13 Tips for Traveling with Pets

By Arricca Elin SanSone


jack russell terrier in cratejack russell terrier in crateIs a family vacation not a family vacation without your furry friend? Then it's worth it to do a little work before you depart-and know what to do during the trip-to guarantee a great getaway, instead of an unpleasant one. Here's how to make travel happier, safer and more fun when your four-legged family member comes along. Photo credit: Getty Images

Before You Leave:

Ask yourself if your pet travels well.

"Cats and dogs like routine," says Bernadine Cruz, DVM, an associate veterinarian at Laguna Hills Animal Hospital in Laguna Woods, CA, and a member of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). "If your pet gets upset in the car or in unfamiliar surroundings, he'll be happier not accompanying you." (But if you'll board him for the first time, get your vet's recommendation for a reliable facility and acclimate your pet to the setting by boarding him overnight before a longer stay.) Pets that are very young, very old or have serious health problems are also better off staying put. The same goes for short-nosed breeds like bulldogs and pugs-they have a hard time regulating their body temperature and can quickly overheat.
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Make sure your pet is healthy.

Before you leave, check that your pet is current on shots, flea and tick medications and heartworm medications. If you haven't been to the vet in the last six months, schedule a wellness visit. "Animals are good at hiding illness, so get a pre-trip checkup to avoid an emergency vet visit while you're away." Also, ask your vet about health risks at your destination-such as Lyme-disease-carrying ticks in the Northeast or toxic blue-green algae blooms on lakes-and what you should do about them.

Choose the best accommodations.

If you're staying with family or friends, ask if it's okay to bring your pet and learn (and respect) the house rules (like no pets on the couch). If you're staying at a pet-friendly rental home or hotel, book far in advance because rooms allotted for pets usually fill up quickly. Check out listings at PetsWelcome.com or the AAA travel guide, Traveling with Your Pet: The AAA PetBook. Be prepared for a daily pet fee of $25 or more, and find out if there's a restriction on pet weight or number of pets in the room. Some hotels also require a security deposit in case of damages, and most don't allow pets in the room when you're not present.
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Update ID tags.

Make sure your pet's tags have current information, including your cell phone number. "Also, attach a luggage tag to his collar with information about where you're staying in the area," says Kimberly May, DVM, assistant director of professional and public affairs for the AVMA. Micro-chipping is another option. This rice grain-sized identification chip, embedded between your pet's shoulders, can be scanned if your animal is lost. It's also helpful to have a photo if Fido to help others find him.

Look up local vets.

Pets can get sick or injured while away from home, but you can't just roll up to the nearest ER for help. Research vets in your destination and along the way if you're driving on MyVeterinarian.com. "It's especially important to know where you can take a pet with long-term health issues, like diabetes, if an emergency arises," says Dr. May. And program the Animal Poison Control Centernumber (888-426-4435) into your cell phone in case your pet eats something he shouldn't.
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Pack your pet's bags.

Take enough of his regular food for the trip, plus extra for a few days in case you get delayed. Don't forget bowls, water, medications, poop pickup bags, old sheets to throw over sofas to keep hair off and sticky rollers to pick up hair on uncovered surfaces. Throw in anything that helps your pet feel at home, like his favorite squeaky toy or blanket. If you're going to a lake or boating, bring a pet life vest. Also have a pet first aid kit with tweezers to remove ticks and pet-safe antihistamines in case of a bee sting. Check out this complete list of suggested items.

Bring your pet's records.

More things to pack: your vet's phone number and your pet's rabies certificate (the collar tag isn't sufficient evidence that your pet is current, since it could have been removed from another animal). Technically, if you're crossing state lines, you'll also need a health certificate proving a vet has examined your pet within ten days of travel and the animal is healthy and up-to-date on vaccinations.
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During Your Trip:

Buckle up your pet in the car.

In fact, it's the law in some states, such as New Jersey. "If you brake hard or are in an accident, animals can become missiles, getting injured or hurting other passengers," says Debbie Chew, DVM, a veterinarian at East Greenbush Animal Hospital in East Greenbush, NY. "Use a harness which hooks to the seat belt for big dogs or a pet booster seat with a harness so small dogs can see out," says Dr. Chew. A crate strapped to the seat and cargo hooks are other options.

Prevent your pet from getting lost.

Keep your dog on a leash at all times when traveling. "Even the most well-behaved pet can become startled or feel threatened in a new environment and run away," says Dr. Chew. With cats, be sure they're secured in a travel crate before opening car doors or windows. If they dart out of your vehicle, it's unlikely you'll find them in an unfamiliar area.
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Take a break during car rides.

Every two to three hours, stop so everyone can stretch. "Take a ten-minute stroll and let your dog sniff around and be stimulated so it's not just a miserable car trip," says Dr. May. And never leave your pet in the car, even if it's parked in the shade with the windows cracked open. The temperature can rise as much as 19 degrees in 10 minutes and 50 degrees in an hour.

Keep your car cool.

Don't forget that the back seat can be warmer than the front seat, so blow air back there, especially if your animal is crated. Place a wide-mouthed plastic bottle filled with ice in the carrier so your travel buddy can rest against it if he gets hot. And watch for signs of overheating: "Your pet's ears and gums should be pink, not bright red," says Dr. Cruz. "And he shouldn't be panting more than usual, have thick, ropey saliva or act lethargic."
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Fly with caution.

The friendly skies aren't so pet-friendly anymore: Some airlines no longer transport animals. If you do fly, choose nonstop flights early in the morning or late at night when it's cool. Never sedate a pet. "It can compromise his ability to balance, and he can be thrown against the side of the crate," says Dr. May. "Plus, it makes breathing even harder for short-nosed breeds." You'll also need a health certificate and acclimation certificate, which says the pet can tolerate certain temperatures.

Stay safe in the great outdoors.

Sand can hide objects that cut paw pads. When hiking, stick to the trails and bring fresh drinking water for you both. If your dog is carrying his own backpack, limit its contents to one-third his body weight. After outdoor romps, check for burs (a prickly fruit that falls off trees), cuts, ticks and insect bites. If you're camping, keep your pet inside the tent-chaining him outside doesn't protect him from wild animals.

Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.

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