Comprehensive Guide to Vacationing With Fido
by Jessie S.
Whether your dog enjoys a new adventure or you just can’t stand to leave him behind, many vacationers bring their pups along with them to the Outer Banks. However, bringing your dog on a beach vacation isn’t quite as simple as a quick trip to the park or even a weekend camping trip. Not only are there are special considerations and preparations you should take when traveling with your best four-legged friend but there are conditions unique to the beach that you may not be familiar with that could be potentially harmful for your dog. Plus, each town has different rules about when, where, and how dogs are allowed on the beach. Bringing your dog on vacation can be a very rewarding and fun experience for you both but if you are planning on bringing along your dog this year, check out our comprehensive guide for Vacationing With Fido.
- About Traveling With Dogs
- Hacks for Traveling With a Dog
- Items To Pack
- Beach Rules For Dogs
- Dog-Friendly OBX Destinations
- OBX Emergency Vet Services
Before you even consider traveling with your dog, make sure he is able to travel comfortably. Dogs who are too young, too old, have an illness or have recently suffered from an injury may not be suited to travel. Dogs that get stressed when being away from home or dogs that get car sick may also not enjoy the trip. You should always schedule a routine visit with your vet before any big trip and if you do have concerns, make sure to bring them up when you're discussing your dog's health.
The biggest concern when traveling with a dog is to make sure you are prepared for emergencies. Check ahead for a vet near your rental home and see if there is a 24-hour emergency vet nearby. Make sure to save their information so it's easy to access. You'll want to also make sure you are familiar with your dog's medical and vaccination history, as well as information on his most recent rabies shot. Keep a digital record or bring your physical vet papers with you and store them in a safe place.
While traveling, or in the case of needing to take your pet to the vet, make sure you have the proper leash, collar, kennels. etc. that you need to secure your dog properly.
It isn't uncommon for dogs to become separated from their owners while on vacation and since neither of you are as familiar with the area, this can escalate into a very scary situation. Make sure to have a recent color photo of your pet in case you need to show others and have a full description of size, weight, color, and any other specific identification markings. Also make sure that his collar includes your contact information (and make sure that information is current!) It’s a good idea to have a temporary tag attached with the location of your vacation rental as well. If your pet has been microchipped, make sure to have that information on hand so that you can reach out to local shelters.
It may be tempting to treat the trip itself like a special experience where you don't have to stick to the same schedule you usually do. However, dogs are happiest when sticking to a routine. That means sticking to the same feeding, exercise and bedtime schedule and sticking with the same food (and not overloading on human food or treats)! Regularity is key so you don't end up with a sick pooch. (back to top)
Traveling with Fido doesn’t have to be a difficult task. With just a little advance preparation, you’ll be strolling the beach with your fur kid in no time! Here are a few unique tips, tricks, and hacks for traveling with your dog!
- Familiarize yourself with your travel route and utilize GPS to check for traffic delays. If you know you are about to sit in 30-45+ minutes of traffic with nowhere to safely pull over, it’s a good idea to stop at a rest stop or parking area prior to entering traffic to let your dog stretch his legs, use the bathroom, and get a drink.
- Keep a few “travel items” within easy to reach. In other words, don’t assume you can pack away your dog’s food, treats, toys, and medications and pull them out once you reach your destination. You never know what your trip may bring and you’ll be glad you had a few spare items within easy reach.
- Freeze water bottles or pack ice cubes in a small cooler. These help to keep a dog hydrated without the mess of trying to fill a water bowl while on the go. Plus, many dogs love ice cubes and consider them to be a treat.
- Be sure to tell a trusted friend your travel location and rental home address. If an emergency were to happen to you while on vacation, especially if you aren’t traveling with others, you would want your trusted friend to be alerted that your dog may be alone in a rental house.
