We all need vacations to get away from the monotony of our everyday routine. If you choose to bring your four-legged friends with you on your retreat, it’s important to know how to care for them while you're traveling. Most of us travel by car or plane, but either option brings certain drawbacks for our pets.
When traveling with your pets, there may be animal health requirements specific to your destination, either international or domestic. As soon as you know your travel plans, contact your veterinarian to help you with the pet travel process. This process may include:
- Getting a health certificate, also called a certificate of veterinary inspection;
- Updating vaccines;
- Having blood tests done;
- Getting a microchip implanted for identification; and
- Having paperwork reviewed and endorsed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA/APHIS).
It’s your responsibility to work with your veterinarian well in advance of your travel to find out what tests, vaccines, paperwork, or other inspections are required by your destination country (or state) AND when they must be completed.
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 if needed. If you choose to drive to your destination, here are a few helpful hints to make the trip more enjoyable for you and your pets.
Heat: Never leave Freckles and Champ unattended in a car even if it’s just for a few minutes. According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), hundreds of pets die every year from heat exhaustion after being left in parked vehicles. AVMA estimates that on an 80°F day, the temperature inside a car can rise to 114°F in 30 minutes. Make sure the only hot dog you have during your vacation is between a bun smothered with ketchup, mustard, and relish.
Securing your pets: According to AAA, unrestrained dogs cause distractions for drivers and potentially tens of thousands of car accidents per year. Some states even have laws prohibiting driving with an unrestrained dog in your vehicle, including in the bed of a pick-up truck. Even if your state doesn’t have such a law, it’s always a good idea to restrain Freckles and Champ in a crate, carrier, or harness.
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 Freckles and Champ a large meal before travel. Cracking a window to allow fresh air to circulate through your vehicle also helps.
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. But don’t let Freckles out of her carrier when you stop for a break. It’s safest to keep cats in their carriers to prevent the risk of them escaping.
For people, flying is often quicker and easier than driving, but flying can be a more stressful experience for your pets and more complicated for you. The first thing you want to do is check with your veterinarian to make sure Freckles and Champ are fit to fly. Next, you’ll need to research your options when it comes to which airline to use. All airlines must follow the Animal Welfare Act, which is enforced by USDA/APHIS. This law established certain requirements for transporting animals by plane. Airlines can also impose their own separate and additional requirements.
Once you choose your airline, you’ll want to learn about its policies and requirements for pets traveling in cargo or in the cabin, including how to prepare Freckles and Champ and their crate or carrier for the plane ride and how the airline handles pets from departure to destination.
Traveling to Hawaii and Abroad
Traveling outside the continental United States with Freckles and Champ requires advanced planning. For international travel, contact the appropriate country’s embassy or consulate well in advance of your trip. Different countries may require different documentation for your pets' entry.
USDA/APHIS regulates the movement of pets into and out of the United States. The APHIS Pet Travel webpage has information about taking your pet from the United States to a foreign country (export) and bringing your pet into the United States from a foreign country (import).
The state of Hawaii also has strict entry requirements for arriving pets to prevent rabies from entering the state. Hawaii is the only state that is rabies-free.
Sedatives: While sedatives may make your pets seem less stressed while traveling, these medications can dull the senses and lessen their ability to react to the environment, which can be dangerous in an emergency. When traveling by car or plane, avoid giving your pets any type of sedative. If you think Freckles or Champ really needs a sedative to travel, talk to your veterinarian before your trip.
Be prepared: It’s a good idea to get your pets used to their crate, carrier, or harness before your trip. If Freckles and Champ are already familiar with what they’ll be secured in, you may have less trouble getting them into it and they may have less anxiety during travel.
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 your vacation.
For more information about traveling with your pets, please check the following websites:
- Traveling with Pets (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
- Traveling With Your Dog or Cat (AVMA)
- Traveling with Your Pet FAQ (AVMA)
- Cargo: Live Animals (International Air Transport Association)
- Pets in the Passenger Cabin (Federal Aviation Administration)
- Plane Talk: Traveling with Animals (U.S. Department of Transportation)