Leaving Pets in RV

Affiliate Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Leaving pets in RVs, such as your dogs or a couple of cats, is something that newer pet parents wonder about. They’re either looking to get into RVing with Dogs or they’re already running into situations where they need to leave them in the RV to go out. If that’s your personal circumstance too, read on!

Dogs or cats left behind while going out is a risk. Leaving pets in RVs is a problem because dogs and cats must always be kept cool. Otherwise, they risk getting heatstroke. Most regrettably, animals can die from excess heat within just a couple of hours.

Fortunately, there are measures that pet owners can take when they absolutely must go somewhere that pets are not allowed. These include pet temperature monitors, RV camera systems, and diesel-operated generators should the primary power system experience a total failure.

Read Also: Can Dogs Ride in a Pull Behind Camper?

Whether it’s safe to leave your beloved pets in your RV or camper van is a good question. It’s one that many pet parents wrestle with. Unfortunately, it’s not an easy one to answer though. In this article, we’ll explain why that is and how to decide for yourself.

Read Also: Can Animals Ride in a Towed Vehicle?

Why Might You Need to or Choose to Leave Your Pets in Your RV

Firstly, let’s address the elephant in the room (if you’ll pardon the pun).

In most situations, RV travel with pets is a joy. it’s always best – and you’re probably happiest – to keep your pets near you. Here, we’re referring mostly to domesticated dogs or cats. When they’re close by, you can keep “a good eye” on them, ensure they’re not destroying the furniture, have enough food and water, and are being kept cool.

Read Also: Can My Dog Ride in the Travel Trailer?

Couples vs. A Solo Traveler in an RV

It’s certainly easier doing so as a couple when living in an RV with a dog. This is because you can take it in turns to stay behind to look after your pets.

However, when you’re a solo traveler in an RV, that option is unavailable to you.

Why Might You Need to Leave Your Pets?

There are several possible reasons:

  1. Going shopping where dogs and cats are not permitted.
  2. Bring the RV into a mechanic’s repair shop that doesn’t allow pets on the premises.
  3. Taking one pet to the vet (but the other pet gets scared unnecessarily if coming along).
  4. Visiting tourist attractions that don’t allow dogs or cats (like some National Parks).

Obviously, there are other reasons we haven’t included which can be equally valid.

Risks or Concerns Associated with Leaving Pets in Your RV

Leaving pets in RV

There are several concerns about leaving pets alone, like your dogs or cats, in the RV, camper van, camper, or travel trailer.  

Surprise Temperature Volatility

The highest risk by far is one where the RV becomes overly hot. Even though typically the interior of an RV is cooler than the outside temperature, it may not stay that way.

Hotter Temperatures – Cooling systems like fans, an AC system, or others work most of the time. However, sometimes they may stop unexpectedly. Even when plugging into av RV campground’s hookups, a power surge can cause the RV’s power breaker to trip. Thunderstorms have also been known to knock out power systems too. When the power is out, the AC and any portable fans may stop working or run on the battery pack until it’s fully drained.


Colder Temperatures – In the colder months, it’s necessary to have the heaters running to keep your pets warm. Cats especially are severely affected by the cold, especially fluctuations in colder temperature levels through the night. It may be necessary to run the generator while you’re away to keep the heaters operational. Should the generator run out of diesel, for instance, it will turn off. It could also become faulty and shut down without much, if any, warning.

In either scenario, it only requires a few hours (sometimes just 2-3 hours) before your pet(s) may suffer ill-health. Either due to the cold or getting heatstroke in extreme temperatures, equipment failure or a power outage can see precious family dogs or adorable cats lost to this disaster.

It’s happened to RVers in the past. Don’t let it happen to you.

RV Parks or RV Campground Rules May Prohibit Leaving a Pet Unattended

Depending on the RV campground or RV park, they may have rules such as “no dogs left unattended.” Essentially, this means that they prohibit leaving a dog in an RV unaccompanied by a responsible adult.

Equally, leaving a dog in a pop-up camper will be viewed similarly by an RV campground or park.

Adventures in an RV – A dog’s tale by Susan Williams

Check Price on Amazon

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Whether leaving a dog or cat in an RV or there are pets in a travel trailer without their pet parents nearby, it could still be a breach of the rules. While you may believe that no one will notice, plenty of neighbors see when you have pets and do note when you go out and they’re not with you.

In the worst case, they could call a local authority to investigate further why there are pets inside your RV without their owners being present.

Barking Dogs Disturbing Neighbors

Another issue with leaving dogs in an RV is that they can become distressed or lonely when left alone too long. A dog left in a mini camper may well feel too confined after a while and begin to want to get the attention of his or her human friends.

At this point, even a usually calm dog can become scared enough to start to bark continually for their pet parents. RV neighbors and campground organizers are often alerted to this problem.

Also, even if your dogs are usually quiet, anyone walking near your RV can trigger their protective responses by barking as a warning. Once activated, they may have difficulty in a hot RV to calm themselves down without their owner’s vocal encouragement.

