We are now in the season of traveling “over the river and through the woods” to visit friends and family for the holidays. We all know that traveling with children adds layers of planning, but have you considered the preparation needed when traveling with pets? Whether you travel by train, plane or automobile with your pet as your travel companion, there are several things you can do before and during your journey.
Regardless of the mode of transportation, be sure to:
- Make sure your pet is microchipped and/or has some form of identification on their body. Identification tags that lie flush with a collar or harness are the safest. Identification can also be embroidered on a collar or harness. I use Boomerang tags for my pets.
- Bring along the pet’s vaccination records, as well as any other medical records you think may be important. Scanning records and saving the file to your phone for easy access eliminates the need for lugging large amounts of paper.
- Pack all your pet’s necessities - It is important you have enough food, treats, and toys to keep your pet comfortable throughout the journey. Be sure all medications, even those you use on an as-needed basis, are packed for the trip. Items such as travel bowls, bottled water, and freeze-dried food make it easier for you as the pet parent to have a great trip as well! Other items to consider packing include towels, bed, poopy bags, or other bags to pick up waste, and paper towels.
- Schedule a check-up with your veterinarian to be sure your pet is healthy enough to travel.
- Research the location and hours of an emergency veterinary hospital in your destination area - Chances are you will not need this information, but peace of mind is priceless!
- Motion Sickness - If there is a possibility of motion sickness, don’t forget to pack flower essences or homeopathic remedies, CBD oil is another great remedy for anxiety-associated motion sickness.
- Try to book a direct flight. A direct flight will decrease the chances of airline personnel mishandling your pet, especially if it will be traveling in the plane’s cargo hold. If you cannot book a direct flight, you can attach a GPS tracking device to the crate so that you know where your pet is located at all times during the trip.
- Check the airline’s policies on pet travel before you book a flight, as policies can differ between airlines.
- Obtain a health certificate from your veterinarian - This document confirms the health of your pet and its fitness for traveling. If you are traveling overseas, you may need certification specific to that country, and your pet may need additional vaccinations or treatment for internal and external parasites. Some countries require certification from a USDA accredited veterinarian. It can take quite a bit of time to go through the process for countries that require rabies titers and quarantine, so plan ahead! Not all veterinarians are accredited; you may have to travel outside your immediate area to find one.
- Use only a USDA-approved crate - Mark the crate with the label “LIVE ANIMAL.”
- Create temporary travel tags with your cell phone number as well as the phone number of your destination. These tags can be affixed to a crate as well as the pet.
- Communicate with airport/airline personnel - Let all airport and airline personnel you encounter know you are traveling with a pet.
If traveling by road-
- Acclimate your pet to the car before your trip. If you already know your pet is not a great traveler in the car (or if you are not sure), simply sit in the car with your dog or cat when the car is not in motion, starting with short periods, gradually increasing the time. Then take him for brief rides, gradually increasing the length of the rides as your pet grows more comfortable. Reward your pet with a treat at the end of each trip. Calming sprays, CBD, homeopathic remedies, flower essences, and herbs can be used to reduce travel anxiety.
- Secure your pet in the vehicle. Safety is top priority! A crate is a good way to keep your dog secure in the car while also minimizing driver distraction. A crate should allow enough space for your pet to stand up, lie down, and turn around. Make sure the crate offers plenty of ventilation. Other ways to secure your pet include a pet car seat, or a harness with an attachment that clips into the vehicle’s seat belt to restrain your pet in the car. The fit should be snug without restricting or chafing your pet’s neck or chest. Adding a familiar blanket will help to keep your pet calm.
- Be sure to take breaks! You may be a “road warrior,” but it is a good idea to give your pet a break every three to four hours. A stretch, walk and/or water break will be beneficial for both of you.
- Traveling by RV can make life easier if your pet has special dietary needs, as access to a stove and refrigerator allow you to take along individualized meals. There are other considerations to take into consideration, which can be found here.
Stay tuned for Part 2 – We will be covering tips for pet travel – Help Your Pet Be a Good Guest