5 min read

Can Dogs Ride in a Fifth Wheel?


Written by Kim Rain

Veterinary reviewed by:

Published: 11/24/2020, edited: 10/26/2022

The open road attracts many adventurers, and pet pawrents are no exception. With RV and camper trailer sales on the rise, there’s never been an easier way to bring your favorite furry pal along for the ride! In fact, a recent study by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association found that over 60% of RV owners are including their dogs in their travels.

While there are additional considerations when bringing your dog along on the adventure, the benefits certainly outweigh them. Whether its an active hiking companion or a calm, lap dog, your four-pawed furiend is truly what makes a house on wheels a home. If your dog is with you, you won’t be paying boarding costs while you are gone, and you won’t miss out on any time with your precious pup. And for your dog, being with you is what matters most, wherever that happens to be.

For many dog pawrents, safety on the road is a large concern. And with fifth wheels becoming a popular option for those who seek the tether-free lifestyle, you may wonder if dogs can ride in a fifth wheel while driving between destinations. First, let’s look at what makes a fifth wheel different from other RVs.

What is a Fifth Wheel?

Unlike a motorized RV, a fifth wheel doesn’t have an engine and will need to be towed by another vehicle. Because of this, fifth wheels have more livable space than a motorized RV, which can mean comfier furniture, higher ceilings, bigger kitchens, fireplaces, and even separations that allow privacy for families. All that extra space can also give your large Great Dane or Bernese Mountain Dog enough room to not feel cramped or in the way.

Fifth wheels are also cheaper to maintain and insure, and for those who work out of their RVs, they often include larger workspaces. When planted at a dog-friendly campground, it’s easy to unhitch your towing vehicle and leave the fifth wheel behind for a day’s adventure.

Like motorized RVs, fifth wheels can be plugged in at campsites to run all the electricity inside and charge the batteries. While boondocking, fifth wheels use those batteries for things like lights and small appliances, and many also come with generators to help run energy hogs like air-conditioning and heating. The difference comes when driving, as while some motorized RVs can use engine power to help run the cabin, fifth wheels can only use batteries or a propane generator.

Regardless, vacationers and full-time RVers can live comfortably in a fifth wheel with their canine buds. With enough space for everyone, and the ability to wake up in a new place every day, your dog will love life on the open road as much as you do.

So, what happens between adventures? Can the fifth wheel provide a comfortable space for your pup to ride in on the way to your next furbulous destination?

Can Dogs Ride in a Fifth Wheel?

Whether you are traveling with a large family and don’t have the space in the towing vehicle or you think your dog may enjoy napping in the trailer on the way, the fifth wheel may seem like an attractive option to stow your pup while driving. But can a dog safely stay in a fifth wheel while traveling?

The answer is a resounding no. Your dog should safely ride in a crate or seat belt in the same towing vehicle as you, as riding in a trailer isn’t safe for people, no less your furbaby.

There are many reasons why keeping your dog in the fifth wheel while in motion can be dangerous.

  • If loose, your dog could be thrown about the trailer and injured.

  • Your dog could become anxious from the motion and noise, and could injure themselves trying to get out of a crate or seat belt. If they are not secured, they could exhibit destructive behavior like chewing on furniture or shoes, or even toxic items like medicines or cleaners.

  • Your pup could experience motion sickness and vomit, and then would have to lie in it for the duration of the trip.

  • If your dog is in the trailer, you won’t know if they need to stop for a potty break which could cause accidents.

  • No matter how safe a driver you are, other drivers could hit the fifth wheel, and cause injury to your furkid.

  • An accident or erratic driving could also cause items, appliances and even some furniture to fly around the fifth wheel, putting your dog in danger.

  • Temperatures can rise or drop quickly in a fifth wheel, and batteries do not have enough power to run the air-conditioning or heater. Your dog could freeze or overheat, which could be life-threatening.

  • Using a generator to run air-conditioning or a heater could fill up the fifth wheel with carbon monoxide. As the fumes build up, they could become deadly.

But what if a person rides in the fifth wheel with your dog? While this may seem like a good solution, it’s not that simple.

First of all, only 19 states across the U.S. allow passengers to ride in the fifth wheel, and several have restrictions such as requiring safety glass, an age limit on the passengers, and having the ability to communicate with the driver at all times. What all this boils down to is that even if you adhere to all the rules, you may be crossing state lines into an area that restricts riding in the fifth wheel during your travels, and need to relocate your passengers anyway.

If you must let a person and a dog ride in the fifth wheel, here are some tips to increase their safety during the drive.

  • Be sure your dog is safe by using a seat belt, car seat or harness to secure him, or a crate that’s also secured to prevent it from sliding during movement.

  • Have remedies on hand for your passenger to give to your dog in case of motion sickness or anxiety.

  • Keep cleaning supplies available for the passenger in case of any messes.

  • Give your dog toys to keep them busy, and blankets that smell familiar for comfort.

  • Make use of adjustable blinds to shade the fifth wheel when it’s hot, or provide a view for entertainment.

  • Secure any hazardous items to keep them out of your dog’s mouth, such as vitamins, medicines, or cleaners.

  • Install several carbon monoxide detectors inside the fifth wheel, and consider using one that alerts your phone so you can monitor the air quality from the towing vehicle.

  • Be sure the person riding in the fifth wheel knows how to open and shut the windows, and turn on the air-conditioning and heat to keep temperatures in the trailer safe.

  • Keep current ID tags on your dog that have contact numbers, and consider microchipping them, in case there is an accident and they get loose. GPS collars are also great additions to dog safety while on the road.

While these precautions can certainly increase the chance of a safe ride, keeping all passengers and pets inside the towing vehicle with you is always the safest way to travel.

Bon Voyage!

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