The peak of the summer months are nearly upon us, and that often translates into family vacation season. For many pet owners, a vacation feels incomplete without bringing along our four-legged family member. Preparing for a pet’s trip means more than packing their toothbrush…but with a bit of planning, here’s some top ideas on how to successfully bring the entire family along!
Before You Go
For any pet, feeling safe in a familiar environment is a top priority. We recommend familiarizing your pet with her carrier, since most transportation requires one. Leave it out and open for a few weeks before you depart, using positive reinforcement to establish the carrier as a safe and happy environment.
Just before travel, cut your pet’s nails so they won’t catch in the carrier. Make sure he/she wears their regular identification tag, plus a travel one with contacts at your destination listed. Since dangling tags can catch in the carrier grate, secure them to your pet’s collar with tape. (Label the carrier, too.)
If you’re flying with a small pet, choose an airline that will let him/her ride in the cabin under the seat. If your pet is too large, consider driving or leaving them home with a family member or boarding service. “Cargo is unsafe and uncomfortable, plus frightening for the pet,” says Louise Murray, director of medicine at a New York animal hospital. Murray says. “Think of it as a last resort.”
Even for in-cabin travel, it’s best to exercise your dog for at least 15 minutes before boarding to quell his/her anxiety (avoid sedatives, which can slow breathing,
especially for dogs prone to respiratory issues). Since they’ll be confined awhile without breaks, don’t feed them for four to six hours before departure.
(Do freeze water in the tray inside the crate, so she’ll stay hydrated.)
If you need to fly but don’t want to risk cargo, Pet Airways flies animals in their main cabin. Or, you can hire a transport service to drive your pet to your vacation spot.
Trains tend to be a safe and comfortable travel option for short to medium distances – call ahead to make sure the train permits pets. Ask about crating rules, as well as any
break time en route. Don’t let your pet travel in cargo during the summer, since there may be no air-conditioning, and as always, avoid sedation.
Hit the Road
Car travel is ideal, since you can make frequent stops to exercise your pet (don’t forget the leash) and offer water. If he/she isn’t used to driving, take short rides in advance of your trip, gradually increasing their length.
Many states require that owners use pet-restraint systems such as harnesses, car seats, and mesh vehicle barriers. Roaming pets can distract drivers and, in an accident,
can become flying projectiles. Be sure to ensure your pets safety at all times, and review any state/local rules.
Just like people, some pets are prone to motion sickness. Calming a pet’s nerves with toys or treats, cracking a window for fresh air, and taking rest stops every few hours can help. For serious car sickness, your vet may be able to recommend an appropriate medication…(but the best option would be to leave your loved one home with a sitter).
Creature Comforts: What to Pack
- Sturdy, well-ventilated carrier or crate (labeled with owner’s ID)
- Leash, collar, and permanent and travel ID tags
- Health certificate from a vet (often required when crossing state lines), medications, medical records, and a local vet contact near your destination
- If traveling internationally, the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s website offers terrific guidelines
- Pet food and bowls
- Favorite bedding and toys
- Litter and litter pan for cats or training pads for dogs
- Grooming supplies including a dental kit, pet wipes for spot cleaning, and nontoxic pet sunscreen
- Pet flotation device if you’ll be near water
- Current photo, in case your pet gets lost