Every dog has individual needs so you will need to tailor your packing list to your pooch. However, if you are worried about forgetting an essential item, here is a helpful list to get you started on packing for Fido's next Outer Banks vacation. (back to top)
- A sturdy leash (be sure to familiarize yourself with your rental town's leash laws before selecting a leash as length requirements vary)
- An extra collar
- A blanket, sheet, or seat covers for the car or wherever the pet's carrier will be secured
- Old sheets to cover bedding and furniture at your destination for excessive shedders
- A pet bed
- Food (bring enough for the whole trip because your preferred brand may not be available on the island)
- Water (if your pet is especially sensitive to new water supplies, bring at least two gallons of extra drinking water from home. When you are down to the last half gallon, begin mixing in equal parts with the water supply at your destination. Bottled water can also be purchased from any grocery store or convenience store here on the beach)
- Food and water bowl set
- Portable water bowl or bottle for use on the go
- Treats and toys
- All required medications, supplements, and preventatives
- Tweezers to remove foreign objects from fur or paws
- Grooming supplies
- Lint and hair remover
- A waste scoop and plenty of waste removal bags
- Old towels, carpet cleaner, disinfectant spray, and trash bags for accidents
- Pet first aid kit
- Flashlight, reflectors, or head lamps for nighttime walks (your rental may not be on a well-lit street)
- Medical history information/Rabies vaccination tag
Even if you've brought your dog along to the beach in the past, it's a good idea to familiarize yourself with unique beach restrictions, potential beach dangers, and the rules set by each town regarding leash laws. (back to top)
Each town on the Outer Banks has it's own rules for dogs but there are some restrictions you should keep in mind that are universal no matter what town you choose to visit for your vacation.
- Never let your dog go into a restricted area on the beach. Sand dunes, animal nests, etc. may be roped off or have warning signs that should be obeyed by both humans and dogs. Areas that are roped off are protected for a reason and should be avoided entirely.
- Scoop your poop! This may not be unique to the beach but it is even more important than ever here. Don't just bury the waste in the sand... it should be picked up in a waste bag and properly disposed of in a trash bin (which are located in each rental home and at each public beach access!) Small children play and dig in the sand and do not want to dig into dog poop. Be respectful!
- Rinse off your dog after playing in the ocean, sound or on the beach! Not only can the sand and saltwater irritate your dogs skin if it is sensitive or if he is prone to allergies but he will unintentionally get that sand and debris all over the rental house floor and furniture if he isn't cleaned off first.
- Make sure all vaccinations are current--including his rabies vaccination--just in case anything happens. This protects you, your dog, and others on the beach.
Each town on the Outer Banks has individual rules about when a dog is or isn't allowed on the beach and also has different leash laws. Before heading out with your fur kid, make sure you are obeying any and all canine regulations:
- Corolla: Dogs are welcome on the beach year-round in Corolla but must always be on a leash. They are also allowed on a leash throughout the town. There is not a speficic limititation to leash length. Learn more about Corolla dog rules.
- Duck: Dogs must have proper ID, updated vaccinations and be on a leash (10 feet or less) at all times including at the park, boardwalk, and Duck Trail. Always clean up after your dog. Dogs are allowed leash-free on the beach year-round but must be supervised by their owner. Dogs are also welcome to town events if well behaved and leashed. Learn more about Duck dog rules.
- Southern Shores: Dogs must always be on a leash on the beach or within public town areas in Southern Shores. However, between May 15th to September 15th, dogs are only allowed on the beach before 9 AM or after 6 PM. Learn more about Southern Shores dog rules.
- Kitty Hawk: From the Friday before Memorial Day through the day after Labor Day, dogs are only allowed on the beach with a leash not exceeding 6 feet long between 10:00 AM and 6:00 PM. Throughout the remainder of the year, all dogs should be kept on a leash no longer than 12-feet in length. Dogs under direct supervision (within 30 feet) of their owner and who do not disturb others on the beach may be taken off the leash. All dogs must also have a current rabies tag on their collar. Violations can result in a misdemeanor charge and fine. Learn more about Kitty Hawk dog rules.