People Sometimes Report that Dogs Are in the RV Alone

When some people walk past an RV or camper and see one or more pets inside, they may automatically worry whether they’ll overheat. This concern may cause them to contact the RV park or other authorities to investigate.

Reflectix BP48010 48-Inch by 10-Feet Bubble Pack Insulation (3-Pack)

Check Price on Amazon

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

To avoid that situation, some RV owners set up windscreen covers, and Reflectix window covers [affiliate link] or blackout window covers [affiliate link]. This reduces the heat levels on the interior and prevents people from looking in. Also, these can provide increased privacy during the day or nighttime too.

Static Cling Total Blackout Window Film 100% UV Blocking Window Darkening Film (Removable)

Check Price on Amazon

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Cruel and Inhumane Treatment

On the subject of RV pet safety, should you lose a pet due to a power failure causing the heating or cooling systems to malfunction, it would be extremely upsetting.

Besides this, there’s the added risk of the authorities pursuing a case for cruel treatment to animals because of not taking adequate care to ensure their safety. The possible outcome of this can include a criminal record, court fines, and time in a county court jail (sometimes for several months).

Just something to be aware of.

What Does Heat Stroke Look Like in Dogs?

In a situation where you’ve left your dog(s) and now you’re returned, it’s important to look them over. Some breeds are more susceptible to the heat than others. Also, some smaller or pocket breeds have issues staying warm enough. Be careful to consider these factors too.

When staying too long and noting that the RV is hotter than you expected it to be, it’s important to give your dog(s) a thorough check for health problems.

These may include signs of heatstroke, such as:

  • Appearing dehydrated
  • Not being able or struggling to urinate
  • Heartbeat seems irregular
  • The temperature of 104-degrees Fahrenheit or higher
  • Tongue and/or gums appear unusual red

The warning signs of a serious problem include the following:

  • Extra thirsty
  • Salivating more than normal
  • Diarrhea or vomiting of any kind
  • Body seizures

Rush your dog to the vet if they have any of the above symptoms.

It’s quite common for dogs to never exhibit clear symptoms of heat stroke or heat exhaustion until the later stages of it.

How can mild symptoms of heatstroke be treated? Even if you’re booking a vet appointment right away, try these steps as you make the arrangements:

  • Encourage your dog to drink more.
  • Cool the RV down or move them to a cooler, shaded area outside.
  • Spray your dog down (water will evaporate on their fur and reduce their temperature).
  • Wet their paws too (dogs cool down through their paws; they sweat this way too).

If your dog appears to have suffered from the heat (or it was too cold), don’t delay in getting them to a vet immediately. The minutes will count!

Alternatives to Leaving Your Pets in the RV

Is it safe to leave dogs in an RV

It will require a little organization, but it’s possible to make arrangements to find alternatives to leaving your pets in the RV, camper van, camper, or travel trailer.

Bring Your Pet Along

While they may not be able to come into the store, it’s possible to tie them to a nearby tree or lamppost for a short time.

It might not be your preferred option, but it still beats keeping them alone in the RV, motorhome, or camper.

Ask an RV Neighbor to Pet Sit

When staying for a few days or a week at an RV campground, it’s possible to become quite friendly with your neighbors. If your dog(s) like him or her, then the neighbor may be amenable to taking care of them for a few hours while you have to go out.

Buying them a gift or offering to cook them a meal in appreciation is often well-received.

Use Official Pet Sitter or Pet Care Centers

There are pet sitter services along with dog walking services in most states now.

It’s possible to have your dog(s) taken out for a walk while you run some errands alone. Rover.com is one such service.

Alternatively, various pet care centers are dotted around the country that can temporarily house your dogs or cats for a few hours while you’re unavailable.

Whilst you may not be a fan of a stranger taking care of your family pets, it’s still preferable to their staying alone. Many services run checks on their pet sitters to provide reassurance to people using them.

Is It Safe to Leave Your Pet in an RV, Pull Behind Camper, Travel Trailer, or Camper Van While It’s Moving?

The other possibility is that you wish to keep your pets inside the vehicle, or in an RV being towed behind.

This is a different situation because you’re still either inside the truck towing the camper or they’re in the towed vehicle making a road journey.

What to Do If There’s No Other Choice Than to Leave Your Pets in the RV?

There are a few things that you can do before you go.

Preparing Your Animals

For dogs, walk them and let them have a potty break. This will may it more likely that they won’t need to relieve themselves while you’re out and increases the likelihood that they might go to sleep.

With cats, give them extra love and attention before you go out. Felines require more personal time than dogs despite the idea that they’re more independent.

Check Your Equipment

Check that the AC and other heating or cooling equipment is functioning correctly.

If it’s operated using battery power, full hookups at an RV park, or through other means, verify that this is still working as it should. Don’t just assume that the systems will activate when the temperature increases/decreases beyond a certain point and is activated by a built-in thermostat.

