Summer is here and travel season is upon us. Having your pet accompany you on vacation may seem like a great idea to you, but be sure to consider your pet’s personality, too. Some pets can be distressed traveling and may be much happier staying home or at a kennel. If travel is right for you and your pet, before you go, update all vaccinations and take all necessary health papers with you. Know where to find a local veterinarian at your destination in case of emergency. Be sure to bring plenty of food and water, bowls and leashes and pack a small Pet First Aid Kit for your trip. Make sure your pet has identification in case you get separated in a strange place (collars, tags, microchip, identification on the kennel/carrier). Harnesses are a better choice than collars when traveling. Many pets will slip out of their collars when they are scared. The harnesses are more secure.
Many pets are used to car rides and will have no trouble adjusting to a longer car ride. For some, travel is stressful. Proper preparation is the key to a successful trip. If your pet is not regularly crated, start getting them used to their travel kennel well before your departure. (Pets should be securely confined for the safety of all human and animal passengers. A wide variety of pet safety belt harnesses and kennels/carriers are available. The carrier should be large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around freely). Start feeding meals in the kennel so that there are positive associations. If your pet is not used to car travel, start by taking them for short, happy trips and then slowly working up to longer drives. Make the association with the car ride rewarding by giving a treats or special toys.
Fasting for 6 hours before travel can help minimize vomiting associated motion-sickness. Other signs of motion sickness include restlessness, heavy panting and salivation/drooling. Many pets take medication to prevent motion sickness and travel anxiety. If your dog or cat is distressed about travel, ask your veterinarian what the best options are for your family.
Never leave your pet alone in a car. The temperature can quickly rise to a dangerous level, causing heat stroke, even on a cool day. Leaving a window partially open is not an alternative. Have someone stay in the car with your pet, or see if it’s possible to take them into wherever you’re going. You’d be surprised at the numbers of retail locations that allow pets inside.
If you have to leave your pet unattended in a hotel room, make sure that there is no opportunity for escape. Leave your pet confined in its carrier. Use the "Do Not Disturb" sign and ask hotel personnel to wait until you return before entering your room.
If you are traveling by air, it’s important to contact your airline well in advance of your travel in order to find out what the specific regulations are. Federal guidelines require pets to be at least 8 weeks old, be current on rabies vaccination, and have a health certificate obtained within 10 days of travel. Health certificates are issued by your veterinarian after a complete physical exam.
It is best to fly with your pet in the cabin if they are small enough to fit under the seat. Avoid flying your pet as checked cargo when temperatures on the ground are likely to be below 40ºF or above 80ºF. Some airlines will not baggage check pets in the summer months because of potentially dangerous hot conditions in the cargo holds and on the tarmac. Always take direct flights to avoid connections and layovers. Use airlines that hand carry your pet carrier to and from the aircraft instead of being placed on a conveyor belt. Avoid the busiest travel times so airline personnel will have extra time to handle your pet.
With some planning and special attention, travel with your pet can be a wonderful experience for all!
article written by:
Sheila Newenham, DVM
Companion Animal Hospital Mount Prospect