Pet Tip of the Month, June 2012
Traveling with Your Pet
By Krystle Wright
Itís that time of year, when sandy beaches, amusement parks and road trips are calling your name. Preparing to travel with your pet, though, is no vacation. Here are some tips to make traveling with your pet as easy as possible, so you donít need a vacation from planning your vacation.
Thereís not a lot of room for spontaneity when it comes to traveling with a pet. Make sure in advance that your pet is allowed on all means of transportation you plan to use during your trip. Before you leave, update the information on your petís identification tags and, if applicable, his or her microchip. If youíve changed your phone number or address, donít forget to change the contact information in case your pet gets lost. If you only have your house phone number listed, add your cell phone number to your information, since you wonít be home. You also need to visit your veterinarian for a checkup and to obtain a health certificate if you leave the state. You might need additional paperwork depending on your travel plans and room accommodations. Ask your airline, travel agency, and the staff of the hotel, campground or other lodging facility.
Whatever accommodations you make, ask first whether your pet is allowed. Even if youíre staying at a campground or with friends or family, donít assume that your pet is welcome. During your stay, you and your pet should both be good guests. Make sure that your petís flea and tick regimen is working before you leave, too. Good houseguests donít leave a trail of pests and parasites in their wake! Clean up after your pet, of course. Avoid leaving your pet loose and alone in a strange place, where even the best-behaved pets might be tempted to explore (or eat, scratch or play with) anything in the room. Instead of letting your pet loose when youíre not around to watch him or her, bring a kennel with you.
That portable kennel isnít the only extra packing youíll have to do if you bring your pet on vacation. The ASPCA also recommends that pet owners bring with them their petís medical records, the contact information for their veterinarian and other veterinarians near their travel destination and a current photo of their pet for identification purposes. Donít forget to pack for your pet, too: collars and leashes, a kennel or crate, a bed or blankets to sleep on, toys, food and water, dishes to eat and drink out of, and, if necessary, any medications your pet needs.
Up, up and away
Airplane travel can be stressful enough without a pet, so save yourself the aggravation and prepare in advance. First, reserve your petís trip when you reserve your ticket. Minimize your petís discomfort by choosing non-stop flights that are not during busy travel holidays to avoid the crowds and the hassle of changing planes. Be mindful of the climate your pet will be stuck in during the trip, and opt for flights during the cooler hours, in the early morning or late evening, in the summer.
Bring the Certificate of Veterinary Inspection you got from your veterinarian. Check with the airline prior to the flight to see if you need an acclimation certificate, too, since some airlines require this. Make sure you have a travel crate that fits the airlineís guidelines, and let your pet get comfortable with the crate before you travel.
On the day of your flight, plan to get to the airport early enough to let your pet exercise and do his or her business. Veterinarians and airlines usually recommend that owners not feed their pets before a flight, but check with your petís veterinarian beforehand. Secure your pet in his or her crate before your flight takes off, and pick up your pet as soon as you reach your destination. Perhaps most importantly, donít use tranquilizers before you put your pet on a plane. Sedated pets may be more likely to have breathing and heart problems, and they may not be able to balance as well when their kennels are moved.
Out to sea
If your trip involves a ship, you might be wondering how to make your pet comfortable on deck. As with flying, you must first make sure your pet is allowed on the boat. Find out what paperwork the boating company requires, especially if you will be leaving the United States during the cruise.
Most likely, you will need a crate and a leash, and possibly other products. Even if it sounds silly, remember that your pet needs some of the same safety precautions you do. Ask your veterinarian to recommend a pet-safe sunscreen if your pet has a thinner coat. You should also invest in a life jacket for your pet (letís face it, the amount of laughter youíll get out of watching Fido in his life vest will be worth the cost of the flotation device). Youíll also have to teach your pet to use the bathroom on the boat somehow. The ASPCA suggests teaching dogs to do their business on newspaper or a section of sod or AstroTurf before the trip. If your pet has a history of motion sickness, talk to your veterinarian before your trip to see if he or she recommends medication.
If you frequently take your pet along for rides, traveling in a car might not seem like a big deal. And while itís certainly less complicated than travel by airplane or boat, long car trips can still be stressful for your pet. The ASPCA recommends stopping every two to three hours to give your pet a bathroom break and a chance to stretch his or her legs. You can also help your pet feel more secure by bringing along a favorite blanket or toy.
For a safer trip, ditch the iconic image of a dog sticking his or her head out the window, ears flapping in the wind. Flying dirt can irritate your petís eyes, ears and nose. Instead, keep your pet in a carrier or a harness Ė and away from the driverís feet. Even though your pet is so darn cute (especially wearing that life jacket), keep your eyes on the road when youíre driving.
Just as people vary in their travel tolerances, so do pets. Before you drag Fido or Garfield along on a trip, decide whether travel is the best thing for your pet. An older or sick pet might not handle the stress of travel very well. While some pets love a good adventure, others arenít so brave. If you question how well your pet will handle travel, ask your veterinarian to suggest a good place to board your pet while youíre away, or ask a trustworthy friend or family member to pet-sit.
When traveling with your pets, be aware of their level of comfort. Make sure they have plenty of space and they donít get too hot or too cold. The bottom line: take responsibility for your petís well-being and, as Dr. McAlonan puts it, ďdonít assume someone else will be watching out for them.Ē
This article would not be possible without the help and guidance of Dr. William McAlonan, DVM, Wilwynn Animal Hospital, 496 Greenwich Road, Bridgeton, NJ. (856) 451-0789
Krystle L. Wright graduated from Rowan University in May 2011 with her M.A. in Writing and her B.A. in Writing Arts.
Krystle just took on her first client as a freelance public relations writer. She loves all kinds of writing but especially fiction, and sheís working on her first novel. When sheís not writing (and even when she is), sheís probably listening to music or shopping.