- Kill Devil Hills: Dogs are permitted on the beach only if they are leashed and under the control of their handler. Between Memorial Day and Labor Day every year, dogs are NOT ALLOWED on the beach between the hours of 9:00 AM and 6:00 PM. Learn more about Kill Devil Hills dog rules.
- Nags Head: Dogs should display a current rabies tag at all times. A leash is required if a dog is off his own private property--dogs are not allowed to roam and run around the neighborhood. The leash should not exceed 10 feet in length. A dog will be considered a nuisance if it is chasing people, digging up flower beds, barking excessively, running at large, and knocking over garbage cans. Leashed dogs are allowed on the beach at all times. Anyone violating the leash laws may be subject to civil and/or criminal penalties. Learn more about Nags Head dog rules.
- Cape Hatteras National Seashore: Dogs are welcome on the beach year-round but must always be on a leash no longer than 6 feet in length. They are not allowed on designated swim beaches or in public buildings. Learn more about dog rules on the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
Beach vacations are fun, memorable, and relaxing. However, visiting the beach isn't just fun and games for humans and the same goes for dogs. There are certain risks unique to coastal areas that you may not be familiar with or even know about that could be very dangerous for your dog. When visiting the beach, please remember the following:
- Dogs get sick from dehydration very easily. It's hot out there, especially during the summer, and if your dog is running around and playing, he may not even realize how hot it is. Dogs should be left inside during the hottest part of the day but if they do have to be outside, be sure to stick to shaded, grassy areas and always make sure they have access to fresh water. Dehydration can quickly lead to heat exhaustion--a condition that could become fatal.
- Never leave your dog in a hot car! This rule applies everywhere but if you are visiting from an area where you aren't use to warm, humid temperatures, you may not even realize just how hot it can get. Even with windows cracked, a car acts like a furnace and will heat up quickly. According to Trupanion, an outside temperature of 80 degrees means the inside of your car will be 99 degrees in just 10 minutes and after 30 minutes, can reach up to 114 degrees. These are incredibly dangerous and lethal temperatures. Instead, leave your dog inside your air conditioned rental home or if you must park somewhere and run inside, leave another adult in the running car with your dog and keep the AC on.
- Summer sand can cause severe paw burns. A danger to both humans and pets, many people do not realize how much sand heats up on a hot summer day. Sand will reach temperatures of 20 degrees or more than the actual outside temperature. On a typical summer day of roughly 80 degrees on the OBX, the sand can (and will) reach well over 100 degrees. This is more than hot enough to burn the pads on your dogs feet. Remember that if it feels uncomfortable or scalding to you--it will also feel that way to your dog!
A common mistake people make is that they head out to the beach around 9AM when the temperatures are just starting to heat up so the sand is fine to walk on. By noon, however, they decide to head back to their beach house but haven't considered the temperature change and find that the sand is well over 100 degrees. During the heat of the day, just keep your dog indoors! Many beaches don't allow dogs during peak hours anyway and your dog will just be hot and uncomfortable. If your pup does need to go outside, keep them away from sand and pavement and stick to grassy areas. They can wait to go for a long walk on the beach in the evening when the sun starts to set and the sand has cooled down!
- Watch out for ocean dangers! Your dog may be confident swimming in a pool or lake but the ocean is a whole new experience. Even the strongest swimming canine can get hurt in the ocean. If you throw a toy out to sea, the dog will likely try to fetch it not having any idea the dangers presented by rough waves, deep water, shifting sand bars and strong currents. If a rip current can take a 200-pound person out to sea, you can bet it will do the same to your dog. As an alternative option to let your dog cool off, try playing in the sound where there are rarely currents or waves and the conditions more closely resemble that of a large (saltwater) lake.
- Saltwater is not safe for dogs to drink. The saltwater itself presents another risk if a dog unknowingly drinks it or takes in too much when swimming. Saltwater can make him sick, just like it does to humans. High levels of saltwater are toxic and can lead to diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration and can be lethal according to the American Kennel Club.
