Gold Souls, Gray Faces: 7 Tips For Traveling By Car With Senior Dogs

Black couple loading car for vacation

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

Going on a road trip with your best dog friend can be a challenge. Plenty of dogs enjoy a good car ride, but if it takes a few hours or even days, things can get difficult. Usually, it’s even harder with a senior dog because gray-faced pups have certain needs and, sometimes, medical conditions that younger pups don’t have.

So in addition to the preparations you’d usually make when going for a long car ride with any dog, you have to take into account the special needs that come with your dog’s advanced age. Of course, we all love our senior pups and would gladly do anything to make their journey more comfortable.

DogTime’s Gold Souls, Gray Faces series is dedicated to providing tips that will help you care for your sweet senior dog, and traveling is one of the many things that our seniors might struggle with. Here are some tips for car travel with a senior dog on board.

1. Take Breaks On Your Dog’s Schedule

Couple camping above lake

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

You may be spending time looking up gas stations, rest stops, and anywhere else you can make a pit stop for potty breaks at regular, two-hour intervals along the trip. While that’s a good instinct, it may not be what your old dog needs.

It takes time for a senior dog to find a comfortable spot to rest their bones, relax, and finally fall asleep. If you plan to stop just as they’re getting some rest, it can make them even more anxious and uncomfortable.

Instead, it may be best to wait until they show signs that they need to go to the bathroom. If you stop for gas and your old dog doesn’t get up from their nap, maybe it’s best to let them lie until the next stop. Be flexible.

Your dog’s normal schedule has been interrupted by a long journey, so they may not need to go when you expect. When they’re ready, find somewhere to pull over, take them for a walk, and offer them water.

Don’t force anything. They’ll do what they need to do when they feel like it.

2. Bring Familiar Items

A serious or sad looking Vizsla lays down in the back of a vehicle.

(Picture Credit: Hillary Kladke/Getty Images)

Every dog loves to have some familiarity wherever they go, and favorite blankets, bedding, toys, and other items can provide a touch of home. When it comes to seniors, though, they tend to get even more anxious when things aren’t going according to their normal routine.

Comfort items are essential to keeping them relaxed in new environments and situations. They appreciate these familiar reminders of home more than you know, and they’ll be calmer and more at ease for the trip.

3. A Portable Ramp Or Stairs Will Help

Getting up and down out of the car or in and out of a hotel bed can be tough, especially for larger breeds who can’t rely on you to lift and carry them. Having a portable ramp or stairs will put less stress on their joints and bones, making it easier for them to get around.

Even a step stool, small chair, or other object that they can use for a boost will go a long way.

4. Make Old Bones Comfortable

An old dog sitting inside the backseat of the car with door open.

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

Car seats can get pretty uncomfortable when you’re on a long car ride, and that can wreak havoc on older dogs who suffer from arthritis.

It’s important to make sure they have portable bedding of some kind so they can lie down while buckled up and so they have a place to nap and relax at wherever you plan to stay along the way. Comfortable bedding will reduce pain and stiffness, as well as providing comfort.

5. Plan Where You Will Stay

Take your dog’s needs into consideration. Find hotels along your route that will let you stay with your dog, but also consider whether you need to stay on the first floor, whether they have an elevator, and whether your room door will open to the parking lot or to an indoor hallway.

Maybe your old dog is small enough to carry, but for larger dogs, stairs will be a problem. You’ll need to plan for that, and always have a backup hotel in mind in case something goes wrong and you need to stay somewhere else.

6. Plan For Medical Needs And Potty Accidents

Close up portrait of an old grey dog with jumper and red collar looking out the window of a car. Taken in summer, in South Wales,

(Picture Credit: Getty Images)

Senior dogs usually have special medical needs, so remember to take medications with you, along with treats to hide them inside of, if necessary, and plenty of water. If they have a special diet, bring enough of your dog’s food along for the whole trip and some extra.

If your old pup is incontinent, you might want to bring a waistband that can be lined with absorbent padding. You can find doggy diapers and belly bands for this purpose. Bring cleaning supplies for accidents.

Keep up with your dog’s prescription routine, and if they need to take something to help them relax on the trip, keep that ready and available, too.

7. Get Familiar With Where You’re Going

Have a plan for when you get to where you’re going. Know the local dog laws about leashes and breed legislation. Find the closest vet. Prepare for the climate, as extremely hot or cold temperatures can aggravate seniors’ arthritis or other conditions.

Bring coats, boots, sunscreen, or extra water if any of those things will be needed. Basically, imagine your dog is already wherever you’re going, and picture the whole day that they’ll spend there. Address everything they might need, and make sure you know how to fulfill those needs.

Do you have any other tips for car travel with senior dogs? What other senior dog topics should we cover in our Gold Souls, Gray Faces series? Let us know in the comments below!