Traveling with your Pets
Vacationing during the hot summer months with or without your pet can be stressful. Planning ahead and proceeding with caution will make negotiating new situations safer and easier.
If you plan to bring your pet with you sit down and write a checklist to help you remember what needs to be done and when. Set up an itinerary and think each day through from start to finish. Not that things can’t change, but it gives you a starting point. Get a copy of your pet’s health records and a health certificate if you are traveling out of the state or country. Your list should include what to pack for the trip including food, supplies and equipment. Make sure your accommodations each night are pet friendly. Also prearrange what to do with your pet if you are sightseeing and pets are not permitted. Taking time to do these things in advance of your trip may eliminate any surprises during your trip. Some pets are old pros at traveling and as long as they are with you they have no worries. However, some pets are nervous Nellies when they travel and may be happier at home. You know your pet’s personality and can make the best decision for their comfort and safety.
Prior to leaving, have your pet’s vaccinations and flea and tick protection current. They need a collar with a current identification tag and a microchip is highly recommended. A microchip is the best way to ensure your pet’s safe return if they are found and taken to an animal control facility or veterinary clinic. Id tags on a collar can be lost, but the microchip stays with your pet. Many animal control facilities only hold strays for 72 hours before they can be adopted or euthanized. Have a current picture of your pet with you in case you become separated. Pack your pet’s regular food and bring water that your pet is accustomed to drinking. New food or water can cause gastric upset and you don’t want those problems while you are traveling.
Good planning will help ensure that your pet can tolerate long rides in your vehicle.Take them on a few weekend excursions to see how they travel in your vehicle. To keep them safe while riding they should be seat belted or in a crate. They should not be allowed to hang out of the window, which at the least could cause an eye injury, but if you are in an accident they become a projectile. They should not be in the open bed of a truck - loose, tethered or crated. There is no climate control, so they are not protected against the elements and the noise of loud vehicles passing by your pick-up can be very stressful. Loose pets could jump from your moving vehicle or fall out of your vehicle and be severely injured or killed. Do not put your pet crate on a cargo carrier or platform of any kind. Besides being very inhumane and scary, putting your pet in a crate on the back of a vehicle bumper puts them in extreme danger.
Use your itinerary to verify by phone or email that the places you plan to stay and if they allow pets. Viewing the information on their website is not good enough. Many places make policy changes and their websites are not updated in a timely manner. Make sure you know their rules (such as leaving a pet unattended in your room, any weight restrictions, extra costs, etc) and prepare for those expectations. Check the weather conditions in the areas you will be traveling during your trip dates. Leaving your pet in a car, so that you can sightsee, is not an option in most cases. The temperature in a car even on a 65 or 70 degree day can exceed 90 degrees quickly, so make arrangements ahead of time to board your pet at a local kennel or vet clinic for the day. Another option if you are traveling with several family members is to have a designated pet companion that will forgo the adventure and stay with your pet. Keep alert to other pets that may be in trouble when you are traveling too. Have access to local authorities for each city you visit and call if you think any other pets are suffering from being locked in a vehicle. It’s better to make a call then let a pet die and authorities should take appropriate action if reported.
Be courteous and walk your pet in designated pet areas if possible. Pick up after your pet. If you travel with your cat keep their litter box fresh and clean up any messes. Put the waste in the hotel or motel dumpster rather than the room’s waste basket or use flushable litter. Don’t expect building staff to clean up after your pet - that is your responsibility.
If you are traveling by air, talk to your airline ahead of time so you know that rules and understand what will happen to your pet every step of the way. You may want to discuss any air travel issues with your veterinarian so they can suggest ways to make your pet as comfortable. There are essential oils that can help with stress and can be a healthier choice than pharmaceuticals. If your pet is small enough to travel in the passenger compartment of the plane, work with your pet to acclimate them to sitting in a crate for at least the length of your flight. They need to have a positive association with the crate and it is your job as a pet parent to get them ready. It may take some time and effort but it will pay off for you and the other passengers if your pet is calm and quiet while in flight. Never put your pet in an overhead or any other compartment on the plane. If your pet is too large they will be transported in a cargo hold. Each airline has different accommodations for pets, so you need to ask questions for each airline you are traveling with concerning handling and accommodations in the cargo hold. You will want to know if the cargo hold is climate controlled and sound proofed and if pets are separated from the luggage hold. Make sure you have a very sturdy crate, that bolts together if it comes in two pieces (top and bottom) and has a door that can be padlocked. Crates that use plastic hinged clips are not sturdy enough to hold together if the crate is dropped during handling. You should also padlock the crate door so your pet can’t accidentally escape their crate. If the flight is delayed your pet maybe in the crate longer than planned so practice ahead of time to reduce their stress. Airports are busy, loud and have many new smells. Expect a new pet flier to be a little overwhelmed. If you live close to an airport take your pet there a couple of times and walk them through the terminal to get accustomed to the craziness. You can put a mat in your crate, but secure it with double sided tape so your pet isn’t sliding around. Also reduce their meal amount before the trip and give them with a stuffed Kong for in flight entertainment.
During your trip make sure the equipment you use is safe for your pet. You may need to exercise or walk you pet numerous times. Have a collar that they can not slip or back out of if they get spooked by something. Make sure your harness or collar is fitted correctly and double up if they are a flight risk. Practice recalls with your pet using high value treats, so they want to come when called. Walk in safe areas - not high traffic truck stops or along interstates. Pull off the main road and get away from the action to feed them or give them a bathroom break. Extension leashes are great for home but they can be dangerous too. Your pet can pull the handle out of your hand and the retraction of the handle can scare them causing them to run away. In high traffic areas your pet can bolt in front of a vehicle before you have time to react and retract the leash. Using a six foot leash for your pet is the safest option. Make sure the snap is secure and functioning properly and the leash is not worn or chewed on.
The other option is to leave your pet at home. You still have to make arrangements for a safe stay while you are away. Some boarding kennels book up fast during peak travel times so book ahead - even six to twelve months in advance if you have your dates set. If your pet is new to boarding send them for an overnight to allow them to get use to the facility. Get a cost estimate so you know all the costs of boarding. Find out what your boarding facility requires for vaccinations and get that information to them in advance to make check-in smoother. Your veterinary clinic can send that information to the kennel for you too. Pack your pet’s food just like they were traveling with you, so they have no food changes during their stay (some kennels offer food but your pet will do much better on a familiar diet). Make sure the facility is secure and ask them for a tour. Also ask them for their procedures for pet exercise and emergencies. If you are having a family member or friend take care of your pet make sure they are truly ok with doing it. Treat it like a business deal and offer to pay for their time. Work out the details in advance including a schedule of when the pet needs to be fed and walked, what can or can’t be done with your pet and if your pet will stay at your home or in their home. If your pet will be staying in a new environment take them for several visits to acclimate them. Is your pet a runner or escape artist? Make sure the home is secure and your pet will not access to exterior doors during their stay. That may mean setting up gates or confining your pet to a designated area of the home. You never want a phone call that your pet has escaped from the pet sitter when you are hundreds of miles away. If you can’t find a family member or friend that is safe enough for your pet and the cost of boarding is too high, then seriously consider scaling back your trip by one or two days and using the savings to cover your boarding expenses. It will be worth it for your pet’s safety and your piece of mind.
Taking precautions can make traveling with your four legged co-pilot a fun and exciting adventure. Safe and happy travels!