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10 Tips for Traveling with Pets

2008-10-09

1. Start Early. If you're planning to take your pet with you on trips in the car, start early when the pet is young to get used to the routine. Short jaunts across town and back or easy day trips will get your pet used to the ride. A carsick pet can make the trip miserable for everyone.

2. Take time to prepare. Before you travel with your pet, check with your veterinarian to make sure your pet is physically able to make the trip. Some senior, pregnant or physically impaired dogs and cats do not travel well. Make sure your pet's vaccinations are current, and be sure to bring along any immunization records if you are traveling interstate or out of the country.

Your pet will feel more comfortable before the trip if you take the time to bathe (dogs), brush and groom him.

Be sure to bring along cleaning supplies in case of mishaps to avoid having to search out a place to purchase them at the last minute. A backseat upholstery protector, such as a backseat pet hammock or waterproof bench seat cover will make clean-ups easier in case your pet does get sick or has an accident.

A pet first-aid kit is an essential item to pack when venturing out and should contain things such as antiseptic cream, assorted bandages, tweezers, eye drops, gauge, tape and the like. You should familiarize yourself with the items in the kit and know how to use them. Phone numbers for your pet's vet, the National Animal Poison Control Center hotline (888-426-4435), and emergency pet hospitals in the areas where you plan to travel should be taken along.

A travel tag on your pet's collar will help someone locate you should you and your pet become separated. The travel tag should contain information about where you are staying locally (while away from home), including addresses and phone numbers. Be sure to include your cell phone number since it is likely you will have it with you.

A current photo of your pet is also a good idea and will help make identifying your pet easier in the event others join you in a search for your lost pet.

3. Safely secure your pet. An unrestrained pet can become a deadly projectile in the event of a sudden stop or crash, causing serious injury (even death) to passengers. For example, an unsecured, 25-pound dog in a 40 mph crash becomes a 1,000-pound mass (half a ton), flying uncontrollably inside the vehicle.

Dogs should be restrained with a pet seat belt harness designed for pet travel. Smaller dogs can be secured in pet car seats, which also allows them to see out, while being properly restrained.

Cats should be contained in a crate or cage that is secured, if possible, with a seat belt. Never allow a cat to roam freely inside the vehicle, as it could get tangled around the driver's feet or get in the driver's view of the road.

Never attach a restraining device to the pet's collar while traveling in vehicles. Always use a harness to prevent injury.

4. Bring along a portable kennel. If you are staying in a pet-friendly hotel room or in the homes of friends or relatives, a portable pet crate or kennel will provide a comfortable place for your pet during sleep times or unsupervised times when you are away. If you leave your pet alone in a hotel room, be sure to post the "Do Not Disturb" sign so housekeepers will not knock on the door. If you leave your pet in the room while you're gone for any length of time, it's a good idea to inform the clerks at the front desk and how long you intend to be away.

5. Take along familiar items. Favorite pet toys, blankets, food, treats, pet travel bowls, etc., will give your pet a sense of security and familiarity. Keep them in easy reach to occupy your pet while traveling. Limit food and water, however, to non-travel times such as an hour or two before your trip or during driving breaks. Food and water intake should be in small amounts if you still have more traveling to do. Reserve your pet's main meal for the end of the day.

Stop every couple of hours so you and your pet can stretch and walk around. Be sure to have your pet's leash handy to have control and so your pet doesn't run away in unfamiliar surroundings.

Have your own supply of cold water, as fresh water is not always handy or convenient when you need to stop. A portable pet water dispenser is a handy item to take along.

6. Do not allow your pet to ride with its head outside of the window. An obstacle close to the vehicle could potentially strike your pet's head, causing injury or death, or dirt particles could get into your pet's ears, nose, eyes, or throat, causing health problems.

7. Do not leave your pet alone in a parked car. Temperatures in confined spaces in the summer time can heat up fast — even with the windows cracked — causing heatstroke, even death, to a pet. Extremely cold temperatures in the winter can be just as threatening, so be sure not to leave a pet in the car if the temperature is near the freezing mark.

8. When considering flying with your pet, plan early. Book your and your pet's reservations well in advance and get the airline's latest pet policy and regulations. Check airline pet policies, as well as information on international pet travel.

You'll need a general health certificate and a rabies vaccination certificate, which should be issued within 10 days of your departure. Have these with you especially if you plan to travel interstate or internationally.

Always ask about pet carrier size regulations for underseat storage or in the cargo area, required immunizations and health records, and whether the airline allows pets in the cabin. In extremely hot or cold weather, some airlines do not allow pets to be transported in the cargo area.

9. Know the risk factors when preparing for air travel with your pet. Certain breeds of dogs, such as collies and pugs, have special respiratory considerations because of their long or short snouts, and flying in the cargo area of a plane can lead to breathing difficulties because of poor ventilation. These types of dogs, as well as cats, should fly in the cabin, if allowed.

Think about the time of year you are traveling. Early morning or late evening flights work best in warmer weather. Midday flights are better in colder months. Consider nonstop flights to avoid plane changes, which will minimize your pet's anxiety.

According to the Animal Welfare Act, you will not be able to fly with your dog or cat if your pet is less than eight weeks old. Pets must also be weaned at least five days before traveling by air.

Allow plenty of time to exercise your pet when you arrive at the airport. Comfort your pet with words of reassurance as you place your pet in the carrier or crate.

10. Have fun. This should be the primary reason you take your pet with you when you travel. If you view it as a chore or drudgery, you should leave your pet in the care of family, friends or a reputable kennel.

Most people travel with their pets because they consider them members of the family and would never dream of leaving them behind while they go out and have all the fun.

The key is to be safe and responsible while traveling with pets. They're depending on you.

Happy Pet Travels!

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