15 Tips For Safe Travels With Your Pet
Every year millions of people embark on traveling adventures with their pets. As with kids if your are traveling with a pet you know you need to prepare ahead of time. Remember, whether you are at home or on a vacation your pet depends on you for their basic care. The following tips can help you get organized for your next big family adventure.
1. Before you venture out on any trip to make sure your pet is up to the adventure with a wellness check. Take your pet to his/her veterinarian for a check up and vaccination boosters before you leave. If you have an older pet make sure they are up to traveling. If not do your dog a favor and leave them at home with reliable care.
2. If you haven’t already done so have your pet microchipped. Microchips are basically an identification tag the size of a piece of rice that is injected into your pet's shoulder. It carries all the information needed to get your pet back to you safely should they become lost. Most veterinarian offices and all animal shelters carry a scanner that can scan the chip. You should also put a tag on your dog's collar with your contact information on it. Be sure the number is for the cell phone you will be carrying with you.
3. Do some research before you leave. Between you and your vet define any dangers that may lurk where you are going. Certain type of ticks can reek havoc with your pet. You don't want that surprise when you come home. You may be able to get your pet vaccinated against certain illnesses before you leave. While you are at the vet’s office ask them for a copy of your pet’s vaccination records on their letterhead. You may have to board your pet on your big adventure. Most boarding places require vaccination records to board. Otherwise they will re-vaccinate your pet. If you get the vaccination records on letterhead the boarding facility has your vet's information.
4. Every pet should have their own travel case. My Bailey had a backpack and her own (child's) sleeping bag. This keeps your pet's things stored nicely in one place. In the bag should be your pet's food and bowls. Be aware that you may have to carry bottled water as well. Be sure they have some of their favorite toys, some chew toys, their medications, waste bags, treats, a picture of your pet in case they get lost. Time can be of the essence. Be sure you have vaccination records along with your vet's contact information. I kept all of my dog's belongings in her own travel bag separate from mine in case I needed to get to it quickly. I also know right where it is in case I have to make a quick get away, say for a weather emergency.
5. I know we want to take our pets with us everywhere, but sometimes its better if they stay home. If you have to board your pet in a facility be sure you pack a bag for them. My dog has her own travel bag and sleeping bag. Most boarding facilities require vaccination records. Be prepared to bring your own food if your pet can’t eat what is being served at the facility. Some places charge more if they have to deviate from what is on the menu. Some also charge extra for administering medications. Also send along a tee shirt that you have worn. This works double duty, first your smell is on it and second putting a shirt on a scared dog acts as a Thunder shirt and can calm the dog down.
6. If you leave your pet with a friend or relative you may not need vaccination records, but the vaccination records on letterhead still has your vet’s number on it, so leave it in the pack for emergencies. Be sure to leave the number for a local emergency vet as well. While your pet may feel more comfortable with a friend or relative they still may display unusual behaviors. Let your friends know of any quirks your pet may have. I once dog sat a dog that had a tendency to jump through the upstairs bedroom screens and hang out on the secondary roof if you left her alone. Thankfully I found this out before I actually drove out of the driveway. Again an article of clothing will remind your pet that you are close.
7. For most dogs a car ride is second only to food in life's pleasures, but for your safety and the safety of your dog they should be buckled in with a car harness. Most pet stores carry car harnesses they are pretty easy to use, and some are even padded for more comfort. However do not use the car's seat belt. They are not designed to hold critters and can actually injure your dog more than keep them safe. A cat should be in a crate so they don't crawl around your feet while you are driving.look out the window. Many seat harnesses are padded to add comfort and they allow your pup to sit up or lie down in the seat. Always harness your pet in the back seat. Never allow your them to ride in front with you. While airbags can save your life they can kill your dog. Your dog is safest harnessed in the back seat of your car or in a crate in the cargo area. Never outside the vehicle.
8. If you are going to a multi-pet household be sure your pet is sociable enough to be around the other animals. If your cat doesn’t like dogs, she is really going to have her nose bent out of shape when you let her loose in a house with fido & spot. Since your cat is most likely going to be stressed out from the car ride anyway your best bet is to confine kitty to a bathroom or laundry room and let her sit quietly for a while. This maybe where she spends her entire trip, but she needs to feel safe.
