Roady, a handsome trucking Rottweiler, wasn’t getting much sleep.
Every night he stood guard over his owner, Tim Blevins, waiting for him to stop breathing. Blevins, a trucker from Oklahoma, didn’t know he had severe sleep apnea – several times a night Roady would jam his wet nose into Blevins’ face, startling the breath back into his lungs. When Blevins finally told his doctor about the nightly episodes, the doctor diagnosed sleep apnea and said Roady probably saved his life.*
Not every pup is as keen as Roady, but bringing your pet on the road with you can foster a happier and healthier lifestyle, according to Health.com.
“A powerful neurochemical, oxytocin, is released when we look at our companion animal, which brings feelings of joy,” says Rebecca A. Johnson, PhD, director of the Research Center for Human-Animal Interaction at the University of Missouri College of Veterinary Medicine.
The comfort of a furry companion is proven to reduce stress, decrease high blood pressure, and even reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. It’s no secret that pets can be good for both our mental and physical health, but animals on the road face unique circumstances. So, what can you do to create the best possible environment for your loved one?
Pet-Proof Your Truck
Cats and dogs are drawn to pedals like a force of nature. Whether it’s the comfort of being safely at their owner’s feet, or just the warm, dark space, somehow our furry friends all seem to share an affinity for one of the most dangerous parts of a truck cab. And while cats can be finicky in following rules, you can train your dog to stay away from the unsafe space. When training your pup for life on the road, create a barrier between your pet and the pedals. After he/she is used to the new environment, you can remove the barrier. But until then, leave the clutch and brake off limits to your pet.
While the clutch and pedals might be the most important start to pet-proofing your truck, there are a few other ways to ensure you and your companion are both safe and comfortable:
- Make his/her space roomy and safe. If you opt for a smaller dog, make sure he/she can’t get stuck or pinched under the seat.
- Store chewable items like medicine, food, or trash in compartments and out of your dog’s reach.
- Always have plenty of fresh water available. Keep a semi-full water dish on the floor of your truck, so your companion can drink whenever he/she pleases. Hot days and long trips will make your dog just as thirsty as you!
Make Safety a Priority
Because trucking is a hazardous lifestyle even for drivers, the risk of injury from an accident is particularly high for our furry friends. And as a double-whammy, unplanned vet bills can be surprisingly steep – think of it like paying a hospital bill for your pet. Instead, consider purchasing pet insurance, so that your bank account isn’t run dry by an unplanned vet visit. There are a lot of pet insurance companies out there, but a couple options worth looking into include Healthy Paws and Petplan.
Regardless of your decision on pet insurance, cats and dogs on the road should be checked out by a vet at least once a year. Animals who travel with their owners face the unique circumstance of an ever-changing climate. Since trucking pets travel all across the country, check with your vet on a regular basis to make sure that your companion has all of the medications and vaccinations that they will need for a variety of regions.
Keep Your Pets Comfortable
You probably wouldn’t let a small child ride in the front seat of your rig with no seatbelt, and the same should go for your pet. If you ever end up in an accident, restraint similar to a seat belt could be lifesaving to your furry friend. Even slamming too hard on the breaks could be detrimental, if your pet is loose in the cab. There are a few different ways to keep your cat or dog both safe and comfortable while traveling. Whether it’s a closed-off kennel, or simply a harness that attaches to a seat belt, research the options available for you and your animal before hitting the road.
Think of your pet as your baby. When you’ve stopped driving for the night, make sure that your cat or dog has a soft, warm place to sleep. If you don’t have a kennel on hand, you can put together a makeshift bed with soft towels and blankets. If your pet is a small animal, it’s a good idea to cover their cage with a blanket or coat overnight – the darkness helps calm some small animals, and the warmth will keep them comfortable. Make sure to leave room around the bottom, though, so that your pet always has enough clean air to breathe!
Stop for Outside-Time
It might sound like a no brainer, but it’s important to give your pup plenty of time to roam outside of the truck. Purchase a hearty harness and leash, and take your dog for walks and play-time outside of the truck (don’t forget the doggy bags – no one likes stepping out of their cab into a pile of mush!) a few times a day. This can be hard to do when you’re on a deadline, but here’s where most of the physical benefits of having a pet come in. A dog that needs to be walked means that you get walked, too.
“Providing exercise for their companion animals results in better fitness for the (truck driver) and health benefits, such as a reduction in the risk for cardiovascular disease with lower blood pressure,” says Carolyn Magner, reporter for Overdrive.
Even cats cooped up in a small space for an extended period of time need some way to release their energy. If your companion is a cat, get a scratching board and a few toys for him or her to play with while you’re driving.
Log Expenses and Save Receipts
A few weeks ago, we covered how to create a budget as an owner operator. If you have a pet, adding their expenses to the budget gives you a solid idea of your financial standing. It’s a good idea to put away at least $300 for a yearly vet visit, and $20 a week for food and other small expenses.
On top of that, your pet’s expenses might actually be tax deductible. If you have a dog on the road with you 100% of the time and he or she alerts you if someone is coming near your truck, there are deductions you can take on your pet expenses. Keep your pet-related receipts, and check out the IRS’ resources for whether your pet can fetch you a tax deduction.
At FreightRover, we are committed to driver happiness on the road, and work daily to put out helpful information that will make your time using the FreightRover app both productive and personally beneficial. For information on how FreightRover promotes happy living through driver independence on the road, contact us today!
*Opening story about Roady was first reported in Overdrive. Read their full article here.