What to Know When Traveling with your Pet
Vacation season is officially upon us. With the kids out of school and the temperature rising, it’s time to get in your car or to the airport and go to that tropical (or historic) destination. While you may opt to board your pets during your trip, if you decide that you want to include them in your vacation, there are some things to consider.
“If you are driving with your pets it is great to know ahead of time if they get car sick,” notes Dr. Mark Stickney, Director of General Surgery Services at the Texas A&M University College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. “Before your trip, take short drives around town to see how your pet reacts.”
If your pet does get car sick or is very anxious on car rides, your veterinarian can prescribe a sedative or an anti-nausea medication such as Dramamine.
“Although Dramamine is an over-the-counter medication it is still important to check with your veterinarian on dosage,” states Stickney. “I would also take a couple of short rides after giving them the medication to make sure that it is working.”
Once you’ve established that your pet can comfortably ride in the car, you will have to start packing up their stuff to take with you. Leashes, collars, bowls, food, and identification tags should all be a part of any pet’s traveling bag.
“It’s important to make sure that your pet is on a leash when you stop at a gas station or rest stop. These are high traffic areas and there are a lot of new smells that can distract them,” remarks Stickney. “Even if your pet is on a leash, make sure that their identification tags are on their collar just in case. Microchips are even better because a collar or ID tag can get lost.”
If your pet is on any kind of medication make sure you stock up before your trip in case you cannot get it where you are going. While you may be able to buy your pet’s food at your destination, it is a good idea to make sure so you don’t have to feed them an unfamiliar diet.
“While you can test your pet on new foods at home, you really don’t want to change their food on a trip,” warns Stickney. “This could upset their stomach and cause diarrhea- something you really wouldn’t want to happen on the road or in a plane.”
Proof of vaccinations and medical records are good things to have on any trip with your pet in case of an emergency, but might be necessary if you are flying with them.
“Most, if not all, airlines will require proof of vaccination and a health certificate in order to put them on the airplane,” explains Stickney. “You have to get the health certificate from your veterinarian 10-15 days prior to a trip so make sure you leave yourself enough time to do this.”
Checking with an airline on their rules and procedures can help make sure that all the paperwork is in order and can also give you a chance to ask any questions you may need to in order to make sure you have peace of mind.
“I would ask them what arrangements they make for the animals aboard in case of a layover. You want to make sure they don’t leave them waiting out on a hot tarmac,” advises Stickney. As much as you wouldn’t want your pet sitting on a sweltering runway, it would be even worse to leave your pet in the car on a hot summer day.
“NEVER leave your pet in the car for any length of time,” urges Stickney. “You might think that a couple of minutes are ok because you could stand it, but pets don’t sweat, they pant. Because of this they need cool air to regulate their temperature and if they can’t get it they get into trouble quickly.”
Another safety note that Stickney adds is that because your pet might not be in a temperature controlled environment on an airplane, you don’t want to give it sedatives or anything that might hinder their internal temperature regulation.
Once you have made all the arrangements and precautions for your pets and your family you are set and ready go.
“If staying at hotels, make sure ahead of time that they are pet friendly,” advises Stickney. “Before you leave, make sure everyone has had a chance to use the bathroom and if you have any cats bring a litter box and fresh litter. If you do all these things you should be set for a great vacation with your family and your pets.”
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