- Watch for shoreline dangers. During a cool evening, playing with your dog on the shoreline can be a fun activity for both you and your pup. However, it is important to know the potential dangers so that you can act quickly if anything did happen. Shells, old fishing hooks, and driftwood can all wash up on the beach and cut your dog’s paws. Sting rays, skates, jellyfish, and other ocean creatures sometimes wash up on shore and can pose a threat if your dog runs up to one. Also beware that large waves could knock over your dog easily. A heavy undertow could be dangerous for an older dog or a dog with an injury who isn't able to stand steadily or resist the pull of the water.
- Keep an eye out for sand spurs! Sand spurs are small balls typically the size of a pea with protruding prickly points that blow off the Cenchrus (sandbur) plant common in coastal areas. Even if you avoid the plant itself, the spurs will blow freely in the coastal breeze and may be unavoidable in grassy areas. They are known to get caught in both fur and paws so if your dog starts to limp, he may have a sand spur stuck! These are fairly easy to remove but you may want to bring along tweezers because these thorny spurs can also prick humans and are very painful.
Of all the vacation towns out there, the Outer Banks is one of the most dog-friendly destinations you could visit. In fact, Animal Planet once named the Outer Banks as one of the “5 Vacation Destinations Your Small Dog Will Love,” and don’t worry, bigger dogs will enjoy themselves too! From dog-friendly beaches and dog-friendly restaurants to dog parks and dog-friendly lodging, when you bring Fido on your OBX vacation, he’ll have just as much fun as you do. Here are some dog-friendly accommodations we think you should try. (back to top)
- American Pie Pizza & Ice Cream (Kill Devil Hills, NC): Come grab a slice of pizza on the covered patio with your pup while he enjoys some vanilla ice-cream!
- Corolla Cantina (Corolla, NC): Enjoy great food on a pet-friendly patio!
- Lost Colony Brewery & Café: Tasty café with craft brews and homemade dog treats for your pup to enjoy on the patio!
- John’s Drive-In (Kitty Hawk, NC): Enjoy outdoor seating and get a “puppy cup” of ice cream for your dog!
- Mulligan’s Grille (Nags Head, NC): An upper outdoor tiki bar and downstairs patio are both dog-friendly. Plus, your dog will enjoy a fresh bowl of water and a special doggy menu!
- O’Neal’s Sea Harvest (Wanchese, NC): Great lunch spot with a dog-friendly patio!
- Pamlico Jacks (Nags Head, NC): You’ll love the sound view from the dog-friendly patio and so will your pup!
- Plaza Azteca (Kill Devil Hills, NC): Great dog-friendly patio and tasty Mexican cuisine!
- Shipwreck’s Taphouse & Grill (Kitty Hawk, NC): Plenty of outdoor seating and a custom K9 Menu for your dog!
- Steamers (Southern Shores, NC): Great outdoor upper deck seating with an ocean view and a fresh bow of water!
- Surfin’ Spoon (Nags Head, NC): Order a “pup cup” of froyo with a biscuit for your dog! Well-behaved dogs are even allowed inside. Plus, Seaside Vacations guests will receive 10% off their purchase! Click here to learn more.
- Sweet T’s Coffee, Beer & Wine (Duck, NC): Plenty of tables on the dog-friendly patio along with snacks and a great wine/beer/coffee list.
- The Shack Coffee Shop & Beer Garden (Corolla, NC): Lots of shade on a nice outdoor patio with a bowl of water!
- Waverider’s Coffee & Deli (Nags Head, NC): A dog friendly patio your pooch will love!
- Cape Hatteras National Seashore: From Rodanthe to Ocracoke, dogs are welcome in non-designated swimming areas on a leash. With plenty of nature trails and national landmarks to explore, a day trip to the CHNS is sure to keep your dog entertained.
- Duck Trail (Duck, NC): A six-mile long trail winding throughout the town of Duck. Leashed dogs will love wandering on the multi-use path through the village.
