Pets can make wonderful traveling companions—if you prepare ahead by following these tips from our experts
Ready for a road trip? Vacations are one of the great pleasures of life, but pet parents often face a dilemma when making their travel plans. What do you do with your treasured dog or cat when you’re heading out of town? The following tips will makes traveling with pets enjoyable and stress-free.
For some, the answer is obvious: Bring them along! According to the experts at North Shore Animal League America, if your pets are healthy, good-natured and adaptable, there’s no reason you can’t take them with you on your travels.
Many pets, especially dogs, do really well on car trips. It’s important, though, that you know their personality before deciding if they’ll be hardy travelers. If your pets tend to be anxious or are just real homebodies, it’s probably best to keep them safe and sound in their own surroundings.
The key to a happy vacation is planning ahead. First, about a week before you hit the road, visit your vet’s office to get your pet a clean bill of health. “If the trip is going to be a lengthy one, bring along your pet’s medical records, especially if it has a medical condition,” says Dr. Mark Verdino, Vice President and Chief of Veterinary Staff at North Shore Animal League America’s Alex Lewyt Veterinary Medical Center, a full-service veterinary care facility that provides everything from routine care to spay/neuter to advanced surgical procedures. And don’t forget to bring along medications, a recent health certificate and rabies vaccination certificates on your trip. (If you’re traveling out of the U.S., additional requirements may apply, so start the planning process months in advance.)
For anxious pets, anti-anxiety pills might provide relief, but never give your pet your own medication! “Pets should only take medicine prescribed by a veterinarian,” says Dr. Verdino.
Practice makes perfect, so it’s smart to gradually introduce your pets to car travel by bringing them on short rides in your neighborhood.
Some car safety tips: Pets should be confined in well-ventilated travel carriers that give them plenty of room—enough to stand, sit and lay down, but not so much that they might get bumped around. Another option is to use a dog harness designed specifically for car travel, but cats should always be kept in carriers.
Although many dogs love the feeling of fresh air blowing on their fur, don’t give in. “I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve treated a dog with a scratched eye or other facial injury because they’ve been riding in cars with their heads sticking out the window,” says Dr. Verdino. “It’s incredibly dangerous.”
Of course, before you bring along your furry family member, make sure you’ll have a place to lay your weary heads. If you’re staying with friends, don’t assume they’ll welcome your pet without asking. For pet-friendly hotels or inns, do some research on the Internet. Just plug “pet-friendly lodging” or a similar term in your favorite search engine and you’ll find many options. (A caveat: Just because a Marriott in one city takes pets, that doesn’t mean every Marriott is pet-friendly. Call first.)
Also, if your trip requires airplane travel, think carefully before bringing your pets along. “Plane travel is stressful for any pet, especially if they are traveling in the cargo section,” says Joanne Yohannan, Senior VP of Operations at Animal League America. “Unless it’s unavoidable, we don’t recommend it.”
If you decide that it’s in your pet’s best interest to stay home for whatever reason, ask a trusted friend to watch him or her, or contact a licensed and insured pet sitter.
Some final tips:
- Pack your pet’s favorite blanket and toys.
- Always have fresh water available.
- Keep their routine as regular as possible, including diet.
- Make sure they’re wearing their ID tags, including their rabies tag, at all times.
- Have your pets micro-chipped; if they become lost, you’ll have a much greater chance of finding them.
- Take a picture of your pet with you, in case you get separated.
- Never leave your pet alone in a car. Pets succumb to heatstroke very quickly, and it can be fatal.