Our Favorite Pet Travel Tips
Recently, it’s become more and more popular to bring along adorable pets on vacation — after all, they need a break too! Having your dog or cat may add to the enjoyment of your trip, but it is important to keep their safety in mind. Familiarize yourself with pet travel requirements in your current location and final destination so that you can avoid a last minute crisis. The following tips will help you and your furry friend prepare for a tail-wagging vacation.
- Before booking, make sure your hotel allows dogs. Helpful websites include Booking.com, PetFriendlyTravel.com, or www.TravelPets.com.
- Do not try to sneak a pet into a hotel. Not only may you be forced to leave or be charged a financial penalty, you will give the hotel a negative impression of pet owners.
- If you leave your dog unattended in your hotel room, make sure that there is no opportunity for escape. Leave the pet in the carrier or inside a closed bathroom. Use the “Do Not Disturb” sign, or inform housekeeping personnel about your pet and ask that they do not enter the room until your return.
- If your pet gets lost, contact the local animal control officer. If your pet is microchipped, give the number to them so that you can be contacted directly if they are located.
- Remember, advance planning is vital to making the trip an enjoyable experience for both you and your pet. By applying a few common sense rules, you can keep your traveling pet safe and sound.
It’s a good idea to have your pet examined by your veterinarian in advance of the trip, especially if it has been more than a few months since their last health check, or if your pet has any health problems. Travel by airplane can pose a health risk to dogs with heart or kidney disease, or with some other pre-existing medical problems. Dogs with short faces, such as Pekingese, Pugs, English Bulldogs, and Boston Terriers can run into respiratory difficulty in a confined carrier or if they are placed in the cargo compartment of the airplane, especially during hot or humid weather. Make sure to discuss these issues with your veterinarian prior to travel.
Update all vaccinations, especially rabies, and take written documentation with you. A health certificate for your pet may be required by your airline. If you travel to a foreign country, you may need to provide a specific international health certificate signed by a government-approved veterinarian or other government official.
The requirements for pet travel vary by country and within US states, and it is your responsibility to meet all the criteria for your current location and your destination. Requirements may include written proof of vaccinations, blood tests, or antiparasitic treatment from a specific time period. It may take several days or even weeks to get test results or get the appropriate paperwork, so plan well in advance. You can obtain the specific requirements from the consulate’s office, or by searching the government website for the destination country. You should also inquire about any quarantine requirements, especially if your destination is an island country.
Do not tranquilize or sedate your pet for travel without first discussing it with your veterinarian. If you feel that your dog needs to be sedated for travel, your veterinarian will advise you on safe medications. In order to determine the most appropriate dose, your veterinarian may recommend giving a test dose of the medication to determine its effect in advance of the trip.
Do not feed your pet within six hours of traveling, but do provide water for your furry friend. Water should be available in the carrier during your travels whenever possible. Give your pet fresh water as soon as you arrive at your destination.
Choosing a Carrier
Your pet’s travel carrier will be their “home” for much of your trip. It is important to choose the right carrier. Here are some helpful guidelines:
- As soon as possible, start crate training your pet so they feel comfortable and safe in their carrier to ensure smooth travels. It will be safer for everyone involved if your furry friend already knows how to be calm in their confined area.
- The carrier should be large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around easily, but not so large that they will be tossed about inside during turbulence. Crates are available for dogs from two to two hundred pounds. If you’re traveling by plane, make sure it is an “airline-approved” crate.
- If your pet will be traveling in the manifest cargo or checked luggage, the walls and floor of the crate should be strong and waterproof. This will prevent crushing of the walls and leakage of waste. You can place a disposable absorbent puppy-training pad or an underpad in the bottom of the crate.
- There must be adequate ventilation on at least three sides of the carrier. Holes and slits in the sides are characteristics of a good quality carrier.
- The carrier must have sturdy handles for baggage personnel to use.
- The carrier should have a water tray that is accessible from the outside so that water can be easily added when needed.
