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A Guide to Traveling with Pets

Feb 26, 2020
Ashley Elsbernd, RN

If you’re anything like me, you work so your dog can have a better life. When the prospect of travel nursing came up, it was a no-brainer for me. Make more, adventure more, take more breaks… and obviously bring my dogs along. While I knew it would ultimately be less stressful for me to have them, researching how to travel with pets added a layer of complexity to the already overwhelming process. I’m hopeful that my experience can be helpful as you make that decision yourself!

two dogs on beach travel nursing with pets
Norman (left) and Harvey (right); Lake Calhoun, Minneapolis


Travel Nursing with Pets

Of course, the first decision you need to make is whether it’s fair to bring your pet along. As much as we love them and want them with us, sometimes it’s not the right choice. It’s important to recognize when you need to make the hard choice to leave your pup with a trusted family member or friend, or when you should avoid a certain location if you don’t have that option. 

A huge help in doing so is by preparing in advance. From securing housing to special requirements for certain states (looking at you, Hawaii), these things can take time. If you do decide that you’re going to have a gypsy pup, there’s plenty to consider, and it’s well worth it to be sure that you’re doing your research early so once you arrive you can actually enjoy your new city!

colorado travel nursing with dogs
Norman (left), Ashley, and Harvey (right); Kenosha Pass, Colorado

Before You Go

Have your paperwork in order

Think of it like taking a patient on a field trip… never leave the room without the chart. Be sure to have updated vaccination records (specifically rabies), prescriptions, and a wellness check with your vet before you leave. Also, be sure to have two patient identifiers: a collar tag is great, but a microchip is better. Most importantly, have up-to-date contact information on both!

Know your resources

Locate a local vet or emergency clinic (veterinarians.com is a great resource!), a vendor that sells their food, and any other “specialists” your pet may need. Also, check out where to go and what to do with your dog(s) on days off! There are various websites that have tons of pet-friendly ideas so you can explore your new city together (sidewalkdog.com, bringfido.com, dogpark.com, and petswelcome.com).

Secure housing

This can easily be the biggest barrier to traveling with your pet… especially if your dog is big or you have multiple. There are pet-friendly extended stay hotels and apartments, though they typically have weight or number guidelines. Some apartments may not accommodate shorter leases with pets, and many will require an extra deposit and/or pet fee. 

Fortunately for travel nurses, there are tons of options. I found a couple of places through Airbnb, but I also had huge success posting in Facebook groups for travel nurse housing by asking for recommendations for pet-friendly options where I was going.

Plan your trip

Whether you’re driving or flying, having your pup along for the ride changes things. You’ll need places to stop and places to sleep that allow them, too. I always made our extra stops something fun, like a dog park or a short hike. Be aware that your pup’s eating and bathroom habits may change due to stress, so cleaning supplies are good to pack. Keep any state-specific rules for traveling with your pet in mind (some have laws requiring them to be restrained!), and have an emergency kit packed just for them with any medications, vet records, and some food and water.

san francisco travel nursing with dogs
Baby Harvey (left), Ashley, and Normal (right); Painted Ladies, San Francisco


When You Get There

Explore the neighborhood

Arrive early so you and your pet can get your bearings and relax a bit. They feed off your emotions, so they’ll know if you’re feeling stressed out. The last thing you want to do is leave them home alone in new surroundings before they’re comfortable! Having their favorite bed/blanket and toys helps.

Make friends

Dogs are an awesome icebreaker and a way to make new friends for both of you! I always made sure to search Facebook groups, take them to dog parks, and ask around on the unit to see if anyone would be up for a playdate. As a bonus, meeting other dog people sets you up for knowing who might be able to help watch your pup if you need to go out of town while working.

Find help

If you don’t have friends or family nearby who are willing to help out, rover.com or a trusty neighbor are great resources for when your shift runs long or when something comes up last-minute!

Set a schedule and have a plan

Shifts get long, we all know that. But we also know that our pups need as much love as our patients. Be sure to build in time for them before and after your shift, and keep in mind that if your schedule changes, so does theirs. This is especially important if you’re switching shifts for a new contract!

two dogs travel nursing with dogs
Baby Harvey (left), Norman (right); Salt Lake City, Utah


After Your Assignment

Go home

You and your pup are most comfortable at home, so it’s a great time to go relax and pamper them a bit. After all, you’re not the only one who will need some time to recoup before your next big adventure!

At the end of the day, traveling with pets isn’t easy. That said, I’ve always found the pros of traveling with my dogs outweigh the cons. They are sure friends in a new city and as we all know, natural stress-relievers. It takes planning to make it work, but if done right can give you both an experience of a lifetime.

Are you looking to start a new travel assignment? Find the right one for you and your little friends!