On the Road Again – With Your Canine Companion

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With pheasant and quail seasons in full swing, the interstate highways are crowded with vehicles carrying hunters and their faithful four-legged hunting companions to faraway destinations. Long road trips can be stressful for sporting dogs – whether you’re pulling a custom dog trailer or hauling “Rover” in a kennel in the back of the truck. Here are a few tips for bird hunters who travel with their hunting companions.
 
Stop Often  The rule of thumb is to stop every two hours to air your dogs, perhaps more frequently if you have a puppy. Always keep your dog on a lead and be watchful for trash and other garbage your dog could get into. Be sure to clean up your dog’s mess too.
 
Minimize the Variables  Bring along a supply of fresh drinking water from home. If space is at a premium, bring at least enough water to get you through the first part of your journey. Bring an adequate supply of your dog’s performance food to last the entire trip. Typically, don’t feed your pup a full meal until you reach your destination (unless, of course, you’re headed from Texas to Montana!).
 
Dog Won’t Eat? – Unfortunately, some dogs tend to lose their appetite when they travel – especially during a long road trip. To enhance palatability and help hydration, try adding some warm water to your dog’s dry performance food. This often will entice the dog to eat. Other things to try include adding a couple spoons of wet dog food. If the dog still won’t eat, take the food away and try again later. Hunting multiple days requires a calorically dense ration – typically a high protein and high fat formula -- so do what it takes to get some calories into your canine athlete. Also, remember to feed after the day afield has ended – when the dog is cooled down and rested. Try to feed at least 12 hours before the next bout of exercise, so a dog can efficiently process and use the food. Also – common sense – be sure to air the dog often and especially after feeding.
 
A Gut Feeling  Ask your veterinarian about dressing your dogs’ regular food with Purina Veterinary Diets FortiFlora brand canine nutritional supplement. This product contains live, active cultures to restore intestinal balance, helping nutritionally manage the risk of diarrhea and dehydration. FortiFlora also is quite palatable, and sprinkling a packet on top of the dry food seems to thrill my dogs. The FortiFlora product is only available through your veterinarian. To find out more, visit www.fortiflora.com.
 
Be Prepared – Always have a first-aid kit handy. I also take along a few dog medications, prescribed in advance by my veterinarian, for acute diarrhea or gastrointestinal upset, as well as some NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) for the older dog.
 
Weigh your Dogs Before, and After the Trip – Hopefully you’ll not see a major difference! If your dog was in good body condition and properly conditioned prior to departure, he or she might maintain that weight or lose a little weight, depending on the intensity and duration of exercise. If your dog is out of shape or overweight, don’t push it! It takes time to get into shape, and conditioning can’t be done in a day or a week.
 
I’m fortunate that my dogs travel well, and tend to have good appetites. They seem to know we’re going to have fun and do what they were born and bred to do. In turn, I want them to be well-fed, comfortable and healthy throughout the trip. Safe travels!
 
Keith Schopp is Vice President, Public Relations, Nestlé Purina PetCare Company. Full disclosure, the author is not a veterinarian and has no intention of dispensing veterinary advice! This author cares deeply about his dogs and wants them to be safe, happy and healthy at all times. Contact your veterinarian with questions or additional advice about traveling with your dogs.