Keeping Pet Travel Safe And Healthy

“Don’t leave home without it,” the ad says.

Americans like to apply that same saying to their pets.

Travel down any highway, byway or side street and you won’t get far before you see an automobile with a pet in it.

Pearl and Dr. Randolph's family remained parasite-free on this trip to Kentucky
Pearl and Dr. Randolph’s family remained parasite-free on this trip to Kentucky

On a recent trip to see our children and grandchildren in Louisville, KY, my wife stated adamantly that she wanted our aging poodle, Pearl, to make the trip with us. Pearl is a great traveler who curls up and sleeps and gives no complaints unless I don’t stop for bathroom breaks often enough. So, I had no objections and looked forward to having Pearl with us.

As you might expect, I’m quite fastidious when it comes to cleanliness for Pearl. I was astounded when I stopped for rest breaks and found massive volumes of dog stool at every location. Recently it was announced that cow manure may be an excellent source of fuel as an alternative energy source. I’m telling you, if all this dog poop could be gathered from rest stops, the energy crisis would be over!Of course, immediately I pounced on the opportunity for a post subject. I’ve formatted it into a list of pet travel tips that range from the obvious to Dog Poop CSI.

  • Get a checkup at your pet’s doctor’s office before leaving. To me, the three worst things that can happen on a trip are: you get sick, your pet gets sick or your car gets sick. In any case, a stranger is going to have to give you a diagnosis and treatment, and that’s always scary. A quick visit may be able to prevent that surprise doctor visit. Not a bad idea for yourself and your car, too.
  • Starting with the obvious: PICK UP YOUR DOG’S POOP FOR CRYING OUT LOUD! There is no excuse for taking your dog on a bathroom walk and not expecting to have something to pick up. So, arm yourself! Take along a zipper-locking bag, glove, newspaper sleeve, empty ice cream or drink cup, anything that will hold the stool until you reach a proper receptacle.
  • Suppose you find yourself in an area like a truck stop we visited where there seemed to be no place that was stool-free. I began to look for the least-bad-looking stool. On the assumption that a nice, big, well-formed stool was the healthiest and the gooey, mucky, mucus-laden diarrhea was the most likely to carry and transmit disease, we made a zig-zag pattern until Pearl “went” then I carried her back to the car.
  • My wife, Brenda, uses a smart technique: she takes a travel pack of antiseptic wipes for wiping Pearl’s feet after a walk. There are many other pet-related uses for these wipes.

 I can see I’m getting some “looks” from some readers who are asking, “Why in the world should I pick up the stool? The sun will bake it dead and the rain will wash it into the ground.”

I’m glad you asked. If this list isn’t sufficient to convince you I saved some reasons that most people wouldn’t want to face when reading their morning e-mail.

As Dave would say, “The Number One best reason to pick up your dog’s poop: No one wants it on his shoes!”

Then, as implied above, there are numerous diseases your pet can get from someone else’s dog’s stool. Some of these are also transmissible to people.

  • Protozoan parasites such as Giardia can cause life-threatening diarrhea and discomfort you don’t even want to imagine.
  • The worm parasite hookworm can cause terrible and difficult-to-treat skin lesions.
  • Roundworms are known to be persistent, even in hostile environments. One of my Parasitology professors took roundworm eggs from calves, immersed them in formaldehyde for three years (he was a very patient man), then reintroduced them into known parasite-free calves. Those eggs hatched and became new adult roundworms even after three years in formaldehyde. How long do you think they would survive in a truck stop’s greenspace?
  • Don’t depend on rain as a means of “removal.” All that happens when rain hits a pile of stool is that the bacteria and the worm eggs get driven into the ground, but not far enough to be away from your or your pet’s feet.
  • Speaking of bacteria, the last reason I’ll mention for picking up stool is that it’s good for the environment, whether at home or on the road. Fecal bacteria that enter our waterways cause the same pollution as overflowing sewers. Swim, anyone?

Your pet’s doctor can give you tips for your individual pet’s needs on trips. We all have the opportunity to make the world a better place when we look out for our fellow man.


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  1. Dr. Randolph,
    Great article on travel cleanliness ! I wish some of the people at my apartment complex would pick up after their dogs. There are plenty of receptacles around but people don’t use them. Nothing frustrates me more than getting my nice clean shoes soiled with dog stool before going to work and having to change shoes.

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