- Always familiarize your pet with the travel carrier before you leave for your trip. Let them play inside with the door both open and closed. This will help eliminate some of your furry friend’s stress during the trip.
Pet stores, breeders, and kennels usually sell carriers that meet these requirements. Some airlines recommend specific carriers that they prefer to use. Check with the airline or travel company to see if they have other requirements or recommendations.
For carry-on kennels for a small dog or cat, the carrier should be able to fit under the seat in front of you. Soft, airline approved, carry-on kennels, sometimes called Sherpa bags, are available online and at pet stores. Be sure to check with your airline regarding their specific carry-on policies and requirements. Many airlines allow pets weighing 15 pounds or less to fly in the cabin with their humans. But remember, this weight includes both the pet and the carrier.
Some pet travel well in the car but others do not. They may salivate, become restless, whine, howl, bark, pace, seek your attention or physical contact, and may even vomit, urinate or pass stools. Similarly, plane travel can be extremely stressful for some dogs. You may be able to predict this in advance if you know your dog’s temperament and how they react to car travel or being placed in a crate. Even if you expect your dog to handle a plane ride with minimum distress, you cannot be certain how the unfamiliar location, unfamiliar handlers, separation from the owners, pressure and temperature changes, unfamiliar noises, and the presence of other animals may affect your pet. However, what you can predict and control is how your dog reacts to their travel crate.
For pets that are too large to travel with you in the cabin, you have two options: checked luggage or manifest cargo. If possible, avoid flying your pet as “checked luggage” during times when temperatures on the ground are likely to be below 40ºF (4°C) or above 80ºF (21°C). Although temperatures are controlled in holding areas, vehicles used to transport luggage are not sheltered from the elements. When your pet travels as manifest cargo, transport vehicles are temperature controlled and are handled by trained personnel.
Take direct flights whenever possible and try to avoid connections and layovers. Sometimes this is easier to do if the travel occurs during the week. This helps avoid missed baggage connections and the chance that your pet will be left exposed in extreme weather. Avoid the busiest travel times so airline personnel will have extra time to handle your dog or cat.
Verify your airline’s policy regarding baggage liability, especially with respect to your dog. In some cases, your general baggage liability coverage will include your pet. Check your ticket for liability limits or, better yet, speak directly with the airline.
Many airlines will allow one pet to travel in coach and one in first class, with some provisions. Since some airlines limit the number of pets traveling within the cabin area, be sure to book well in advance if you plan to travel with your dog in the cabin. Your dog must be in a standard carrier that will fit under the seat, must remain in the carrier during the flight, and must not disturb your fellow travelers. Obviously, only small dogs qualify for this type of accommodation.
To prepare your pet for flight, make sure their carrier has specific feeding and identification labels attached and visible. The information on the label should include your name, phone number, flight schedule, destination, and the phone number of someone at the point of your destination, if possible. Baggage tags can be lost or damaged, so make a secure label before the day of travel.
Traveling with a furry friend may be stressful, and choosing to leave them at home with a pet-sitter is a great option as well. But when you do bring your pet along and plan well in advance, the trip is sure to be an unforgettable one. If you’d like to learn more about preparing your pet for travel, check out this list of links to other helpful resources.
Pet Travel Tips: A List of Links
Interested in learning more about how you can prepare for travel with your four-legged friend? Below is a list including tips for various types of travel with cats, dogs, and other animals.
Where Your Pet Should Stay When You Are Away
The Complete Guide to Traveling With Your Dog
Flying with Your Dog in the Airplane Cabin
Road Trips and Car Travel With Your Dog
Dog Behavior and Training — Air and Car Travel
Crate Training and Confinement for Puppies and Dogs
Road Trips and Car Travel With Your Cat
Cat Behavior and Training — Crate Training and Travel
Crate Training and Confinement for Kittens and Cats
Transporting your Bird— Car and Air Travel
Tips for Car Travel With Your Bird
A Guide to Traveling With A Reptile
Vacations & Travel For Rabbits
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