For many pet parents, vacationing without our four-legged family members just isn’t as fun. Unfortunately, travel can also be highly stress-inducing, both for humans and pets. If you’re looking to take a trip with your pet this year, here are some tips to make your journey as stress-free and enjoyable as possible.
- Ensure your pet is healthy enough to travel. Make an appointment with your Veterinarian to get a current check-up on your pet’s health. Some states will require a health certificate that states your pet is free of infectious diseases and meets other specific requirements before your pet will be allowed to cross the border. Proof of rabies vaccination may also be required to cross interstate borders.
- Make sure your pet has clear identification. Collars, microchips, etc. should all be up to date with current contact and vaccination information. Consider creating a temporary travel tag with destination and cell phone information to attach to your pet’s collar for the duration of the trip.
- Pack smart! Make sure you have the following things before leaving the house:
- Plenty of food and water (unfamiliar water may have additives or different mineral profiles that can cause stomach upset).
- Any medications, including heartworm and flea prevention.
- A leash, waste bags, and bowls for pit stops.
- A couple of toys and/or a blanket to include in your pet’s crate for a sense of security.
- Secure your pet. The biggest risk of injury to a pet while traveling is from being thrown around in a car and/or ejected from the vehicle. A secured carrier or crate with enough space for your pet to turn around, sit, and lie down is best. If your dog is going to be riding in a seat, he or she should be secured with a harness and safety belt. Don’t let your dog hang his or her head out the window, as flying debris could cause injury to the eyes or face. Cats should always travel in a crate.
- Take frequent breaks. If you stop somewhere, let your pet out too! The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends a break every 2-3 hours to let your pet use the bathroom and get some exercise. Never leave a pet alone in a car. In hot weather, a car can rapidly heat up and cause heatstroke, and in cold weather, your pet is at risk of hypothermia and cold injuries.
- Schedule an appointment with your Veterinarian. Ask your veterinarian if your pet is healthy enough for travel. You will need to get a health certificate for your pet, dated within 10 days of departure. Make sure to check if your airline requires additional documentation like a certificate of acclimation.
- Do not tranquilize your pet – this can cause breathing and/or circulatory problems, especially in short-nosed dogs. Instead, check with your Vet about ways to ease travel anxiety and calm a nervous pet.
- If possible, bring your pet into the cabin of the aircraft. Certain breeds may not be allowed to travel in the cargo hold.
- Make sure your pet’s crate is USDA-compliant. Your crate should be big enough for your pet to stand up fully (without touching the top), turn around, and lie down comfortably. Write the words “live animal” and your contact information on the crate. It’s also a good idea to attach a picture of your pet to the crate, in case your animal escapes.
- Book a direct flight whenever possible. This will reduce the risk of your pet being left out on the tarmac or lost, mishandled, etc. during layovers.
- Let your pet get some exercise. Exercising your pet just before your flight and during any layovers will encourage them to sleep during your
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