“I can’t be a travel nurse, I have a dog.” I’m here to bust this myth! Not only can you be a travel nurse with a pet, it can actually enhance your experience. I have been a travel nurse for the past year and a half and my dog Joni comes with me on every contract. There are so many perks to having your dog with you as a travel nurse. Bringing your best friend with you on a contract can add a sense of companionship if you get lonely. Having your dog can make you more social, I know I strike up more conversations with fellow dog owners! There are definitely some things that can be harder, but I’m here to walk you through my best tips and tricks to travel nursing with a pet.
Finding pet friendly housing requires a little more effort but it’s not impossible! If you opt to take company housing, they will often have options that are pet friendly. If you are finding housing yourself, you will have to do more of the leg work. Furnished Finder, AirBnb, and VRBO all have pet friendly filters. Additionally, if you have to look for unfurnished apartments, Apartments.com also has a pet friendly filter. I have always been able to find housing that allows us to bring our dog with us. Keep in mind there will be less options and you may have to pay an additional pet fee. One thing I like to look into when we’re researching housing options is if there are dog parks or green spaces nearby. I look at Google Satellite to get a lay of the land.
If you plan to travel in an RV, you may have an easier time finding housing as the majority of RV parks allow dogs. There are definitely some special considerations to travel nursing with a dog in an RV, in fact it could be an entire post on its own. You definitely want to make sure your RV is temperature controlled or that you are travelling to a temperate climate. There are pet security systems for RVs that allow you to have a video feed and track the temperature of your RV for peace of mind. One perk of staying in an RV park is that you may be able to find neighbors who can take your dog for a walk while you’re working your shift.
Traveling to Your Assignment
If you plan to drive to your assignment, you won’t have any restrictions on having your dog with you. My partner and I drive to all of my assignments in a campervan so our dog travels in comfort! If you plan to fly to your assignment however, traveling with your dog can be more complicated. Most airlines charge $100 to have your pet on board with you and they must be small enough to fit in a carrier under the seat. If your dog is larger, it can cost up to $250 for them to travel in the cargo space which can be traumatizing. If you are able, I highly recommend driving over flying to your assignment if you are travel nursing with a dog.
What Should You Pack for Your Dog?
When taking your dog along on a contract, think of the things that make them feel at home. Do they have a favorite bed or toy? Do they like to nest in their kennel? In addition to packing for yourself, make sure you bring all the essentials for your dog to make sure they feel comfortable. I am always sure to bring a dog bed, Joni’s favorite blanket, toys, nail clippers, and medications.What Records Should You Bring?Just as you bring your vaccination and medical records with you, you will want to have a folder for your dog’s paperwork as well. Apartments and doggie day cares will often ask for vaccination records so make sure you have them up to date and organized. The most common vaccinations asked for are Rabies and Bordetella. You also may have to visit a new veterinarian so having your dog’s medical records will come in handy.
Finding a Veterinarian
Speaking of finding a new veterinarian… It is every dog owner’s worst nightmare to have their pup get sick while on a contract. You’re far away from a veterinarian that you know and it can be hard to find one you trust. When I get to town, I try to identify the closest emergency veterinarian and make sure they have good reviews on google. This way, if something emergent happens, I have one less thing to think about. Another way to identify good veterinarians is to ask your new coworkers where they take their dog. Here’s a list of the best veterinary hospitals in the country.
Yearly Check Ups and Vaccinations
Coordinating your yearly vet check up during the short time you’re home can be a difficult task. Your trip home may not line up with the right time to get your dog’s vaccinations. For this reason, I’ve started using Tractor Supply PetVet Clinic to get my dogs yearly shots, heartworm test, and flea and tick medication. Search for the closest location to you and find what days they offer walk in clinic days. The process was incredibly easy and relatively affordable. I only had to wait a short time and the vet did a full exam and drew blood. After the heartworm results came back, they mailed a year's supply of heartworm, flea, and tick medication straight to us. If you can’t find a Tractor Supply near you, Vetco also offers this service.
Finding Care for Your Dog During a 12 Hour Shift
Traveling with a partner makes travel nursing with a dog easier. If your partner works remotely, they can care for your pet while you’re at work. I know I’m grateful to have a remote working stay at home dog dad! If you’re traveling solo though, it can be intimidating to find reliable care for your dog while you’re working a twelve hour shift. Luckily, doggie daycares are becoming more and more abundant. There are tons of chains nationwide where you can drop your dog off to play while you work. Camp Bow Wow, Dogtopia, K9 to Five, and PetSmart are some options, just to name a few. Here’s a great list of doggie daycare chains with the pros and cons of each. When you’re looking at cities to take a contract, do a quick google search to make sure you will have options for boarding your dog if needed.
Another great option for care for your dog is Rover or Wag. When you get to town, you can search for dog walkers in your area and arrange for your dog to be let out while you’re at work. We have used Rover several times and have been happy with the ease of use. Dog walkers will send you pictures of your pup which provides peace of mind when you can’t be there to let them out.
Establishing a Routine
Dogs are creatures of habit so establishing a routine and finding consistent, familiar places is important. When I get to a new town, I determine the closest park and make it a point to take a walk there with Joni when I have days off. This creates familiarity for both you and your dog. It’s a great way to get your dog some exercise as you may be staying more in apartments without a yard for your pup to roam in.
Connecting with other Pet Owners On MedVenture
If your dog is social, they will miss their play friends just like you miss your friends back home. Just like it can be hard to make new human friends as a traveler, it can be hard to find new dog friends as well! MedVenture makes it easy to connect with other pet owners by scrolling through the meet people tab. When you find someone who is a pet owner, you can connect and message with them. You can also set up events to arrange a doggie playdate at a dog park or dog beach. This is a great way to find friends for your dog, and for yourself while you’re on contract! Be sure to download Medventure before your contract to have the best experience as a travel nurse.
As you can see, there are definitely some considerations when planning to be a travel nurse with a dog. It may take more effort to find housing, dog care, veterinarians, and dog parks. Despite the effort though, it is so worth it. I couldn’t imagine travel nursing without my dog. There are so many things that can hold you back from living your dream of travel nursing, don’t let having a dog be one of them!
Ashley Cohagen has been an ICU/ER Travel Nurse for the past year and a half. She takes extended breaks between contracts to travel in a campervan with her partner Eric and their senior beagle, Joni. Together, Eric and Ashley run www.createyourownroadshow.com where they provide resources for van building, vanlife, and travel nursing.