- Jockey’s Ridge State Park (Nags Head, NC): A great place to hike the tallest living sand dune on the east coast (just go when the sand isn’t so hot)!
- Kitty Hawk Dog Park (Kitty Hawk, NC): A fun dog park for residents and visitors to Kitty Hawk. Keep in mind that an application must be filed before bringing your dog to the park.
- Paws Park (Kill Devil Hills, NC): The newest dog park on the OBX featuring three separate sections designated for different dog sizes and ages. Enjoy dog playground equipment and plenty of seating for humans.
- Nags Head Dog Park (Nags Head, NC): Enjoy a large dog and small dog fenced area along with water and waste bags at this fun dog park that is free and open to the public.
- Nags Head Woods (Kill Devil Hills, NC): An Ecological Preserve made up of over 1,000 acres of sand dunes, ponds, marshes and wetlands with plenty of dog-friendly hiking trails to enjoy a day of exploration.
- Roanoke Island Dog Park (Manteo, NC): Enjoy separate large dog and small dog fenced areas with grass and water features. Open to the public but application and entry code required.
- Wright Brothers National Memorial (Kill Devil Hills, NC): You and your four-legged friend will love this testament to our nation’s aviation history as you climb up the “Big Kill Devil Hill” for an awesome view of the sound and the sea.
Seaside Vacations has over 100 different dog-friendly vacation rental homes so you will easily find the perfect spot to accommodate your family and your canine pal. From 1-bedroom condos with an ocean view to 8-bedroom luxury homes loaded with amenities, we have the rental for you and Fido! Many of our dog-friendly homes have direct beach access, are in quiet neighborhoods with great sidewalks for walking and some even have fenced-in-yards.
When using our search option online, simply click the box for “Dog Friendly” to refine your search. If you need help finding a rental or have specific questions about what dog-friendly accommodations the home may have, simply give our guest services representatives a call at (866) 884-0267 or utilize the CLICK TO CHAT icon on the bottom-right corner of your screen. Click here to find your next dog-friendly vacation home.
The nearest Emergency Vet that is open 24-7 is in Chesapeake, VA, a little over an hour away from Kitty Hawk. No appointment is needed for an emergency visit but they do ask that you call ahead so they can prepare for your dog's arrival. In this case, it is very helpful to have the prior medical history and updated vaccinations on hand.
BluePearl Pet Hospital - Chesapeake
1100 Eden Way North
Chesapeake, VA 23320
Phone: (757) 366-9000
However, there are a handful of local vets who have emergency staff on call 24-7 (despite the actual vet office beign closed). Before starting the long drive with a sick dog, call a local on-call emergency vet to see if they will able to help you.
Roanoke Island Animal Clinic
107 Russell Twiford Rd.
Manteo, NC 27954
After-Hours Emergency On-Call Vet: (252) 473-3117 (You will be directed how to reach the on-call vet)
Coastal Animal Hospital
3616 N. Croatan Hwy (MP 5)
Kitty Hawk, NC 27949
After-Hours Emergency On-Call Vet: (252) 261-3960 (Currituck - Manteo)
Coastal Animal Hospital of Hatteras Island
47959 NC Highway 12 (MP 62.5)
Buxton, NC 27953
After-Hours Emergency On-Call Vet: (252) 995-3960 (Hatteras Island & Ocracoke Island)
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The above information is current as of July 2019 but is subject to change. For specific questions on beach leash laws, please contact the town directly. For questions about dog-friendly accommodations, you should reach out to the restaurant or park you are interested in visiting.
Jessie has been coming to the Outer Banks since she was just 5 years old. She loved it here so much that she finally relocated in 2018. Now her mission is to show the world that the Outer Banks is an incredible place that everyone should experience. When she isn't working, you can find Jessie hanging out with her friends, chilling at home with her awesome cat, Yoji, or discovering a new Outer Banks adventure.