If you are traveling with your pets this holiday, these tips may help you and your furry loved one have a more enjoyable journey.
“Plan ahead. You can’t make last-minute travel arrangements with a pet.” said Dr. Christine Rutter, a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Dr. Rutter has both flown and taken a cross-country car trip with her creatures, so she has a lot of experience with this.
Here are more of Dr. Rutter’s recommendations for traveling with your pets.
- Airlines require pre-registration of your pet, even if it flies in the cabin with you. There are a maximum number of animals allowed in the cabin on each flight (varies by airline), and if you show up with an animal without notifying the airline, you may find yourself having to rebook.
- Technically, any transport of an animal across state lines requires a USDA health certificate be performed by a USDA certified veterinarian. “I have never actually been asked to produce one for my own animals when traveling within the US, but airlines state that one should be provided if requested. I always have one handy,” Dr. Rutter said.
- Travel outside of the continental US has specific rules, certifications, and potentially vaccination explained Dr. Rutter. “Some international travel requires preparation up to 6 months in advance and/or a quarantine period. Each country is different and will require some leg-work on the part of your certifying veterinarian to make sure you are in compliance. Every year there are people who wait until the last minute to take their pets overseas, and it just doesn’t work like that,” Rutter said.
- Many hotels and rentals will allow your pets to stay with you, but do not allow pets to stay unattended while you are away. If it’s not appropriate to take your pet with you on your activities, look into a day-boarding kennel (doggy daycare) for your pet and remember to call ahead and do your research on options before your trip.
Make a list and check it (with your vet) twice
- Make sure your pet is up to date on all vaccinations, heartworm prevention, ectoparasite prevention, has a registered microchip, and has a legible tag on their collar or harness. Tags should include their name, an emergency phone number, and any pertinent medical information.
- Have a digital or hard copy of your pet’s vaccination history (including rabies certificate), microchip number, medications, and health records if they have chronic illnesses or have had major surgeries.
- If your pet receives daily medications, be sure you have enough to last through your trip, and ask your vet if it would be worth having a paper copy of prescriptions in case medications get lost.
- If your pet has a medical device (such as a glucose monitor or pacemaker) or may require specialty veterinary care, speak with your veterinarian about what resources are available near your destination.
- If your pet struggles with anxiety or motion sickness or has a fireworks phobia, ask your veterinarian how to best manage your pet’s needs during travel.
Pets carrier and food
It’s a good idea to get your pet used to their travel carrier before the trip. Dr. Rutter suggests these tips to help familiarize your pet with the crate or carrier that she/he will be traveling in.
- Hiding treats or feeding your pet in the carrier, providing a comfortable bed in the carrier, and going on short drives in the car (full of praise!) in the pet in the carrier (coming home to praise and treats!) can help make the travel experience less scary.
- Even when you get to your destination, keep your pet’s travel carrier or crate open and in a quiet place that they can retreat to if they need some quiet time.
- If you are traveling with a cat, using the same litter when you travel that you use at home can help the cat form good habits in the new environment
- Stick to your pet’s regular diet when you travel- and don’t overdo the treats. Be sure to have enough food and water for your pet while you are in transit and for the duration of your trip.
- Carry waste bags. “I also carry a cheap set of medical exam gloves (purchased over the counter) in case things get messy,” says Rutter.
- Most airports have a “pet relief” area, do a little cyber sleuthing or ask an airline representative where to find it. If you are driving, you may want to stop every 3-4 hours for a pet break.
Be sure your pet wears a collar or harness with a tag at all times while traveling, as outside of his/her normal environment, pets can become fearful or excited and bolt, Rutter warns.
She also advises to know where local emergency veterinary centers are along your route or near your destination. A little homework before you travel will ensure you have a way to get help if you need it. A great resource for pets on the road can be ASPCA Animal Poison Control.
Boarding your pet
Rutter says after finding a reliable pet sitter or boarding facility, to ask about services provided, such as if your pet will have contact with other pets, if they are able to accommodate your pet’s medical condition (if applicable), and preventative care requirements that need to be met for boarding.
“Strict requirements may seem excessive to many pet owners, but it ensures that the other animals in your pet’s environment are also healthy. Strict rules and guidelines also mean that the kennel or pet sitter is paying attention to the animals to ensure their well being,” Rutter added.
When Dr. Rutter leaves her pets in the care of a pet sitter or kennel, she makes sure her family veterinarian notes in their records that she will be away. “I make sure that my pets’ caretaker knows the veterinarian that will provide emergency care for my pet, and I provide the contact information for an alternate decision-maker for my pet in case I cannot be reached,” she said.
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