FTF loves its four-footed friends and provides these tips for safe holiday travel with pets to help you make traveling on the road and in the air just a little more pet-friendly.
According to the US Travel Association, more than 30 million adults say they have traveled with a pet on a trip of 50 miles or more. The International Pet and Animal Transportation Association adds that more than two million pets and other live animals are transported by air every year in the U.S. and more than four million worldwide. Dogs and cats are ranked as the top travel companions.
Although the overwhelming majority of pets travel primarily by vehicle, flying Fluffy or driving Miss Daisy are no easy feats and involve a lot of planning, both beforehand and on the road or in the air.
Never fear, however, for FTF has compiled a helpful list of doggie-dos and doggie-don’ts:
1. Talk to Your Veterinarian
Before your trip, make sure to visit the vet and ask for any helpful tips she or he might have to help make your pet’s journey go smoother. For air travel, sedatives might be suggested for stress, but may not be the safest method for every pet. For pets that don’t do so well in the car, your veterinarian may be able to suggest medications or offer feeding recommendations to keep kitty from yakking all over itself in the cat carrier. Lastly, depending on where you’re traveling, certain vaccinations might be required, something that should be checked with the airline well before your trip. If crossing any borders, legal documentation and, on occasion, a quarantine period are required and should also be taken care of well ahead of time. Information can usually be found on the website of the country you are planning to visit or at their Visa and Immigration office.
2. Follow the Boy Scout Motto: “Be Prepared!”
It’s always a good idea to bring along your pet’s health records, just as you would take your medical insurance cards on any trip in case you’re ever in need of medical attention. If appropriate, ask about the risks of Zika, and take along medications such as heartworm prevention, flea and tick treatments that your doctor recommends. If traveling by car, make a note to pack pet dishes and extra food and water. Without these on hand, you’ll really be in the doghouse if bad weather or car troubles leave you stranded along the highway. Oh, and nobody likes to step in dog doody, so don’t forget the pooper-scoopers.
3. Pet-Friendly Planning
To avoid a worst-case scenario and a huge no-no (See #7), plan ahead and make sure the hotel you plan to stay at is pet-friendly. Also, ask for a first-floor room, which will make it easier to get in and out of the hotel for doggie walks (or strangely amusing kitty walks). For a list of pet-friendly hotels, check out BringFido.com or its app, or the long-running PetsWelcome or PetFriendlyHotels.
ID tags and implanted microchips are two ways to make sure that runaway pets can be identified and helped to find their way back to the owner. Remember, even the most affectionate and loving pet may become stressed and take flight when found in unfamiliar environments. Along with a pet ID and rabies tag, additional tags should include a phone number and the address of where you will be staying during your trip. It doesn’t hurt to carry around a photograph of your pet, making it easier for others to identify should he/she get lost.
5. Acclimating your Pet
Though it may take some time and work on your part as well as your pet’s, training Rocky (actually the name of my Jack Russell Terrier) to get used to his crate will make for a less stressful experience when traveling by any means. Like the nuisance of a furball rabbit I’m currently taking care of, pets see their crates as a safe place to hide during stressful situations. (Or in the case of Rocky, when he knows he was “bad” after knocking over the kitchen garbage.)
6. Crate Size
Simply put, big pets should be in big crates and small pets should be in small crates. Larger animals should have enough room to stand and turn around comfortably and, in the same case as small animals, should have well-ventilated and secure crates. When traveling by car, be sure to keep water inside the crate and allow for some breaks during the trip for a good stretch. Before opening that door, however, remember to have the dog on a leash. He may not like it, but excited or stressed pets may make a break for it when they see freedom… and risk running into traffic. If your pet becomes carsick along the way, take along some ice cubes in the cooler with you – not only will it help hydrate your dog, but distract them from their auto-induced vertigo.
7. Never Leave Your Pets Unattended!
Walk around any Wal-Mart parking lot in Pennsylvania and you’ll hear dogs of all sizes yapping away and forlorn-looking kitties mewing out of barely cracked side windows. As condescending as it may sound to call it a “huge no-no,” it’s unfathomable to think that people are callous enough to leave their pet inside a barely ventilated space in a heat-absorbing asphalt parking lot. Big. Huge. No-no.
8. Car Safety Awareness
While there are certain safety devices out there that act as comfortable pet seatbelts, it’s just a wise measure to at least have some kind of barrier to keep your pet from happily bounding up to the front seat to say hello and indirectly causing you to careen across the highway. Also, while no one likes to be a killjoy, allowing the dog (or any other animal) to stick his head out the window for some tongue-flying fresh air is a big safety hazard potentially resulting in injuries from road debris or large insects. Snacks on the road should either be pet-friendly or kept in a place where your pet can’t get to them – chocolate and other delicious treats won’t agree too well with your pet’s digestive system. As an added safe measure, clean the car before the trip, assuring that there are no items a curious canine might devour from sheer boredom, and cause him to choke.
9. Keeping the Routine
Try to keep your pet on a regular schedule, feeding when you would normally feed at home and, similarly, keeping a regular relieving time so there are no backseat “accidents.” The same goes for food and water – try not to switch your pet’s food halfway through the trip, as it may disagree with the digestive tract. If you can, bring along a jug of water from home and add local water along the way so that your pet’s digestive system can handle the gradual change in H20.
10. Animal Air Travel
The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has certain requirements before pets may travel by air in the U.S. Puppies, kittens, sick pets, animals in heat, weak or pregnant animals should not travel. Should your pet’s air travel become too much of an ordeal, consider the safer option of a kennel or a licensed pet sitter. If your pet is ready to fly the skies, make absolutely sure its crate is properly marked with “This End Up” and “Live Animal” stickers. The airlines have strict regulations about transporting animals in inclement weather, be it too hot or too cold. Opt for morning or evening flights when planning your trip, to minimize extreme temperature in the cargo hold. Consider non-stop flights to avoid stressful transfers. Make sure there’s at least 5 hours between feeding your dog and your flight (two hours for water).
11. Skip the Fashion Show
Unless you happen to be visiting a colder climate and your poor shivering Pomeranian needs some extra layers, spare the humiliation of dressing up your pet in those ridiculous made-for-pets designer threads. Fido may not agree that pink is his color or perhaps Mr. Paws would rather scratch his eyes out than be seen trundling around awkwardly in a bulky Christmas sweater.
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