Traveling with our pets adds to the experience of any destination. We can see the world through their eyes and our pets can teach us many lessons about travel. They teach us to slow down and notice the little things. They teach us to take it all in. They teach us that life is meant to be lived to the fullest every day!
But traveling with pets adds an extra layer of responsibility while on the road. We have to ensure their safety at all times, and that includes the temperature inside our RV. The reality is that pets can suffer from overheating and heat stroke. But with a little preparation and planning, we can have peace of mind that we are doing all we can to ensure a safe and comfortable RV temperature.
Regulating the Temperature Inside Your RV
One of the biggest dangers to our pets that travel with us in an RV is overheating due to high temperatures, or the dangers of freezing temperatures due to cold weather. None of us would leave our pets alone in the sun during summer or in the snow during winter. Although your RV is a home on wheels with a completely different environment than a regular house, it is still a home that your pets will live in.
As pet parents, we must protect our pets at all costs. But how do we know what RV temperatures are safe for our pets? How can we make preparations to ensure their safety? After over six years on the road with our dogs, we have learned many lessons. Some lessons we have learned from mistakes, but when it comes to RV temperatures, there isn’t any room for mistakes — one mistake can be fatal.
Protecting Your Pets on the Road
On a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a parked car or RV can soar to 100 degrees in minutes, and on a 90-degree day, the interior temperature can reach as high as 109 degrees in less than 10 minutes. Animals can sustain brain damage or even die from heatstroke in as little as 15 minutes. Pets cannot sweat like we do, they can only rely on panting to cool themselves.
Picking the right campsite can be a major factor in keeping your RV at a safe temperature. If possible, choose a campsite offering some shade with trees. Use your window shades and blinds to assist your air conditioning or heaters from overworking.
Thunderstorms can also pose a threat to pets left alone in an RV since they can cause power outages, lightning, and thunder. Winter weather can also be a hazard. For cats, anything below 45 degrees Fahrenheit is too cold. If the temperature dips below freezing, they are at high risk of hypothermia.
“In general, cold temperatures should not become a problem for most dogs until they fall below 45° F, at which point some cold-averse dogs might begin to feel uncomfortable. When temperatures fall below 32° F, owners of small breed dogs, dogs with thin coats, and/or very young, old, or sick dogs should pay close attention to their pet’s well-being. Once temperatures drop under 20° F, all owners need to be aware that their dogs could potentially develop cold-associated health problems like hypothermia and frostbite.” –PetMD
We rarely leave our dogs alone when we travel in our RV, but there are places where we cannot bring them in with us like grocery stores. So when we leave them even for a short amount of time, we worry. If an RV has well-functioning air conditioners or heaters, there is still the possibility of a power outage at a campground. We don’t leave our dogs for any amount of time in the RV without a pet temperature monitor.
Tips for Quick Trips Away From Your Pet
- Charge up the pet temperature monitor so, in case of a power outage, it is still operable.
- Charge phones fully to receive notifications of any temperature changes from the monitor.
- Use window shades to block direct sunlight.
- Limit time away to no more than two hours.
Pet Temperature Monitor System
We have tested many temperature monitoring systems, and the one that has been the most reliable for us is the Waggle Pet Temperature Monitor. It has its own cell signal built-in, which is great in some of the remote areas we travel to. It does not rely on wifi like many of the others. You set the parameters of what temperatures you want to be alerted about, and you get a notification sent to your phone immediately.
We have heard from many travelers with pets that monitors like this have saved the lives of their pets in the summer at campgrounds that experienced a loss of power. Minutes can often mean the difference between life and death. Time is everything.
“Pets can withstand a temperature of up to 102°F, beyond which it can be fatal. The average temperature inside RV vehicles is 91°F.” -Steve Collins, Waggle
Obviously, that is extreme and we would never want to subject our pets to those kinds of temperatures, but it does emphasize that the average temperature inside an RV can get hot or cold quicker than we may think.
Keep in mind that many campgrounds, national parks, and RV parks have rules stating that dogs and pets can’t be left alone or unattended — and unattended means alone in your RV. So think ahead, especially on extreme weather days. Plan activities you can do together that are pet-friendly.
Alarming Stats from an Arizona State University Study
Depending upon what size RV you have will, of course, determine how fast the temperature rises inside. A study by Arizona State University revealed some alarming findings regarding rising temperatures inside a vehicle.
“For vehicles parked in the sun during the simulated shopping trip, the average cabin temperature hit 116 degrees in one hour. Dashboards averaged 157 degrees, steering wheels 127 degrees, and seats 123 degrees in one hour. For vehicles parked in the shade, interior temperatures were closer to 100 degrees after one hour. Dashboards averaged 118 degrees, steering wheels 107 degrees, and seats 105 degrees after one hour. The different types of vehicles tested warmed up at different rates, with the economy car warming faster than the midsize sedan and minivan.” -Arizona State University
Extra Precautions for Pet Parents
- Leave plenty of water for your pets
- Park facing away from direct sunlight
- Purchase a pet temperature monitor
- Notify a trusted camper or park management of the time you will be away from your pet and leave an emergency contact number
The most important aspect of traveling with pets is to recognize, acknowledge, and act on the individual needs of YOUR pet. Age, health, and other factors determine what RV temperatures are safe for your pet. If in doubt, make adjustments to trip durations or routes to avoid extreme temperatures when possible.
We have rerouted due to summertime temperatures as our dog Brickle has gotten older. We have planned pet-friendly trips to avoid areas that make Fruitycake’s allergies flare up. The great part about RV travel is the ability to change direction. Have fun and go on those bucket list adventures with your pet, but take RV temperature precautions and plan ahead. A safe time is a good time for all!
What action do you take to ensure your pets are safe while on the road? Tell us in the comments below!
Rachael Johnson and her husband Nate founded 2 Traveling Dogs in 2011. They write a daily dog blog that highlights the RV adventures of rescue dogs Peanut Butter Brickle and Digby Pancake as they travel the USA to highlight animal rescue. With over a million social media followers, they use their platforms to encourage others to adopt their pets and live the best life possible together while traveling!