This summer, travel may be busier than ever and, thanks to an increase in the number of pet-friendly accommodations, your furry friend can join you. To ensure you and your pet enjoy a smooth and safe trip, our Creature Comforts Veterinary Hospital team discusses four pet safety travel tips.
#1: Schedule your pet’s pre-travel health screening
Before you leave home, check in with our Creature Comforts Veterinary Hospital professionals to ensure your pet’s vaccinations and parasite prevention are current. You may also need proof that your pet has had a recent physical exam. When you book your travel or on arrival, most airlines and pet-friendly accommodations require proof of your pet’s recent physical examination, vaccinations, and specific health screenings. If you will be traveling abroad, check with the United States Department of Agriculture to determine the health requirements, paperwork, and processes necessary to ensure your pet is welcome.
In addition, contact our hospital if your pet requires medication to calm their travel fears, such as anti-anxiety or anti-nausea medication.
#2: Acquaint your pet with their travel gear
Whether traveling by land, sea, or air, you should always safely restrain your pet during transit. Although your dog may enjoy their ears flapping in the breeze of a vehicle’s open window, an unrestrained pet can distract the driver and passengers, and be severely injured or killed in an accident. During vehicle travel, your dog can ride securely in a seat belt or crate, and your cat is safest in a carrier positioned on the front or back floor. Check with your airline for their specific crate or carrier requirements, which depend on your pet’s size.
During the weeks leading up to your trip, familiarize your pet with their travel gear. If your pet is leery of their crate, open all the doors or remove the top, and place a cozy bed, treats, and toys inside. Acclimate your pet to their carrier by playing hop-in-hop-out games and feeding your pet inside. Once your pet seems comfortable in the open crate, gradually replace the top half and close one door at a time to acclimate them to being enclosed.
Dogs typically acclimate quickly to seat belts, but they may be uncertain about having the strap go over their head. To make this process easier on you and your dog, grab a handful of treats, place the treat-holding hand through the seat belt’s head portion, and feed your dog as you gently slide the seat belt into place. Do this every time you put on and take off your dog’s seat belt. Once the head is on your dog, take them for a walk or play fetch to help them make a positive association with the seat belt.
#3: Create your pet’s own packing list
Like children, pets require a lot of travel gear, and you need to plan for every contingency. Your pet’s packing list should include:
- Bottled water
- Medical records
- Emergency contacts
- Small first aid kit
- Current photo
- Calming pheromones (e.g., Adaptil for dogs, Feliway for cats)
- Litter box and accessories
- Extra leash and collar
- Favorite toys
- Interactive activity (e.g., food-stuffed Kong, snuffle mat)
- Cleaning supplies (e.g., poop bags, paper towels, enzymatic cleaner)
- Carrier or crate
#4: Supervise your pet at all times
At your destination, you may be ready to relax, but you must stay vigilant regarding your pet’s activities and whereabouts when they are not confined to their crate or carrier. You do not want your pet’s curiosity or apprehension about an unfamiliar place to turn your trip to paradise to a trip to the veterinary emergency room. Pets’ common travel-related hazards include:
- Escape — Ensure your pet wears current identification at all times. Nervous or nosy pets can slip through a door, jump out an open window, or back out of their collar, harness, or other restraint.
- Toxin ingestion or intestinal obstruction — Closely inspect your accommodation to prevent a tragic accident. Always check the car or plane floors for small hazards, such as discarded pills, batteries, and mints and gum, that may contain pet-toxic xylitol. While outdoors with your dog, always look slightly past them to spot broken glass, cigarette butts, and other small swallowable items.
- Gastritis — Maintain your pet’s familiar food and water regimen while on the road. Your pet’s gastrointestinal system is sensitive, and if your pet ingests food or water they are not accustomed to, they may experience vomiting and diarrhea.
- Dog fights or wildlife attacks — Always keep your dog leashed, and prevent them from rushing to or greeting unfamiliar dogs.
- Infectious illness or parasites — Rest stops and accommodations do not always properly maintain designated dog elimination areas. If you see a lot of dog waste, take your dog to a cleaner area.
- Anxiety-related self-harm — Your pet may experience separation anxiety in unfamiliar places, and they may panic if you leave them unattended, leading to destructive or self-harming behavior. If your pet is typically anxious or nervous, talk with one of our Creature Comforts Veterinary Hospital professionals about medications or supplements that can help your pet feel calm and secure when they are away from home.
- Heat-related emergencies — Travelers are often tempted to leave their pets unattended in their vehicle while they stop for lunch or a quick pit stop. But parked vehicles heat up quickly, leading trapped pets to develop dangerous heat stress or life-threatening heat stroke. If your pet is unwelcome at a stop along the way, find another stopping place or take turns going inside so that your pet is never unattended.
Traveling with your pet can be a rewarding and memorable experience when you plan carefully and keep a close watch on your pet’s behavior and safety during the trip. If you will be traveling with your pet this summer, contact our Creature Comforts Veterinary Hospital team to schedule a pre-travel physical examination, or to request a copy of your pet’s medical records.