Feeding Your Dog When You Travel

Over the last few years we have discussed our solutions for things such as airline approved carriers, in-transit potty solutions, and of course what airlines we prefer and why. One thing we have yet to cover is the issue of food and water.

There are a surprising number of regulations regarding crossing borders with either food or water – especially for air travel. When on a road trip we have a plug in cooler we use so I will focus on air travel for this post if that is alright with you.

Tip #1 – Water

Airport security will confiscate bottled water before you are allowed through; but water is easy enough to replace once on the other side. Most magazine shops have some bottled water for sale, even if over priced now that they have a captive customer. You can also often get water at a restaurant.

Tap water is always available from the bathroom but keep in mind that the quality of the tap water changes from country to country. Dogs just like humans can be sensitive to unfamiliar bacteria.

Feeding Your Dog when you Travel small dog Montecristo water solution

Waiting for my water – SIGG bottle and sport cap that doubles as a water bowl

Many airports also have drinking fountains and water coolers as well. With all these options all you need is a travel dish and you are good to go. In our case we use a SIG bottle with sports cap.

Tip #2 – Kibble

The “feeding” in transit question is a difficult one to answer because it depends primarily on how you have chosen to nourish your dog. For those that feed their canine’s dog food we recommend you purchase some “sample” sized bags to meet travel regulations. Surprisingly even land border crossings can have regulations when it comes to how large a bag you can have. Sealed or not.

Feeding Your Dog when you Travel Montecristo dried food solution

Sample bags of dog food and freeze dried liver treats – YUMMY!!

The small sample size will allow you to feed your dog should you have a long trip or layover at an airport while still meeting regulations and will also allow you to split the load up between two or more people when traveling as a family.

Smaller dog boutiques and pet stores have them and they are often available for free. Technically, at security, a zip lock full of kibble can be confiscated. I have seen some people get away with it – but it is a risk you are taking.

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) travelers may bring into Canada a personal import of pet food (limit of 20 kg), if the import meets all of the following requirements:

  1. The pet food or product must be of United States origin and be commercially packaged.
  2. The pet food or product must be in the possession of the traveler at the time of entry from the U.S.
  3. The animal that will eat the imported product must accompany the traveler at the time of entry.
  4. The imported product is fed only to the animal that accompanied the traveler into Canada.

These regulations apply to land crossings as well. So don’t be fooled into thinking that driving means you can bring more.

Tip #3 – Raw 

What about those of you on a raw food or fresh food diet? This is a frequently asked question we receive.

First, let’s get this over with. Flying OR land crossing you can NOT cross a border with raw food especially chicken. For and crossings you can cross the border with small amounts of COOKED meats in a cooler.

Now, allow me to explain my own diet. Yes? Because I get asked this a LOT. I think my super silky soft fur and lack of allergies has people curious. Good genes? Good food? A Combo of both?

I eat what my humans eat. Try not to gasp and be shocked. My bipeds have taken a lot of time to study and understand my dietary needs. They make every meal from scratch using the same ingredients they would for themselves. Only THEY are vegan … so the meat part is just for me. I also have my vitamins just as they do. In a nutshell I eat human grade food, prepared at the same time (sometimes they prep a four day batch – see photo below) and eat at the same time as my bipeds do. Although during a work week I get my table spoon of food in the morning and then again at night. During weekends or when traveling I eat with them, smaller portions given the 3 meal rather than 2 meal plan. I occasionally also get some raw beef, bones, freeze dried anchovies (my favourite!) etc.

Feeding Your Dog when you Travel Montecristo's 4 day meal plan

Things may vary. Fruit could be blueberries. The non green vege could be red peppers. The meat salmon or beef. But you get the idea.

There are huge advantages to this system; the first being we know exactly what I am eating and the other is that it makes travel easy.  Once we cross the security check point at the airport, if we are all hungry it is easy to find a ham and cheese sandwich (or tuna and cucumber) that can feed all three of us. I get the meats! On a transatlantic flight, I will have a piece of whatever is being served. Most humans don’t eat a balanced meal while flying and … neither do I.  But I do not go hungry and I do not get the runs from a change in food because my food varies every day and I am use to that. It also makes things easier once we have reached our destination.

Raw is a slightly more challenging choice for in-transit feedings. I did look into it for those of you on the raw food diet (I refuse to go that route – they bipeds did try). If you have a long layover, you can contact a restaurant that works within an airport and see if they would be willing to let you buy something from them. Most are surprisingly willing to assist.

Another option is freeze dried raw food. This is a the way to go.