9. If you have dogs meeting for the first time don’t let them meet face to face. It might be best to first let your dog out of the car to relieve himself and sniff. Make a plan to get your dog walking in a particular direction and slowly add other dogs, keep walking, all of you in the same direction, adding people and animals into the group as you go. Keep the walk steady and calm. While you are all walking the dogs will naturally establish a pecking order. See how the pups get along in this environment before going in the house. If your fine furry friends can’t get along you may have to keep them separated for the rest of the trip but its better to find out while in a wide open space rather than in the confines of a kitchen .
10. Know how your pet reacts to certain stimuli. How are they around ornate decorations and Christmas trees, are they counter surfers, are they chewers? In other words have you taught your dog house manners? If not, shame on you, but its never too late to start. Your pet will undoubtedly be excited and may even be stressed. They may do some very uncharacteristic and embarrassing things when in a strange home. You may have to keep your pet leashed to you for your entire trip, but this is better than not being asked back. To be sure your pet has as much fun as you do socialize and house train them before you embark on family adventures.
11. No matter where you go be sure your pet is on a leash. A good sturdy nylon collar and lead is a must when taking your pet to heavily populated areas such as restaurant patios and rest stops. Your pet may surprise you in certain situations. They may not be comfortable sitting under a table or they may take off after a squirrel at a rest stop. You, also don’t know what other types of pets are going to be around. In most states its the law to keep control of your pet. A safe pet means a happy vacation.
12. If its warm where you’re going you may have to utilize fast food drive through windows. Please don’t ever leave your pet unattended in the car for any reason. Even with the windows open it can get thirty five degrees hotter inside your car than the outside temperature and this can happen within ten minutes of turning the car off. In some states it is illegal to leave your pet unattended in a car. Just to be sure don’t do it.
13. You will have to do some planning when traveling to find pet friendly hotels. Some even cater to critters, by offering fluffy pet beds, gourmet food and personal pet exercisers. When away try to keep your pet’s schedule as normal as possible. Make sure they get plenty of exercise and potty breaks during your trip and hotel stays. Stop and play a game of fetch or just walk. Its good for both of you get out and stretch your legs.
14. Be aware that traveling can upset your pet’s stomach. Be sure to pack Pepcid or Immodeum in your first aid kit. To avert digestive problems try feeding your pet less at each meal but more times during the day. For instance if you feed your pet two cups of food twice a day, try breaking the meals down to one cup of food four times a day. Your pet is less likely to get carsick this way. Its easy to let your pet eat what you eat on a trip, however their stomachs might not handle it as well as yours does. Keep their food on hand and keep the people treats to a minimum.
15. I have never taken a pet on an airline with me. I don’t think I ever would. However, airline travel has changed for pets more recently. I still believe unless you absolutely have to bring them, leave Fido home with a reliable pet sitter. The only way to safely fly your pet is in a carrier under your seat. Better to be safe than sorry. Often the cargo areas where your pet will be riding are not pressurized and are subject to extreme temperatures. Before you even decide to take your pet on a plane do your research. Call each airline and see what their regulations are for traveling pets. Some airlines are starting to offer special flights, or special pressurized areas on the plane where they keep animal crates. The flights can be costly, but it’s the only way to go if you must fly your pet. You will most likely need a special crate and other provisions, such as a water feeder.
Traveling with your pet can be a fun adventure if you follow some basic tips. Dogs, especially love an outing and most want to travel if they are with their family. You can avoid a lot of headaches if you do a little planning ahead of time. Make sure you have travel gear for your pet just as you do for your children. Make sure you have proper documentation on hand for your pet no matter where you travel. Always have a plan whether you are bringing your pet to a boarding facility, or leaving them with a family member or even if you plan to bring them with you. Your pet will need certain items to make their trip successful no matter where they are spending their holidays. It is up to you to make sure they are comfortable. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.