Vacation time is finally here and excitement is in the air. Everyone is laying clothes out on the bed to see what will be packed for the trip. Checklists include the usual important packing essentials, last-minute reminders to confirm reservations and unplug the TV… Looking good. All the bags are packed by the door, and now everyone is itching to leave. BUT WAIT!!! What about the Rover? Where are his things? He’s not just part of the luggage you throw on the back seat!
Has preparing Rover, Fluffy or Kit Kat for this trip been left as an afterthought? This is a sad mistake that too many people make. In most cases the result may be resolving to NEVER taking their pets on a trip ever again. Your poor faithful companions will be left behind with only daily visits from the neighbors or in a kennel, as you go off and have fun.
True, we cannot always take our pets with us everywhere we go, but with a little bit of extra planning the WHOLE family can have a great trip. Let’s opt for this option when we can, shall we?
What are the Essentials for Safe Pet Travel?
When considering a trip, do you want your best pal to be by your side? Excellent! First off, there are important questions that need to be answered.
- Is the hotel/camping ground/airline, etc. pet friendly?
- How does your pet respond to travel in general?
- Is your pet healthy enough to travel?
- Do I have the right accessories, products/medications and papers for pet travel?
Travelling with your pet is not a spur of the moment occurrence unless you are a seasoned traveler with your companion. If this is your first vacation with the cat, dog, horse or other, please read on and make proper research before hitting the road, skies or waters. Every country, airline, bus etc. have their own rules and laws about pets, so read up or call them beforehand. The more you know and prepare, the happier and safer this trip will be for both you and your furry baby.
Step #1 | Health Check
Before starting the planning stages of a vacation or travel, it is always a good idea to check the health of your pet. Especially before long trips and for animals that tend to stress when travelling, make sure they will be in good enough health to make the trip and handle the stress. If you are planning an international trip, you will most likely need health certificates and travelling documents for your pet. In this case a trip to the Vet will be essential. Most countries require specific vaccinations such as rabies and a clean bill of health before they let foreign pets into the country. It’s understandable and logic for them to do this in order to protect their citizens and animals. But in the end it is also a protection for your animal, so please don’t overlook this important step. In some cases, if your companion is too young, too old or is not in good health, it may be better and safer to avoid long trips or air travel. Your Vet will be able to help you assess your pet’s eligibility for air travel. Find out what else is required for your travel destination here.
For a first time pet traveller, a good judge of motion sickness or anxiety is a trial run. Start with familiarizing your pet with the car and its smells, then the carrier they will be traveling in (if applicable). Then, once they feel comfortable, you can easily take your pet for a car ride to a park that is further from your house. Perhaps a good idea to make a few fun trips with them in the car before going to the Vet. After all, if all they know about trips in the car is going to the Vet… they may never want to get in the car again! These trial runs will make sure you know your pet can handle longer more stressful trips. Also, you will see that with time Paco, Tink or Bella will love their outings in the car with you.
Step #2 | Safety for Pets on the Road
As much as we love to see a dog with his head out the window enjoying the breeze and smell of new places, it is not safe for your dog. In fact, this often causes ear damage or lung infections. Debris, dust particles and insects flying in the air can easily injure your fun loving baby. Sad but true, animals don’t always know what’s best for them. Therefore, as responsible pet owners, our job is to keep them safe and as happy as possible. Also, we have to think of the safety of others travelling with us. For example, if your cat is left to roam free in the car while you are driving and he decides to hop up on the dash for a better view, but is now blocking your view, everyone, including you and your pet, is in grave danger!
Safety for pets is as important as any child or adult when travelling in a car. We have laws to use seat belts, so why would our pet’s safety be any different? Keep heads and paws inside the car and never allow your pet to roam free in the car or in the back of a pickup truck. Consider a pet barrier, pet seat belt, pet car seat or a carrier. Even if you are just driving to the airport or boat, you still need to make sure every stage of this trip will be safe for your pet.