Tip #4 – Freeze Dried 

Orijen is one of the most convenient freeze dried pet foods on the market in Canada and the one we use. Another option is Stella and Chewy. The “1 serving size” patties allow you to just pour warm water on top, let it soak and serve. You don’t need a fridge. You do not have to defrost it overnight, you don’t have to cut it up or mix it with anything. It is a 100% complete and balanced made from only the most superior ingredients on the market. And because it’s freeze dried it’s super light weight; making it easy to travel with. It’s also allowed across security for land or air travel. I usually have a few patties in a zip lock for the flight itself and a sealed bag in our luggage for the remainder of the trip.

You see, these freeze-dried  patties is how I get my “organ” meat quota in addition to  my locally made freeze-dried liver or heart treats. You can even have some mailed to your destination!  There are many brands out there so go ahead and shop around.  E-mail or call the manufacturers and they will often be willing to send you some small sample bags that are very convenient for in-transit meals. Start giving it to your dog 2-3 weeks prior to your trip as a small treat  or sprinkled on their food and increase the quantity slowly. Then once on the road this easy to transport, non-messy food becomes your go-to when you are not able to provide fresh or raw food.

Tip #5 – On Location

We tend to rent apartments so we just go to the grocery store and get what we all need. In a hotel room the mini bar/fridge can store what I need and the heating element on the coffee pot (we bring tin foil for this) is often powerful enough to warm up my food – heck I have even ordered room service! Being small makes this all possible.

This is much more convenient than having to figure out if a particular brand of kibble is available in the country we are visiting and if not … how to get a bag of dog food for 3-4 weeks or months to our destination.

Feeding Your Dog when you Travel Montecristo's supplements

We have been known to travel with an empty mason jar for storing my food on location. Small travel size supplements can be sent ahead as well.

Supplements CAN be a tad trickier to sort out. Depending on the length of travel we may just skip them for that short time. If it’s more long term, we have been known to mail a small box of my (and human) supplements to our first stop. This means we don’t have to worry so much about breakage and weight in our carry on. Some supplements, like my Stop The Itch and Plaque Off, come in really small sized packaging anyway so it’s not an issue.

In addition my way of eating is far less likely to get me to develop allergies. Constantly changing a diet is key. No wheat, no byproducts, human grade and as often as possible organic fresh food will always be a healthier option. Think of it … how would you feel about eating the same thing every single day?

Feeding Your Dog when you Travel Montecristo eating his dinner small dog

Remember that for travel a lightweight bowl is best. We travel carry on only so avoid metal.

How do you eat when in-transit? What about once you have arrived? Please share with us your solutions!

Note: This post is reviewed and carefully updated from an earlier less extensive 2012 version.

43 Comments on “Feeding Your Dog When You Travel

  1. Excellent article! It can be challenging to feed our pets while traveling, especially if they are on a “special diet”. My little one also eats human grade food, which I prepare in advance and freeze in portions, from Hilary’s Complete and Balanced cookbook. Fresh fruit, fresh veggies and meats (chicken, lamb, pork, salmon, beef)that are all purchased in the same food isles we buy for ourselves.
    As you also indicated, if fed human grade ingredients, it also eliminates problems that some dogs may have due to allergies or sensitivities. Our little guy can not eat any processed commercial dog food otherwise he gets colitis. Human grade also makes it easy in case we “forget” to bring a meal when we go out, as he can eat almost anything from toasts and eggs, to a piece of salmon, potatoes and some carrots and apples.
    I also just recently discovered a new raw dehydrated kibble called CaniSource which has not given him any problems. This is also easy to bring along in your purse. It’s reassuring to know your pet is getting only the best human grade ingredients, with no refrigeration required! Plus the added bonus of the crunchy kibble. (I have a sample bag for Monte to “test”). I believe Wag seels this product. Even my cats loves this stuff and they are picky eaters!
    We have not travelled much with Pepito, but in the event we ever do, these are great tips you listed for feeding (I love the coffee pot element idea!!!). I did not realize restaurants were so accommodating, but it’s reassuring to know!
    thanks for a great article. Feeding while traveling can be tricky, hopefully this will help some readers, and hoping to hear other ideas too!

    • I am really looking forward to trying this new food! Hope I see you soon before Pepito gets it!

      Thank you for your thoughtful comment I am glad you saw value in the article. The coffee pot element was something Mom discovered when we were on a dive trip to Key Largos. She had asked for a room with microwave but did not get one. So when stuck …. well you know what they say about necessity being the mother of all inventions!

  2. Great post Monte! Callie stays on her regular dog food when we travel–she is really prone to getting an upset stomach and keeping her on her regular rotation of food & treats helps keep her from having any upset. For the first few months I had her, when I kept her on the food from the breeder, she constantly had digestive upset but as soon as I switched her to her high-quality food, her stomach issues stopped.

