Pets whose owners are traveling are no longer consigned to grandma’s house or a kennel. Today, many dogs and cats are globetrotters. Pets are considered members of the family so wherever the family goes, so does Rover. And the growth of pet-friendly hotels has made it easier for pet owners to bring their furry friends along for the fun.
But without a doubt, traveling can put a lot of stress on animals. In fact, the Humane Society strongly suggests considering your pet’s health and emotional needs before deciding to travel with your pet. Depending on your pet’s temperament, age, or health condition, leaving them at home with a qualified pet sitter or boarding facility may be a better choice.
If you do decide to vacation with your pet, or if you are moving, here are some tips to keep in mind to make traveling with your pets easier and less stressful for all of you.
Check regulations for where you are going – Actor Johnny Depp was filming in Australia and violated the country’s laws by failing to declare his Yorkshire terriers properly. This put his dogs at risk of being euthanized. Luckily that didn’t happen, but this is an example of why being cognizant of your destination’s animal quarantine, immigration and import requirements is so essential. Policies vary drastically by location so it is important to understand what to expect well before you arrive. In some cases, especially for shorter duration vacations, it might be better to leave your pets at home.
Bring copies of health records – When traveling with pets, always have a copy of their health records on hand, including rabies vaccination proof, information on any pre-existing medical conditions, and a list of medications. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, this is especially important if you are moving or traveling internationally. Keep your vet’s contact information in your phone.
ID your pet – While your pet should always have identification, this is vital when traveling. Make sure your pet is microchipped and wears a collar imprinted with your name and contact information. You can also add a tag to the collar with the phone number of where you will be staying locally. Also, carry a photo of your pet with you. If you are separated you’ll be able to share your photo with others who can help look for your pet.
Buckle them up – It is unsafe for pets to be able to roam around the car. It’s best to secure them in carriers or crates. To help get your dog comfortable with using a crate prior to traveling, view this video from the “Dog Whisperer” Cesar Millan. You can put your pet’s favorite blanket or toy in the crate with them.
Bring food and water – Stress can cause pets to get extra thirsty so always have water on hand to keep them properly hydrated. You’ll also want to have some food in case it takes longer to get to your destination than planned.
Make frequent stops – Stop about every 2-3 hours. If you have a dog you can let him or her out of the car with a leash and allow your pet to go to the bathroom and walk around.
Never leave pets unattended in a car – Cars heat up quickly and even with the windows cracked open, interior temperatures can increase from 70 degrees to over 110 degrees in just a few minutes. Every year pets die from this type of preventable tragedy. Pets have also been known to be stolen.
Prevent motion sickness – Pets can get motion sickness so feed them a light meal two to three hours before any car travel. Keep the car windows open to let in fresh air.
Consider the risks – Air travel is extremely stressful for pets, and in some cases very dangerous. The Humane Society recommends looking for alternatives to flying whenever possible. If this is not an option, find out from the airline if your pet can travel in the cabin with you. This is usually an option for cat or small dogs.
Some breeds of animals such as Persian cats, bulldogs, and pugs have short nasal passages that put them at risk for heat stroke and oxygen deprivation. Never put these brachycephalic breeds (animals with “pushed-in” faces) in cargo.
Also, there are incidents every year of animals being killed, injured and lost while traveling in the cargo hold. In the cargo area they may be exposed to excessively cold or hot temperatures, rough handling and poor ventilation. Before putting your pet in cargo hold, check the performance record of the airline.
Fly direct – Make sure you are on the same flight as your pet and try to make your trip and short as possible. Avoid transfers and plane changes that could cause the misplacement of your pet.
Prepare your pet and its crate – Make a list of pre-travel to-dos and stick to it. Here are just a few things that should be on your list: Clip your pet’s nails. Bring your pet to the vet and make sure he or she is up to date with all vaccinations. Acclimate your pet to the pet carrier at least a month before traveling. Mark the crate with your contact information (both your cell number and your destination phone number) and a photo of your pet should your pet get separated from the carrier.
Check airline policies – Understand crate requirements, immunization requirements, cabin flight restrictions, etc. The website PetTravel.com is a comprehensive resource for all types of information on traveling with pets including airline pet policies, international travel tips, and pet passports.
When traveling with pets, planning is key. For lots of additional information about traveling with your four-legged family member, download this brochure from the American Veterinary Medical Association.