The Vet Is In: Traveling with Your Pet

Photo courtesy of Bothell Veterinarian.

Summer may be nearly over, but the traveling season never has an actual end. Before you head out for the road or fly the friendly skies, there are numerous preparations and precautions to take to make the experience easier for you and your pet. Traveling with pets can be nerve-racking and frustrating, so after you pop a Valium to calm yourself down, here are some things to think about.

  • You should always carry a copy of your pet’s recent medical problems and phone number of your veterinarian’s office. Knowing the phone number of an emergency hospital at your final destination or along the way if you are driving is also information to research ahead of time.
  • When crossing state lines or flying, it is always a good idea to get a health certificate within 10 days of leaving. If you are traveling to a different country, this is mandatory. Certain pet diseases common in the United States may not be as common in other countries, and many of these countries have stringent requirements for entry so as to keep these diseases out. Please be sure to research these requirements carefully.
  • Attach a current ID tag with your phone number to a secure collar. All pets should be microchipped. Most shelters have scanners to properly scan lost pets. If your pet is crated, place your name and contact information along with a copy of your pet’s medical records on the outside of the crate.
  • When driving, make sure any accommodation you are staying at is pet friendly. Some websites that help in this respect are Dog in My Suitcase, Pets Welcome, Dog Friendly, and All Stays.
  • When deciding on a crate or carrier, size is important. Make sure your pet has room to stand up and turn around during the trip. Check with your airline for its policy on type and size of crate and whether your pet will travel under your seat or in the cargo hold.
  • In cold weather and if your pet is traveling in the cargo hold of an airplane, put several fluffy towels in the crate for warmth. Let your pets spend time in this crate prior to travel. Every airline has specific policies, so check with them first.
  • Your pet should not be loose in your car, so use that carrier again. It is far too easy for a scared pet to bolt out of an open door at a rest area or fly out of a crack in the window. Cats are masters at finding the most inaccessible areas of your car when they are scared, and they’re partial to diving under the power front seats. You might even have to go to the car dealer to have the seat unbolted to retrieve your cat. Worse yet, what will you do when your apparently calm cat gets scared and slinks under the brake or gas pedal? I can guarantee you that it’s happened before.
  • Since most pet travel is in the summer, heatstroke can occur easily. Stop often for bathroom breaks and to let your pet drink fresh water. Never leave your pet in the car unless it is in a shaded area and several windows are rolled down for proper ventilation. Solar-powered fans are available to circulate air and keep your car cooler. When in doubt, do not leave your pet unattended in the car, considering the serious potential for heat stroke and death.
  • If your pet suffers from anxiety, please see your vet about tranquilization. It is common to give this medication at a low dose to minimize anxiety, and your veterinarian is experienced with the correct medication and dosage. Specific medications also have an anti-vomiting effect to help prevent car sickness. Administer a test dose several days before your trip to see how your pet reacts.
  • Try to schedule feeding so that your pets eats only after the day’s car ride or flight, and make sure it always has access to water. Feeding the night before the trip is an easy way to minimize car sickness and having to clean up a mess in your car. Take your car-sick-prone pet on short car rides to help in conditioning.
  • Familiarity can help soothe your pet and keep it calm. Bring blankets, bedding, towels and toys your pet is familiar with. Don’t forget its favorite food and a leash.

Putting these tips into practice will help ensure that your trip will be a memorable one in all the best ways possible.



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