RV Temperature Monitoring

Use an RV temperature monitoring system [affiliate link] that can read the current temperature level inside the RV, camper, travel trailer, or camper van and receive RV pet temperature alerts.

Waggle RV/Dog Safety Temperature & Humidity Sensor (4G Verizon Cellular with 24/7 Email/SMS Alerts)

Check Price on Amazon

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

The best monitors have mobile apps for iOS and Android cellphones and will alert you when the temperature changed markedly. This provides a certain amount of freedom to be nearby the RV and still able to verify the current temperature reading.

An RV pet camera [affiliate link] with an RV pet safety app can also alert you to localized heat levels. Alternatively, an internal RV camera system [affiliate link] lets you watch the video feed directly from your phone. While you can probably spot your dog(s) moving around, any cats might be sufficiently hidden that they’re not visible on the camera feed.

Ceiling Fans

Getting a ceiling fan [affiliate link] installed is a popular thing for RVers when it didn’t come already fitted. They provide some airflow to cool the living space. However, they aren’t anywhere near as effective in reducing the internal temperature compared to an AC system.

On the plus side, they require minimal power to operate compared to AC.

Portable Generator

It’s possible to have a portable generator [affiliate link] that can kick into gear should the main power fail in the RV.

Generac GP3500iO Open Frame RV Ready Inverter Generator (3,500 Starting Watts with PowerRush Technology)

Check Price on Amazon

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Most generators do not come with an automatic generator start controller which is the feature necessary to get them going when the power cuts out.

It’s worth noting that the portable generator will have its own fuel tank. As such, they only last a handful of hours in many cases. It’s difficult to predict how long they’ll run for in an emergency. However, in the case of a power cut or thunderstorm, a portable generator can be a true lifesaver.

As an aside, generators are noisy and will annoy your neighbors. That’s especially true late at night.

Handling Colder Temperatures

For RV pet safety, it’s necessary to prepare for colder weather too. Not just the colder seasons in the year because as the weather becomes less predictable and varied, cold spells can come in surprisingly quickly following milder weather.

The RV must be well-insulated. Travel trailers and campers aren’t usually as good in this regard, which is something to be aware of if your pets will be staying unattended inside one of them.

Pets are just as vulnerable to cold temperatures despite their fur coats. Don’t discount the risks of their being alone on colder days.

Ask a Friend to Stop By

If you have a friend who is trusted, they can be asked to come over to check on your dogs or cats.

Alternatively, at pet-friendly campgrounds, the warden or other staff may be willing to go to check on your pets to see that they’re okay?

Most people are pet lovers and don’t wish to see harm come to someone’s household pets. Therefore, it’s often not surprising to see one or more volunteers to pet sit or check up on them while you’re out. For fellow pet owners and/or RV owners, this is doubly so.

Should You Crate Your Pets or Leave Them Inside the RV to Wander?

For animals, they often prefer enclosed spaces like a cage or a pet carrier [affiliate link]. If it’s a familiar spot, they have a comfortable pet blanket with their smell on it, then they often will find them relaxing.

Life Stages LS-1636 Single Door Folding Crate for Intermediate Dogs(Up to 70lbs)

Check Price on Amazon

If you click this link and make a purchase, we earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Some animals will hate being put into a crate or other container and will act out. In which case, they may be better left inside the RV’s interior to use the space as they wish.

It’s also possible that you wish to crate your animals as infrequently as possible – only doing so when driving to a new destination to keep them safe. So, leaving them to wander around might be your preferred choice there.

Related Questions

How can I make it safer to leave dogs in an RV?

If you’ve taken all the protective measures outlined above, also have the most recent vet records for your pets and any vaccinations easily accessible. In a situation where they need to be rushed to a local vet, this information will be vital.

Can I Tie Up My Pet Outside While I am Away?

No. It is usually not permitted by an RV park or campground to leave your pet outside and unaccompanied. Even if they’re placed inside a crate, they could be attacked by other animals that smell their presence. Also, don’t trust every stranger not to do something unsavory to your favorite family member or to even attempt to steal them.

Are Pets Allowed in RV Rentals?

Also, if you must go out and leave your pets behind in the RV, then don’t go too far away. Even with pet monitoring systems and other alerts that can be received, it’s necessary to be able to return in a short amount of time. In the event of a power or system failure, the heating or cooling systems will likely have stopped, so being an hour or longer away from the RV is too much time.

Closing Thoughts

Avoid leaving your pets alone when you go out. It’s far more preferable to either take them with you or make other arrangements.

It’s important to look for RV rentals that are pet-friendly too. Outdoorsy is known to offer these types of RVs. It will certainly give your dog (or cat) lots to sniff around in the RV if you choose to rent one!

Related Articles

Can Dogs Ride in a Pull Behind Camper?

Can My Dog Ride in the Travel Trailer?

Can Animals Ride in a Towed Vehicle?

11 Camping RV Hacks

How to Open RV Emergency Window from Outside?