by Ashley Steel, Contributing Writer, Communications
With the summer months rapidly approaching, vacation season will soon be here. We all need a little time away from the monotony of an everyday routine, so as you get ready to retreat, it’s important to know how to care for your four-legged friends traveling with you. Most of us travel by car or plane, but each option brings certain drawbacks for pets.
Car travel is usually less stressful on pets because it allows Freckles and Champ to be close to you, so you can monitor their well-being and come to their aid when needed. If you choose to drive to your destination, here are a few helpful hints to make the trip more enjoyable.
Motion sickness: It’s common for pets to experience motion sickness while traveling in a car. To help avoid an upset stomach, don’t feed your pet a large meal before travel. Cracking a window to allow fresh air to circulate through your vehicle also helps. If Champ is prone to motion sickness or if Freckles’ sensitive stomach acts up again, you may want to put them in the front seat next to you. Riding up front helps because less motion is felt in the front of the vehicle.
Bathroom breaks: While Champ may snooze for the majority of the trip, it’s still important to give him frequent bathroom breaks. Traffic is unpredictable, so if it has been more than a couple of hours, stop and give your dog a chance to relieve himself and stretch his legs.
Sedatives: While sedatives may make your pet seem less stressed during car trips, these medications also have a tendency to dull the senses and lessen your pet’s ability to react to the environment, which can be dangerous in an emergency. When traveling by car or by plane, avoid giving your pet any type of sedative. If you think Champ or Freckles really needs a sedative to travel, talk to your pet’s veterinarian before your trip.
For people, flying is often quicker and easier than driving, but flying can be a more stressful experience for your pet. If you decide to travel by air, it’s important to keep a few things in mind.
Cargo travel: While you’re snacking, reading, and sleeping in relative comfort up in economy seating, Champ is usually traveling in the cargo area below, subjected to temperature fluctuations and loud noises. A cat or small dog may be allowed to travel in the plane’s cabin, as long as the pet is kept in a crate and the crate fits underneath the seat. Check with specific airlines for more information about cabin travel for your pet.
Check on your pet: Make sure to tell the plane’s Captain or flight attendant that you have a pet on board. If the flight staff knows about Champ in cargo, they are better able to check on him for you, especially if an unusual situation occurs, such as an unscheduled landing, extended taxi time, or long layover.
Walk your dog: If you and Champ have a connecting flight, try to walk him before that connecting flight departs. Many airports provide dog parks just outside the terminal. A bathroom break and a short walk will help Champ relax and stay calm during the remainder of his journey.
Crate your pet: During flights, most pets are housed in pet crates provided by their owners. It’s important to prepare your pet’s crate with safety in mind. Pet crates should provide ample space for your pet to move around and should also meet the requirements set by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS) and the International Air Transportation Association (IATA).
When your pet is crated, remember to include:
- A bowl of dry food;
- A bowl or other container of frozen water that will melt over the course of the trip, giving your pet constant access to cold water;
- Appropriate bedding, such as a soft towel or blanket, or shredded newspaper or wood chips if the traveling pet is a hamster, gerbil, or guinea pig; and
- A label on the outside of the crate that is clearly marked with your pet’s name and your contact information. You should include both your home contact information and your destination contact information.
Be Prepared: If you plan to stay in a hotel while traveling, contact the hotel ahead of time to make sure it is pet friendly.
Before your trip, research veterinary hospitals in the city or town of your destination in case of a pet emergency during the vacation.
Hawaii and Abroad: Traveling outside the continental United States with your pet requires advanced planning. For international travel, contact the appropriate country’s embassy or consulate at least 4 weeks before your trip. Different countries may require different documentation for your pet’s entry. The state of Hawaii also has entry requirements for arriving pets.
For more information about traveling with your pets, please check the following Web sites:
- Traveling with a Pet to or from a foreign country (USDA/APHIS)
- Traveling with Pets (CDC)
- Traveling With Your Dog or Cat (AVMA)
- Traveling with Your Pet FAQ (AVMA)