Q: My spouse and I would like to take our dog and two cats on our 30-foot recreational vehicle on a month-long trip around the United States. The dog is not a problem, but we are concerned that this is feasible with the cats. What do you advise?
A: Your family can do this job, but only if the cats are accessible. I suggest that you take an overnight trip with them first to make sure they enjoy traveling as much as you do.
Assuming your recreational vehicle or RV is more of an RV than a trailer that you are pulling, you need to lock your cats in while driving so they don’t venture under the brake pedal or get tossed around if there is a wreck.
If you leave your pets alone in the RV, make sure the temperature is safe for them there. Like a car, an RV can quickly become a stove, causing heat stroke and death in pets.
To prevent your cats on wheels from escaping their home, make sure the screens are securely in place and your screen door is securely locked into place.
When you’re outside, invite your cats to join you in a mesh tent or on a cat harness and leash. If they prefer to stay indoors, keep them entertained by adding a suction cup bird feeder to a window.
Each of your pets should have a microchip and a collar with your cell phone number on. Before you travel, make sure your microchip contact information is up to date. Keep photos of your pets on your phone in case one is lost.
Pack a porter for each cat in case your RV breaks down and you need to move the cats to temporary accommodation. Add a can of Feliway relaxation pheromone to spray on the towels in their carriers.
Take your pets’ rabies certificates, medical records, and enough medication to hold them in for another month in case you extend your trip. Federal law requires any pet that crosses state lines to have a health certificate that your veterinarian can show to certify that the pet is free from contagious diseases.
Talk to your veterinarian about the conditions that are specific to the areas you are visiting. Your cats and dog should at least be protected from fleas, ticks, heartworms and intestinal parasites.
Enjoy your trip!
Q: My dog Greta is healthy and has no diarrhea or other problems. However, during routine examinations of her stool, her vet found an intestinal parasite called giardia. He sent her medicine home and told me Giardia could spread to people. What can you tell me about this parasite?
A: Giardia are microscopic, unicellular protozoan parasites that have been reported in 15.6% of dogs observed in veterinary clinics and 30% of guard dogs. A recent study found that 74% of U.S. dog parks are contaminated with Giardia.
Dogs become infected when they ingest water, grass, soil, or food contaminated with Giardia organisms that are excreted in the feces of infected wild animals, dogs, cats, or other mammals.
Although some infected dogs show no clinical signs, many have diarrhea. Young dogs are often badly affected.
Treating giardia infection, called giardiasis, is challenging, and many veterinarians recommend several medications.
It is important to dispose of Greta’s droppings immediately. The Giardia organisms it excretes remain in the environment for many months, where they can re-infect and transmit them to other animals.
As your veterinarian noted, Giardia can infect humans too. Most cases occur when people drink contaminated water. Even so, bathing Greta removes the microscopic Giardia organisms from her fur and can reduce your risk.
Lee Pickett, VMD, is a veterinary practitioner in North Carolina. Contact them at