Travelling with your pet, either driving or flying, can be stressful for both of you; maybe even for the people travelling near you as well. Being prepared can help make this experience better for everyone involved.
Here are some tips for travelling with your pets:
- Acclimate your pet – when travelling with your pet, the safest place for them is either in a carrier or a harness and seat belt made especially for dogs. Cats are notorious for hating carriers. This is frequently due to them not being used to it, or only being exposed to it in what the cat perceives to be a scary, or negative situation. When planning a trip with your pet, you should start getting them used to whatever they will be travelling in right away. If it is a carrier, please select a safe one. Hard-sided carriers tend to hold up best in accidents; you can even buy crash tested carriers now. If you are travelling by plane, there are specific rules involving carriers, depending on if the pet is flying cargo or carry on. Please check with the airline as regulations can change frequently and it is better safe than sorry! Carriers can be scary for pets, the best way to make them less scary is to get the pet used to them. You can do this by having the carrier out all the time, or most of the time. You can set it up, so it is a comfortable spot for the pet if they choose to nap there. You can feed them treats or meals in it to reward them for being in the carrier. You can also place toys and chews in the carrier to help make the animal feel at home. Try to make the carrier as comfortable and welcoming as possible and eventually, your pet will learn to love it.
- Consistency – travelling can be hard on pets, so staying as close to the normal routine as possible can be best for your pets. If your pet is used to being meal fed, or receiving medications at certain times, try to keep those times the same – especially with medications.
- Bring everything your pet needs – sudden changes in diet, as well as sudden stops and starts in medications, can be harmful to your pet. Be sure to bring enough medications and food for your pet for your whole trip.
- Look up veterinary clinics in the area you are travelling to. If your pet becomes injured or requires treatment while they are on vacation, it is best to know in advance the phone number and location of a clinic nearby. You can also request a copy of your pet’s medical records from your regular veterinarian to be faxed to that clinic, or a hard copy to bring with you.
- Bring all needed paperwork – when flying or crossing borders with your pet, you require certain paperwork from your veterinarian. What you need depends on where you are going.
- Make sure your pet has proper ID! Pets frequently get lost while travelling. Make sure they have an ID tag on with your cell phone number on it. We also highly recommend microchipping your pets. That way, if a collar comes off they still have a permanent form of identification.
- Medicate if necessary – if you know your pet is going to be anxious and stressed on the trip, discuss medications and supplements with your vet that could help make them feel better. There are many anti-anxiety medications and supplements out there for pets. There are also pheromone sprays and collars you can get for your dog or cat that can help make them feel more at home.
- If you are travelling with a dog, be sure to exercise them before you head out on a long drive or plane ride. Let them stretch out their legs and burn some energy. You can also play with your cats before putting them in carriers in order to help them feel tired.
- Keep all paws and heads inside the vehicle. Many animals love sticking their heads out the window, but it can lead to injury. We see pets in the clinic that jump out of moving vehicles. They can also get hit in the head with debris, or get things such as bugs stuck in their eyes. No one wants to start off a vacation with an injury!
- Last but certainly not least, be sure the place you are staying is pet-friendly! Many hotels are not, or charge an extra fee for pets. Remember to never leave your pets unattended in a vehicle.
Written by Mikaila Cariou, RVT