Fido-Friendly Summer Travel

For Dr. Jason Nicholas and his family, a short jaunt out of Portland usually means a stay at the Oregon coast or hiking and snowshoeing in the Columbia River Gorge. For a shorter day trip, the family of four might spend an afternoon on the Sandy River Delta. Whatever the destination, Wendy, the family’s 11-year-old Spaniel/Border Collie mix, is almost always along for the ride.

Traveling with our pets is good for us and for them. We make memories and strengthen our considerable bond. “There are cats that enjoy getting out on a harness and going for hikes, but mostly we’re talking about dogs when we’re traveling with pets,” says Nicholas, adding that, as a hiking or camping partner, a dog offers security as well as companionship. 

But whether canine or feline, furry travel buddies make us better at getting out and exploring, even if only because we stop the car for their bathroom and exercise breaks. Just doing that, we’ll explore things we might have driven past and talk with people we might never have met.

As a family man, Nicholas loves the freedom of loading the kids and the dog in the car and heading out for adventure. But as a veterinarian and chief medical officer of the educational website Preventive Vet, he’s alert to the danger of heading out unprepared. 

Tips for Traveling Well from Dr. Nicholas

1.     Keep current on vaccines and parasite prevention.  Lyme disease is less common in our region than elsewhere in the US, but cases here have steadily risen in recent years and annual cases tend to peak in August. While ticks that might carry Lyme disease are more plentiful in the mountainous and eastern reaches of our region, “we’ve even had some Lyme disease over here in the western side of the state,” Nicholas says, “And fleas are a concern 365 days a year in Oregon; we don’t have a flea-free season here.” 

Talk to your vet about your dog’s lifestyle and travel schedule. Regular flea and tick prevention might be enough, but for intrepid wilderness explorers, a Lyme vaccine might be in order. 

2.     Buckle up!  An excited, wiggly dog is a hazard in a moving car and a projectile during even a low-speed crash. The results can be devastating. “Virtually any harness will help prevent an accident,” but not all will stand up to an actual crash. Nicholas prefers padded, crash-tested models like those from Sleepypod, but depending on your pet’s size and travel attitude, she may do better in a carrier that’s carefully secured. In any case, never let a pet ride in your lap. If an air bag deploys, pets on drivers’ or passengers’ laps get crushed in the impact.

3.     Keep ID tags current.  “Ideally, they’ll also have a microchip,” says Nicholas. Also keep a current photo saved on your phone in case your pet gets lost. 

4.     Scope out your surroundings on arrival.  “Say you check into a vacation home in the mountains and there are rodents out there,” says Nicholas. “Do a quick check of your hotel or rental house for possible hazards: rodent poisons, chemicals, balconies, maybe an open gate. And while you’re doing that, find out where the nearest veterinary clinic is in case you have an urgent and unexpected need.”

5.     Remember hot cars are deadly.  “No discussion of pet travel is complete without a warning about the risk of heat stroke,” Nicholas warns. Even on a mild day, the temperature inside your car will quickly climb into the danger zone. And when heat isn’t a concern, unrestrained pets left alone in parked cars can chew or choke on whatever they find in the car. 

Where do you and your furkids like to travel? Here’s how dog parents answered that question in a recent informal Facebook poll.

“Almost anywhere on the Oregon Coast.” We all know there’s something magical about dogs and beaches. Favorite lodgings include Lincoln City’s Looking Glass Inn, “very dog-centric property right on the Siletz Bay.”  —    Michele from Portland

“The Fireside Inn, The Whaler in Newport, Neskowin’s Proposal Rock Inn, and The Surfside at Rockaway Beach.  Very dog friendly and we like that beach a lot.”  —    Julia and her travel-loving St Bernard, Gomer

The Oregon Gardens Resort in Silverton, perched just between Salem and Portland, has dog-friendly rooms and endlessly walkable garden trails.” I took my dogs there last 4th of July — no fireworks!”  —    Jawea from Salem

Also citing The Oregon Garden. . . 

“Visitors can even bring their dogs to fenced exercise areas just up the road for off-leash playtime, in case you still need to tire them out,”  —    Sue from Molalla

For swimming/hiking/camping adventures, Stub Stewart State Park west of Portland boasts trails, cabins, and an off-leash romping spot. Many Oregon State Parks have dog-friendly yurts, as do some Washington State Parks such as Cape Disappointment. Other favorites include Sauvie Island, the Washougal River (SW WA), Cooper Creek Reservoir (Southern Oregon), and the popular hiking area known as Peavy Arboretum (Corvallis).  


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Michelle Blake is a Salem, OR-based massage therapist and freelance writer whose work has appeared in national publications. Her husband wants you to know that she's a REALLY crazy dog lady too.