Ask the RV Vet
With Dr. Deanna Tolliver, M.S., DVM
Dear RV Vet—When the weather warms up, we worry about leaving our dog in the RV. We always set the AC to a comfortable temperature, but worry about a power failure or having a problem with the AC unit not working. We’ve seen where some people have temperature monitors in their RVs. Do you have any recommendations?—Ellie S.
Dear Ellie—Yes, we need to be concerned about the temperatures in our RVs if we leave our furry friends behind when we’re gone for a few hours. Even if the outside temperature is in the 60s, the inside temps of our RVs can be considerably higher on a hot sunny day. And of course, we also need to be concerned about plunging temperatures in the winter, for our pets as well as that of freezing water lines.
A dog’s normal body temperature is about 101.5. I’ve seen temperatures as high as 107 in dogs suffering from heatstroke; most of those dogs do not survive. Most cases of heat stroke result from dogs being left in a car on a hot sunny day. Early in my veterinary career, a colleague and I worked hard to save seven St. Bernards. They were show dogs in a special travel trailer equipped with AC that failed, but the owner wasn’t aware. They all died. Our RVs aren’t much different from that show dog trailer.
Smooshed-nose breeds (the correct word is brachycephalic) are at higher risk for heatstroke, including all Bulldog types, Pugs, Pekingese, Boston Terriers, etc.
To stay on the safe side, and for your peace of mind, use a temperature monitor in your RV.
Some monitors use just WiFi, others only cellular data. The more expensive units can also alert you to changes in humidity, power outages and water leaks. On the other end of the spectrum are downloadable apps that cost only a few dollars or are free. Or you can always ask a friend to check in on your pups while you’re gone, and that doesn’t cost anything. If you choose a monitor that uses only WiFi, be sure it will work on a mobile hotspot (some don’t), and make sure your campground WiFi is reliable.
The AnimAlarm can be used with either your cell phone or WiFi. It has a base station and a sensor; both of these stay in your RV. You set the high and low temperatures at which you want to be notified; you’ll get an alert via text message or email if that happens. You can also access the base station at any time from our cell phone just to check in. The price of the unit is $270. You do not have to purchase a data plan from the company; if you do, it’s $90/year, $65 for six months, or $40 for one month. And you can also get additional sensors to add other cell phones.
Another unit I see RVers using is the MarCELL. It will monitor temperature, humidity, power connection, and, using an included additional sensor, water leaks. The unit is plugged into a standard outlet inside your RV and uses only cellular data. You set up the parameters of what you want to monitor and, if those numbers are exceeded, you will get a warning by text, phone call or email.
Nimble is another monitor that uses only cellular data. The battery-powered sensor stays in the RV and detects changes only in temperature. Alerts are sent out through either texts or emails. To set up, you download an app (on either Android or iOS systems). The cost of the sensor is $179. Like the other units, you need to purchase a data plan from the company: $15/month (stop/start service anytime) or $120/year.
The Canary monitor has a security camera, and can also detect motion, temperature and humidity. Prices vary from $59–$569, depending on the features you want. This monitor will not work with a mobile hotspot, or networks that require a sign-in page, such as those often found at RV parks.
Temperature Surveillance App—This monitor also requires another mobile device to stay in the RV, and works with both Android and iOS systems. The cost is $2.49, and there is no data plan to buy. However, some providers drop a connection that shows no activity after a certain period of time. And, it will use cellular data constantly while in use.
The goal is to keep our pets safe when we may not be with them. If you use another monitor that I haven’t discussed here, please drop us a line and tell us about it, the good and the bad.
Dr. Deanna Tolliver has been a full-time RVer for over 3 years, although she has been an RVer for several more. She travels with a fifth wheel and a 1-ton dually truck. Her travel companions include 4 small dogs (Tootie, Chiquita, BooBoo, and Janie), and a 36-year-old Yellow-Naped Amazon Parrot named Toby. She has a BS and MS in biology and zoology, respectively, and a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine from the University of Missouri, Columbia. She owned a veterinary hospital for many years and recently handed over the reins to a new owner.