Tip: When looking for a carrier for your animal, make sure it is large enough for them to lie down comfortably, turn around and sit up in. Also make sure it is secure so the animal cannot escape or be injured. It must offer sufficient ventilation. Speak to your veterinarian or store clerk if you’re unsure what to buy.
We cannot emphasize enough the warning NEVER to leave your cat, dog, reptile or any other living creature in a parked car!!!! Even with the windows cracked open, the heat can reach deadly levels in a very short period of time. If you know you will be going somewhere where pets are not allowed that will take more than a few minutes, leave your pet in a pet-friendly hotel or even at home, but NEVER, NEVER, NEVER in the car! We have seen far too many companions suffer in a boiling hot car while the owners take their time inside a restaurant, store or even a park. It’s unfair and inconsiderate to your best friend waiting in the car.
Make sure on any kind of trip you make that your pet has lots of water available to stay hydrated along the way and make frequent pit stops. It’s good to give your pet a bathroom break and a chance for some exercise every few hours. Most animals are not keen on eating while travelling, but if you plan a long trip, have some food available.
Step #3 | Air Travel Dos and Don’ts
If you are set on a destination vacation or trip there is much more to take into consideration. We’ve reviewed the first steps to your travel planning with your pet, but there is much more involved with air travel. So, to make your life easier, here are a few dos and don’ts you’ll want to consider:
- Do research the regulations and fees as well as incident reports for the airline you are looking to fly with. Call them before booking.
- Do book your flight and make pet flight arrangements early. Most airlines have a first come first serve policy.
- Do have all the required papers and pet travel documents on hand for the selected destination country.
- Do have an appropriate carrier. Make sure your pet is used to the carrier beforehand and place a special mat in case of accidents (Can’t blame them if it’s a long trip). Check your airlines for specific requirements.
- Do prepare ID tags for your animal as well as the carrier.
- Have a ‘let the beans out’ session with your pet before the trip. This playful exercise before the trip will help them relax and sleep during the flight.
- Don’t arrive at the airport with your pet unprepared. This will only cause extra stress and in some cases, they can refuse to take your pet on the flight.
- Don’t leave your pet in the carrier on the conveyor belt at screening. You must hold your pet in your arms and let the carrier go through the screening empty. (This only applies when taking the pet on the plane with you)
- Don’t hand your pet to anyone else during security. If you need help, ask an officer to help you, but don’t just hand your pet to strangers.
- Don’t over drug your pet. If is it possible to go drug free great!! If your pet suffers from anxiety, don’t over do it with the meds. Your animal still needs to be able to respond in case of an emergency.
Step #4 | Smooth Sailing Helpers
Now that we’ve covered the major step to pet travel, we want the whole process to go well, don’t we? How can we make sure to get from point A to point B as smoothly as possible? Well, as we’ve mentioned and I will say it again, PREPARE! With a little planning and effort you will find your furry friend will soon become your best travel companion. Of course, there are those that suffer from anxiety while in the car, plane or boat. Let’s not forget, they don’t necessarily understand what is going on, especially if this is their first trip. Just being shoved into a new carrier and into the car, leaving all he/she knows behind can be traumatic for them. Consider getting your pet used to the new carrier before the trip. Perhaps keep a favorite toy or blanket inside so they have familiar smells with them. It is after all a step-by-step process for our more anxious friends, but once they feel more and more at ease you will find they will love to travel and stay by your side faithfully always.
I am a checklist girl myself, so here is my personal checklist for my ‘pet suitcase’:
- Food and water
- Pet carrier
- Favorite toy
- Leash and harness
- First Aid kit
- Insect repellent
- Tick and Flea spray
- Travel sickness spray
- Health documents
- Food and water bowls
- Pet emergency phone numbers
You’ve done it!! That makes everyone’s bags packed and ready to go!! Enjoy the sun, the relaxation and the fact that you will not be worried or stressed about your furry friend that was almost left behind. Have a great and wonderful vacation with your best buddy by your side!!