idea to make sure your dog(s) are aware of the screen and that they can’t get through BEFORE you go camping. That way you won’t have to deal with a ripped window the whole camping trip. But luckily this did not include our older dogs since they were not really able to do any serious jumping.


Food Issues

Many older dogs have a reduced desire to eat what you put in front of them. Often the food needs doctoring to be more tasty. When you are on the road, your dog will be under some extra stress because of being in a strange place. It is crucial that you bring food that your dog will eat.

Our two 15 years olds can drink milk and milk products. Don’t ask me why or how, they just don’t get sick from them. Luckily. Most dogs get gas, bloating and/or lose stool from milk products, like our four other dogs who can’t touch the stuff. Because of this we can put milk in with the older dog’s food, as well as bread, pasta, vegetables, meat or other leftovers. If this is not something that you are willing to do, that is the decision that you must come to on your own. But this is how we get our olds to eat and they enjoy it. To me, if they are not eating then they are not enjoying anything.

Keeping Them Cool

Camping can be a hot – temperature wise – activity. Older dogs are more affected by the heat, especially those with heart issues. If you can, get a campsite with electricity to run some fans or the air conditioner. This is essential for happy older dog camping. If there is no access to electricity, then you will need an external gas powered generator to run these appliances.

Know The Area You Are Travelling In

If you go to dog shows, you will know that the dog show organizers give the name of local vet clinics that are willing to take in dogs that are not local. If you are not attending a dog show then you may have more trouble locating one that has available appointments.

Make sure you know in advance who and where the vet clinics are so if you need one you won’t have to try to locate one if there is a medical emergency or even just a need for a cautionary visit. Many vet clinics in different locations are tending to the needs of their own clients and often cannot take in dogs from away. Check this out well before you go travelling with your elderly dog.


Enjoy Being With Your Dog

If there is anything that you are unsure of when travelling with your older dog, don’t. You need to make sure that both you and your dog are ok with everything you are doing. This is a decision and choice that you will have to look into and make for your particular situation.

Even though there are more things to take into account when travelling with your older dog, it can still be fun and relaxing. You have to know your dog and make sure that he is as comfortable as possible. You also need to make sure that YOU can enjoy your activities as well, and hopefully taking your older dog with you won’t be too much to handle. If you aren’t having fun then it is likely that your dog won’t either. Just make sure to prepare well in advance.

After all, the point of travelling is to spend time together, and give your companion some more enjoyable time as he nears the end of his life.