Friday, February 3, 2023


RV Pet Vet: How to avoid hot dogs (and other hot pets)

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. 


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William Duff
2 years ago

One you did not mention is the Temp Stick by Ideal Sciences. I have used this for about 3 years. Made and monitored in the US, it runs $139 with no subscription fees. The Temp Stick uses 2 AA batteries and works off wifi. (I use a Verizon Jet Pack). It will alert both myself and my wife by phone and email and also alerts if there is a loss of signal. There is also an app where you can keep track of how the temperature and humidity are doing. This company has great customer service. I had some technical dummy questions during set up and not only did they help me out with that but took the time to set up other features while I was on the phone with them. Highly recommended.

4 years ago

Be careful of leaving a dog in any vehicle. I was told a secret law was passed by our otherwise bored lawmakers on the hill to make it a felony to leave an animal in any hot situation. I came upon this bit of information from our plumber when we sprung a leak. You see a while back a nasty copper gave me a felony ticket for leaving a dog in a car on a 60 degree day. I have evidence to the contrary of the temps and at any rate beat the ticket. But after being out 900 clams to hire an attorney to try and sue the coppers I got the ticket fixed. So keep the ac on and hide from bad coppers who do not like hot dogs nor nosey neighbors who think justice will be served. Good luck. I know longer take our dogs any where on days that are above 70. Especially in Van Buren Township. Hint.

4 years ago

Wowser! Not that I doubt you, but I’m rather astonished at the prices listed. Hundreds for what is ultimately a wireless thermometer, and $40/month for under a MB of data? I can make an internet-aware thermometer that broadcasts through a WiFi hotspot for under $10… Heck, I could remote-control the AC for $15… LOL.

4 years ago

We use a wireless camera which is pointed at a big thermometer . It also has a speaker/mic function so we can talk to and listen to our dogs. We connect the camera with our cell hotspot and monitor it with our other cell phone. Only cost $40 for the camera.

Goldie Hanson
4 years ago

RV has a system that can include temperature monitoring from three sensors, a battery monitor and a video camera. It sends both emails and texts and will send to multiple addresses. Does require internet. Haven’t tried it yet but planning on setting it up since I can keep an eye on the furkids and monitor inside temp and the freezer in our basement.

Kevin Hogle
4 years ago

Another thing to test out is if your auto start generator and transfer switch actually work as designed. When I tested my brand new Winnebago unit a few years ago I discovered the following: had both AC units running with compressors engaged, shut off the shore power. The auto start feature of the generator then started the RV generator as designed. After the calibrated delay the transfer switch attempted to switch to generator power. It rattled back and forth and would not switch over. After complaining to Winnebago, the dealership duplicated the issue, then replaced the transfer switch with one from a larger Winnebago model. Problem resolved. Apparently the transfer switch was undersized for the application. The auto start feature was advertised as a method to keep your AC running. Only as good as the rest of the system.

4 years ago

If we have to leave our dog in the rv on a warm day we leave the windows open with the Fantastic Fans (2 of them going) plus a Breeze 12 volt fan on the floor blowing into the living area. We also set the air conditioner to come on if temperature goes above 75 degrees F. We have solar panels so that the Fantastic Fans and Breeze will keep running. We are fortunate in that our current dog loves to lie in front of the fan whether it is hot or not. If we notice the temperature rising we do stop whatever we are doing to head back to the unit. We usually take our dog with us and one of us stays in the vehicle and the other one does the shopping. Health and welfare of our fur kid is the priority.

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