Trip Tips

Travel can be stressful for humans and pets alike. Be sure that your pet is well enough both emotionally and physically to travel. It may be better for some pets to be left at home in the care of a capable petsitter or at a clean, well-run boarding facility while you are away. If you choose to include your pet in your next vacation, here are some tips to make the trip safer and more enjoyable for the whole family:

General Travel Tips

 
  • Plan ahead to make sure pets are welcome at your destination, whether it is a hotel, motel, park, campground or your friend's or family's home. An Internet search will yield many listings of pet-friendly accommodations.
  • Take copies of your pet's current health and rabies certificates. If you are traveling to another state, be sure to check that state's pet entry requirements in advance of your trip.
  • Make sure your pet is microchipped and wears an identification collar with license and rabies tag. It is a good idea is to add a tag with information about where you will be staying at your destination.
  • Have your pet examined by your veterinarian to make sure it is healthy enough to travel and that its vaccinations are up to date.
  • If you are going camping, talk with your veterinarian about flea and tick medication and heartworm preventatives.
  • Don't forget your pet's medications, food (preferably dry), water, toys, and a leash (but do not leave a leash in a carrier with your pet as it may become entangled in it).
  • Pack a first aid kit and include the phone numbers of veterinarians, emergency animal hospitals, and the national poison control hotlines: ASPCA's Poison Control Hotline (1-888-426-4435, fee) or the Pet Poison Helpline (1-800-213-6680, fee).
  • Limit food prior to the start of the trip to avoid travel sickness.
  • Try to stick to your pet's routine of feeding, exercise and sleep as much as possible on the trip.
  • Perform a daily health check of your pet.

Travel by Car

  • Like children, pets should be secured in the back seat.
  • For dogs, consider a canine seat belt, a harness that attaches to the existing seat belt in vehicles or to cargo hooks inside larger vehicles and trucks.
  • Cats and small dogs should travel in a kennel, ideally secured within the car. Never use a cardboard box to transport your pet; it is not secure and is easily damaged.
  • If your pet is not used to traveling by car, take it for short rides prior to your trip.
  • Never leave your pet unattended in a parked car, especially on warm days. The temperature in a parked car can rise to over 120 degrees in a matter of minutes, even when the windows are rolled down. Exposure to such high temperatures can lead to heatstroke, which can kill your pet.
  • Plan to stop every few hours to exercise your dog and let it go to the bathroom. Travel kennels for cats should include a small litter box.
  • There are medications to help prevent vomiting associated with motion sickness in dogs. Consult with your veterinarian to see if your dog could benefit.

Travel by Air

  • Check with your airline for their specific requirements for pet travel.
  • If traveling outside the continental US, check with the embassy or government authority about their requirements for pet travel. Travel outside the continental US requires documentation, vaccinations, and, possibly, microchipping. Travel to Japan requires at least 2 months' leadtime for documentation requirements.
  • Book nonstop flights in the cooler morning or evening hours (summer) or the warmer daytime hours (winter).
  • Obtain an appropriate travel kennel that allows your pet room to stand up, lie down and turn around. It should have air vents that cannot be impeded.
  • Clearly label the kennel with contact information for your home and destination, as well as the words "Live Animal" and an upward arrow on either side of the kennel.
  • There are medications to help prevent vomiting associated with motion sickness in dogs. Consult with your veterinarian to see if your dog could benefit.
  • More information on air travel with your pet can be found here.

Published: March 9, 2009;    Updated: July 30, 2013

Filed Under: Travel, Companion Animals, Cats, Dogs

Author: Oregon Veterinary Medical Association

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