    I feed her two “flavors” of Orijen dog food, switching every day so she doesn’t have to eat the same thing twice in a row. She isn’t much of an eater and she really isn’t food-motivated at all (her personality is to be 100% praise motivated–all her behavior training I ended up doing with praise instead of treats), so if I try to feed her the same food twice in a row, she just won’t eat. In fact, we switched to Orijen when she was a few months old not only because of her digestive issues but once she went for three whole days without eating anything (and this was when she only weighed about 3 or 4lbs!) and I knew she just must hate her food.

    I’m sure you’ve heard of Orijen since it is a Canadian pet food company and they specialize in grain/wheat-free food which is high in meat protein and whose carbohydrates come only from fruits & veggies. Callie gets a 6-fish flavor (salmon, herring, flounder, wild-caught whitefish, walleye and northern pike) and a meat flavor (wild boar, beef, lamb, heritage pork and bison). When we travel I buy the smaller sample-sized bags from the boutique pet store which makes things a lot easier–just like you said in the post! When Callie gets special treats (other than her usual food and dried duck & chicken sticks) she LOVES to eat dried mango, peanut butter, popcorn, cheese…well just about anything that her mama eats!

    • Thank you for the long response Aemelia! Callie is lucky to have such a devoted care taker. I have heard of the brand and I am glad you found something that works so well for you. Those sample bags are a God-sent!

  3. What a great article!!! Very informative for the dog toting traveler!

  4. Thank you for the wonderful advice for traveling sweet Monte! We can not travel when we read your articles dream someday to do it! Thank you for sharing them with us! Big kisses!

  5. Hi Monte. Just dropped by to say I’m here and I’m reading. I enjoy the articles although, not having a dog, I really have no opinion to give. I do appreciate the time and research put into them though. Well done.

    • Oh Isobel, THANK YOU!!! Means a lot that you do read and that you let us know you were here! I have another reader – Brad – also has no dog, but comes for a visit. He often shares his opinion as a non dog owner. Especially on things like the VIA Rail issue, or posts on dog etiquette – I find it very insightful. I am honoured you take the time to read!! See you soon!

  6. Wrigley eats the Duck Duck Goose flavour of Stella & Chewy’s, a freeze-dried raw food, which we soften with a little warm water and mix with a little pureed pumpkin. (For the sake of convenience, we forego the pumpkin if we need to feed him in transit.) In a pinch, he’ll also eat human food — a bit of poached chicken or other meat, combined with pumpkin or some veggies. When traveling — especially outside Canada or the US — we use only bottled water for mixing his food and for his drinking water.

    I also found some great little collapsible bowls on Amazon, which we’re planning to use for our upcoming vacation — they take up virtually no room, and will be great for in-transit feedings. Here’s a link to them… http://www.amazon.com/Popware-Pets-Expandable-Collapsible-Turquoise/dp/B001DLBFN6/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1335544481&sr=8-6

    Thanks for all the great info!

    • Awesome Amanda!! those bowl look great – wonder how high they are? Thanks for sharing with us what you feed Wrigley … and also how you do that when in transit! Gives my readers other options to check out!! thanks!

  7. Pingback: Our Round Up for Travelling With a Small Dog!

  8. Great post as that has been one of my worries what if I took Layla to Cape Town. I am lucky to work for Grandma Lucy’s Freeze Dried food which is made in California and have loads of samples in the house so now I know I would be able to take that phew, breathing a bit now. As for water, yes I am aware of the problems with water as I have travelled a lot so would only buy water for her like I would do for me.

    • Yes freeze dried really is the best thing invented from a travel perspective! you could also ship some ahead! I recommend that!

  9. I don’t travel too far away from home, so never really considered the challenges of flying with dog food. Very interesting. Looks like you have a very healthy diet, lucky you!

    • I am lucky. I know it. And between you me and the interweb peeps … I can be a picky eater and that’s so not fair on the bipeds. But the taste buds want what the taste buds want!

  10. All my dogs are too big to travel without being checked, I will never agree to letting someone else be responsible for their safety so we’ve never done it. If, for some reason, we are forced to travel with one of our pups, I will revisit this bookmark to make sure I’m doing it right!

  11. We don’t usually travel by plane with our dog (he’s very old), but this was very helpful for our travels by road. Even in the U.S., there are times when it is useful to have samples, your own water, etc.

