Is your favorite road trip buddy now a senior? Traveling with an older pet is possible—and fun! You just need to make a few adjustments. Here are our best tips for traveling with your elderly dog or cat.

Man with Shar-Pei in Stroller - Best Tips for Traveling with Elderly Pets

Wait! Who Are You Calling Elderly?

You might not think of your pet as “elderly,” but cats claim senior status when they reach 11 to 14 years old. Small dogs are considered senior citizens when they reach 11 to 12 years of age. Medium-sized dogs become seniors at 10 years old. Larger-sized dogs are seniors at 8, and giant-breed dogs are seniors at 7 years old.

When changes in our pets happen slowly, we sometimes don’t even notice them. But the subtle adjustments you’ve made to care for your dog or cat at home will require a little more thought on a road trip.

Cat in a bed on a woman's lap in a car - traveling with elderly pets

Preparations For Traveling With Elderly Pets

The memories made while traveling with elderly pets are precious. And with a few simple steps, you can make the trip more comfortable and safe for your senior travel buddy.

Consult Your Vet

You didn’t need us to tell you this, right? Before setting out on a trip with your elderly pet, check with your vet for any suggestions to keep him safe and happy. Also confirm that there are no required adjustments to your pet’s medication.

Veterinary Nurse Weighing Dog In Surgery

Set Medication Reminders

Packing for even an overnight trip gets more complicated as our pets age. If your vet has prescribed medication for your pet, set an alarm on your phone while you’re traveling to remind you of their normal dosing schedule. And don’t forget their regular meds like flea or heartworm treatments.

Buster the German Shepherd Dog laying on the floor in the veterinary clinic

Plan More Frequent Breaks

You may be amazed at how easily your trip goes if you take more frequent breaks. Yes, I know you want to get to your awesome destination quickly. But stopping every two hours will help your older dog or cat enjoy the trip more. And you’ll arrive feeling less stiff, too!

If your traveling buddy is a cat, you can use disposable litter boxes in the car. Each day, set a new one on the floorboard. Just try one out at home first, so your cat finds it familiar!

Old dog in a bag held by a girl looking at mountains - travel with elderly pets

Get A Ramp

Jumping in and out of a car every few hours can be rough on aging joints. So get a ramp. And make time to teach your dog to use it before setting out on your trip.

You will find many options for pet ramps online. Look for one that’s made to hold your dog’s weight and will fit in your vehicle.

READ MORE ⇒ Tips For Choosing & Using A Dog Ramp

Golden retriever coming down a ramp - traveling with elderly pets

Cushion Your Pup

In his younger days, your dog was probably fine lying on a concrete patio. But older bones need cushioning. And on cool days, hard surfaces can be chilly.

So remember to pack a simple cushion to make dozing under the table at pet friendly restaurants, wineries, or breweries more comfortable when traveling with elderly pets.

Brindle dog in a red harness laying on a purple mat next to a wooden picnic table at Shake Foundation in Santa Fe, NM

Bring Something Familiar Along

All pets – but especially those with diminished eyesight and hearing – feel more secure when they have familiar things around them. Along with all the other things you will need to pack for your pet, be sure to take their favorite bed or blanket so they’ll have a comforting place to curl up in places that are new to them.

If your dog is used to sitting next to you in the car, but will be crated for safety on a long trip, put something in the crate that smells like you. You might not think your dirty socks are much of a treat. But your pup who loves you will appreciate them. And one of the blessings of traveling with an elderly pet? They have probably outgrown the desire to destroy your belongings by chewing.

Dog in Car in Crate

Plan Less Strenuous Outdoor Time

Your older dog might still love to explore. But pay attention to any struggles he’s having. As our dog, Ty, got older he lost none of his enthusiasm for hiking. But we started to notice that if our route included hills, Ty had a tough time climbing them without stopping to rest.

Choosing activities that are less strenuous, or trails with less elevation changes, will allow you and your dog to continue to enjoy your outings together.

Man in orange t-shirt walking a smiling dog on Willow Flats Road in Arches National Park - Moab, UT

Mind Extreme Temperatures

Both extreme cold and hot temperatures can affect pets more as they get older.

We saw that high temperatures and humidity sapped Ty’s energy more quickly as he aged. So, in addition to searching out flatter hikes, we spent more time consulting the forecast when planning our activities.

READ MORE ⇒ Cold Weather Tips For Travel With Pets

Woman in hat is playing with her dog on the deck of a pet friendly vacation property in the winter

Consider A Dog Stroller

Ty lived to be 15 – truly an accomplishment for a Shar-pei! But the older he got, the less hiking he wanted to do. That doesn’t mean we no longer spent quality time outdoors! We also had a younger German Shepherd who still needed his exercise.

Doing things as a family was important to us, so we got Ty a dog stroller. If you have one elderly pet and another that still needs more exercise, this could be a good option for you, too!

READ MORE ⇒ Best Dog Stroller for Medium Sized Dogs

Ty and Buster from on a pet friendly trail in Coeur d'Alene, ID

Enjoy Sightseeing By Car

When figuring out how to give Ty some rest while entertaining Buster, going for a drive was another popular option for us. Ty would generally curl up in his bed and sleep. And Buster would keep a watchful eye on everything and everyone we passed.

This is a great way to see wildlife refuges, national parks, and other sensitive places where dogs are not allowed on the trails.

In the future, I expect sightseeing road trips will benefit our young boy, Myles and his older brother, Maynard, too.

Shar-pei and German shepherd in a car - traveling with elderly pets

Get Creative

Sometimes you need to think a little differently to find the right mix for your senior pet. This is a time to get creative! Here are a couple of examples:

Once we happened upon a campground in the Bridger-Teton National Forest near Jackson, Wyoming, and decided to rent a lakeside campsite for the afternoon. We strung up the dogs’ zip line, hung our hammocks, unpacked the picnic goodies, and spent a few hours enjoying the view. There were even some trails where we took Buster for a stroll!

A man on a hammock and two dogs relaxing by a lake - a good activity for traveling with elderly pets

Another time we found a pet friendly scenic train ride, where Buster got plenty of stimulation, and Ty was able to curl up for a nap.

When it comes to traveling with senior pets, you’re only limited by your imagination!

READ MORE ⇒ All Aboard! Pet Friendly Scenic Train Rides

German Shepherd and Shar-pei dogs on a pet friendly scenic train ride in Jim Thorpe, PA - a great activity for traveling with elderly pets

Keep Traveling With Your Elderly Pets

Dogs and cats (and ferrets, hamsters, rats, birds—heck, all pets) need enrichment every day. New smells and settings can provide that for them.

Old cat in nature - traveling with elderly pets

But most of all, they want to be with you. So take your senior pet with you on your next trip. Hopefully our tips will make it easy and fun.

Have you found other activities to do with your senior dogs? Share your tips below in the comments – we would love to hear from you!

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  • Great article for traveling with older dogs. Although they can’t maneuver like they use to, they still like to participate is some of the activities

  • Category: Travel Tips / Tagged with: Health and Safety, Senior Dogs