In spite of high fuel costs, traveling during the summer season
continues to be a favorite activity for the family, and many
people take their pets right along with them on their vacations
and summer trips. If you're a pet owner planning a trip or
vacation, the decision to take your pet along or leave him behind
is an important one for both you and your companion. While it may
be tempting to take your furry friend with you, keep in mind that
some animals are not suited for travel because of temperament,
illness, or physical impairment. If you have any doubts about
whether it is appropriate for your pet to travel, talk to your
Planning and preparation are necessary when traveling with family
pets. Consider whether your pet is comfortable when traveling;
how your pet behaves when in the car on short trips around home
is a helpful indicator if he'll be able to handle longer rides in
the car. A car-sick animal can make a trip miserable for
everyone. If you are taking a cat on a car trip, confine it to a
cage or crate for periods of time prior to leaving to allow it to
feel secure and to avoid having a pet under your feet while
driving. Some ill or physically impaired dogs and cats cannot
withstand the rigors of travel. If this is the case, discuss
options such as using a reliable pet-sitter or a clean,
well-managed boarding facility with your veterinarian.
A few general tips apply whether you travel by car or plane:
- Be sure your pet is properly identified with a
current tag or a microchip.
Have your pet properly and thoroughly groomed
(bathing, combing, trimming nails) before your trip. Close
quarters in a car for long periods and in the limited spaces of a
hotel room will make you glad you did.
Bring along your pets favorite food and familiar
pet dish to help make your pet more comfortable.
Before undertaking any trip, consult with your
veterinarian to be sure that all required vaccinations are
up-to-date and to receive a health certificate within ten days of
travel. Remember to bring along proof of rabies vaccination,
necessary when crossing state or international borders.
- Consider whether your pet is comfortable when
traveling; how your pet behaves when in the car on short trips
around home is a helpful indicator if he'll be able to handle
longer rides in the car. A car-sick animal can make a trip
miserable for everyone. If you are taking a cat on a car trip,
confine it to a cage or crate for periods of time prior to
leaving to allow it to feel secure and to avoid having a pet
under your feet while driving. Some ill or physically impaired
dogs and cats cannot withstand the rigors of travel.
Stick to your regular feeding routine and give the
main meal at the end of the day or when you reach your
destination. Feeding dry food will be more convenient, assuming
your pet readily consumes it. Dispose of unused canned food
unless it can be refrigerated.
Take along a plastic jug of cold water in case
other reliable water sources are not available. Give small
portions of food and water and plan to stop every two hours for
exercise and also so your pet can relieve itself. Remember to
include a leash when packing your pet's traveling supplies.
Pets should not be allowed to ride with their heads
outside car windows. Particles of dirt can enter the eyes, ears
and nose, causing injury or infection.
If you must leave your pet in a parked car, be sure
it is ONLY for a few minutes. Lock all doors, park in a shady
area, and open windows wide enough to provide ventilation without
enabling your pet to jump out or get its head caught. Be aware of
weather conditions. You should not leave your pet in a parked car
when the temperature and/or humidity are high or when
temperatures are near or below freezing.
When traveling by car, pack a simple pet first-aid
kit that includes assorted bandages, antiseptic cream, an
anti-diarrheal medication that is safe for pets (ask your
veterinarian to suggest a product), gauze squares, and the phone
numbers of your veterinarian, a national poison control hotline,
and a 24-hour emergency veterinary hospital.
In addition to a standard identification tag (which
should be labeled with your name, home address and phone number),
your pet's collar should include a travel tag with information on
where you are staying while away from home. Should your pet
become lost, this will allow you to be contacted locally.
Perform a daily "health check" on your pet when
away from home. In unfamiliar surroundings, your pet's appetite,
energy, and disposition may change. Watch for unusual discharges
from the nose and eyes, excessive scratching or biting of any
body part, unusual lumps, limping, loss of appetite, abnormal
elimination, or excessive water consumption. Visit a local
veterinarian if you are concerned about any physical or
A car trip or vacation with your pet will go much
more smoothly if you have plenty of supplies on hand to keep it
happy and occupied. Consider basic needs, such as food, water,
and portable dishes for eating and drinking, and also fun items,
such as treats and toys. First-aid items such as gauze, iodine,
antibiotic ointment, and insect-sting swabs can be invaluable, as
can a motion-sickness treatment such as the homeopathic formula
Calm Stress. Other items you should include are a portable pet
bed, leashes, disposable pooper-scoopers, grooming tools such as
a brush and comb.
Travel to country settings with your pet presents
its own challenges. Skunks, raccoons, porcupines, snakes, and
other wildlife can bite or otherwise injure your pet. Keep your
pet within sight and on a leash. Be considerate of other campers.