  12. Great tips thanks for sharing. I travel quite a bit and the biggest concern for me is always how, when and what I will feed my animals. Of particular concern is my older dog Red who must eat specific food on a schedule, so that can be quite challenging. You absolutely must check what’s allowed into your destination country. Many years ago I brought prescription diet food with me from England to Canada for one of my cats and I was absolutely not allowed to bring it in. After much arguing they allowed me to feed him in the airport, but they threw it all away after that. Such important info!

    • It really is because it can add a lot of stress to the owner as well if they don’t know. If you don’t know you don’t plan for it and it feels like a curve ball right? Eating on a schedule when travelling – that must be tricky!

  13. Usually I bring freeze-dried food. When we visit family, they buy frozen raw food for Mr. N and keep it in their freezer.
    When we went to Blogpaws though, Mr. N went on a dog food strike and refused to eat any of the three foods I brought with me. He ended up eating from the buffet with me for all three days.

  14. I would have never guessed that there was a limit on kibble, especially when you are driving. You have such a great diet and I can see that it would be easy to feed you on trips.

    • right? I know … a lot of people get caught with that one. *sigh* and really I don’t understand the why behind that rule. I mean… really … why? A well…. *shrugs* In a way maybe it’s a good thing – it made my bipeds look at other ways to feed me!

  15. Great post! I tend to fast when I’m travelling so my people get me wet/canned food when we travel because I will be so excited by the novelty that I’ll eat. If they brought my regular food I would not eat very much…

    • That’s so interesting Dear Mishu! I’ve been known to fast if I have a major temp change so going from super cold Canadian Winter to say Mexico … I may take a day or two and adjust. Bipeds have learned not to freak out. As long as I am drinking right? For me – since I never eat the same thing … it’s always a novelty! YAY!

  16. It certainly takes a lot of preparation and planning to travel with your pet, and this is a must read. I like that you feed human grade food. I feed a mix of fresh, home cooked and kibble. It works for my dogs and their very sensitive tummies.

    • Thank you. Yes we do try – I saw a great documentary that showed how much adding fresh vegies can extend a dogs life and reduce the risks of cancer. So in our case we just took it one step further.

  17. Great post with great ideas to ensure your pet is well cared for when traveling. I know that getting a room with a refrigerator or kitchen is a big help when traveling. Like you mentioned it makes it much easier to maintain a pets raw food or even just buying groceries for yourself and storing them. Much healthier and cheaper than room service too! I like Staybridge Suites hotels. They have pet friendly locations and spacious clean rooms. The last family vacation we took together with my cat Dusty was at Christmas time when she was on treatment for cancer. She had a great time. Plenty of space to roam around and snif things out. It was great for me to have access to a kitchen to keep her medicine and supplements stored properly and prepare her food. Everything worked out well on that trip.

    • Indeed. We tend to rent wonderful little places on AirBnB or FlipKey. We’ve discovered we really like living with locals and now feel weird staying at hotels! LOL But yes a full kitchen has become a must in our search … a washing machine too!

  18. Loving your travel tips and brand suggestions. While I’ve heard of a few of these companies, a few are new to me. I love checking out new stuff. For the supplements, have your humans ever tried mailing them in one of those weekly medication holders? Back in the day when I camped more, we’d keep spices in those little compartmental things and it worked pretty well. I love your graphic of all your meal ingredients! Looking at that yummy line-up makes me a little hungry!

    • My bipeds use that for their own supplements. Mine .. it’s a tad difficult since they are in oil (liquid) or powder form. We do use small mason jars if driving and to mail we use these really great little no BPA plastic containers that have a really good seal on them. For the oil if it’s a long trip – we just buy a new bottle and leave the manufacturers seal intact.

  19. How interesting. In all of the blog posts I’ve read of your travels – not once did I ask myself what you ate. Guess that shows I don’t travel with my girls.

    • I think that’s half the fun of reading posts of folks that aren’t 100% in your own niche. You get to discover new ideas and concepts!

  20. This is such an informative post! I’ve always wondered how people feeding raw deal with feeding their dogs on vacation or while traveling but this goes above and beyond answering those questions!

  21. Raw feeding can indeed get tricky when traveling. Last time hubby traveled for work, we dragged a huge cooler filled with frozen food; fortunately, the place we were staying at had a freezer. Otherwise, we’d pack up a bunch of freeze dried and see what else we could get at the destination. Since Cookie is “easy”, we could always just home-cook for the time being.

    • having a dog that’s ‘easy” to feed is a huge bonus. I’m a bit of a food snob to be honest. At home anyway … but there is something about travel that seems to rid me of it. Who knows why!?

  22. This is really informative. I don’t know if I would have thought of being careful of giving a dog tap water in the airport. There are so many things to think about when traveling with a pet, and I give people who do so much credit.

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