Be sure to ask your veterinarian about flea, tick and heartworm
prevention before you leave.
- Air travel is of most concern to pet owners.
Federal regulations require that pets be at least 8 weeks old and
weaned at least 5 days before flying. Generally, a health
certificate (which is not more than 10 days old) must be
available before pets will be permitted to board a plane. A valid
rabies vaccination certificate will also be required.
If you travel by plane know that each airline has
certain requirements that must be met before your pet can be
boarded. Make sure you call well enough in advance to allow
yourself time to meet their requirements. Any special information
regarding specific types of carriers required or restrictions is
available from your ticketing agent.
Call the airline well in advance and ask them about
their requirements, which may be different from airline to
airline. It is also a good idea to check with the Department of
Agriculture for any requirements they may have.
Try to book a nonstop, midweek flight and avoid
plane changes if possible. During warm weather periods choose
early morning or late evening flights. In colder months, choose
Traveling with your pet through the airlines can
range in cost from $170 to $200 but it could be zero if you are
able to carry your pet on board.
Arrive at the airport early, exercise your pet,
personally place it in its crate, and pick up the animal promptly
upon arrival. Do not take leashed animals on escalators.
Ask your veterinarian for specific feeding
instructions. The age and size of your pet, time and distance of
the flight, and your pet's regular dietary routine will be
considered when feeding recommendations are made. For your pet's
comfort, air travel on an almost empty stomach is usually
recommended. It is a good idea to restrict your pet's food and
water 4 hours before departure to minimize stomach discomfort and
also to minimize your pet's urge to potty. You can give the main
meal at the end of the day or after you reach your
Freeze the water so it will thaw by the time your
pet is thirsty but won't splash out during loading or
Take along a few of your pet’s favorite toys and
something with your scent on it to help settle him down and give
Veterinarians recommend against tranquilizing your
pets while traveling by air since the effects of tranquilizers on
animals at high altitudes raises their risk of breathing and
There are specific requirements regarding pet
carriers/portable kennels. Please check the following:
Kennel must be in good shape and approved for air
travel. Defective kennels can lead to injury and escape, and may
be rejected upon boarding.
Kennel must be large enough to allow the animal to
stand (without touching the top of the cage), turn around and lie
Kennel must be strong and free of interior protrusions,
and must have handles or grips.
Kennel must have a leak proof bottom that is
covered with plenty of absorbent material.
Kennel must be appropriately and clearly labeled
with your pet's name, complete home address, phone number and
destination contact information, as well as the words "LIVE
ANIMAL" with arrows indicating the crate's proper upright
Kennel must be properly ventilated on opposite
sides, with exterior rims and knobs so that airflow is not
If you determine it is best for your pet to accompany you, you
will need to devote extra time to prepare for the journey. For
example, you'll need to have all of the supplies necessary to
keep your pet comfortable while he's away from home, and you'll
need to familiarize yourself with any pet-related restrictions or
requirements imposed by airlines, destination countries or
states, hotels, etc. Here is a checklist for traveling with your
pet that will help make the journey a safe and enjoyable one for
both you and your furry friends:
First of all if you decide that your pet should not
travel, consider the alternatives: Have a responsible friend or
relative look after your pet, board your animal at a kennel, or
hire a pet sitter.
If a friend or relative is going to take care of
your pet, ask if that person can take your animal into his or her
home. Animals can get lonely when left alone. Be sure that your
pet is comfortable with the temporary caretaker and his or her
home, not to mention any pets that the pet sitter may have.
If you choose to board your pet, get references and
inspect the kennel. Your veterinarian or local shelter can help
you select a facility.
If you are hiring a pet sitter, interview the
candidates and check their references. (A pet sitter may be
preferable if your pet is timid or elderly and needs the comfort
of familiar surroundings during your absence.)
Whatever option you choose, your pet should be
up-to-date on all vaccinations and in sound health. If you
arrange for someone to care for your pet while you are away,
provide the caretaker with the telephone number where you can be
reached, the name and telephone number of your veterinarian, and
your pet's medical or dietary needs. You should also make sure
that your pet is comfortable with the person you have chosen.
If you will be staying with friends along the way,
be considerate. Find out in advance if the pet is welcome. Not
everyone loves pets, so be tolerant and respectful of those who
The same goes for hotels, motels, parks, and
campgrounds. Always check whether pets are allowed or kennel
facilities are available. If the pet must be left alone in a
hotel room, place a "Do Not Disturb" sign on the door and inform
the maid and the front desk. Consider bringing along a portable
kennel for use in hotel rooms or the homes of friends or
relatives who are not comfortable with your pet loose when no one
Planning ahead and being well-prepared will help make your trip
with your pet fun and enjoyable!