Holidays are for spending time with family and friends—whether they have two legs or four. For those of us living with canine companions, traveling for the holidays can pose extra challenges—but it’s nothing you can’t handle with a little planning and preparation. Read on to travel more smoothly, safely and comfortably with your dog.
Decide if your dog will stay or go
Before you book pet-friendly accommodations, decide whether traveling with your dog is the right choice for your family and your dog. Taking an 8-hour road trip with a pet that gets carsick after a 10-minute ride to the dog park may not be the wisest option. And if your dog is fearful of new places, people or other pets, it may be best for them to stay behind with a trusted sitter or boarding kennel. But, if your dog is an eager explorer and frequent travel companion, there are a few precautions you can take to help ensure everyone has an enjoyable time away.
Start with your destination in mind
Many hotels, lodges, B&Bs and campsites are happy to accept pets (often with a security deposit), but it is important to read and understand your accommodation’s pet policy before you make your reservation. This is especially true if you choose to stay with friends or family. Talk with your host before finalizing your travel plans to make sure they are willing to house both you and your dog. If there is any hesitation, offer to stay at a nearby pet-friendly hotel or B&B, or consider leaving your dog at home with a trusted sitter or boarding kennel.
Determine how you will you get there
When traveling by car, look over your route ahead of time so you can plan frequent exercise and bathroom breaks. To help minimize carsickness, feed your dog at least three to four hours before you head out. Then give them plenty of time to use the bathroom one last time before you get in the car. If your dog gets nauseous or anxious during long car trips, you can discuss anti-nausea or anti-anxiety medications with your veterinarian. To help your pet with anxiety, there are also calming aids available—including wraps, collars, sprays, diffusers and supplements.
Once the car is all loaded up and you’re ready to head out, there are some important guidelines to remember. Dogs should never be allowed ride loose in the open bed of a truck. Even when traveling in a closed car, truck or sports utility vehicle, securing your dog in a crate will be safer for them and you. Keep the car well-ventilated and at a comfortable temperature. When you need to stop, never leave your dog in a closed car, no matter what the weather is like. For more car travel tips with your pet, check out this article.
For air travel, check with the specific airline about travel requirements for pets (a good starting point is the Federal Aviation Administration’s website) and book your dog’s flight at the same time you book yours. The airline may have limits on the number of animals that can ride on any given plane and whether animals can ride in the cargo hold versus in the cabin. And for dogs that are too big to ride in the cabin, the airline may restrict travel during certain times a year, especially if temperatures are expected to exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit or fall below 45 degrees Fahrenheit. For domestic flights, airlines may require a veterinarian-issued health certificate dated within 10 days of travel. International travel may involve additional documents and vaccinations depending on your destination. Purchase an airline-approved crate that’s large enough for your pet to stand, sit and turn around in. Mark the crate with “Live Animal” plus your contact information and a photo of your pet and attach two dishes (one for food and one for water) to the inside of the kennel door.
Some trains, buses and boats allow pets, though options are fairly limited. Research rail and bus company policies before booking tickets, or consider traveling by car or plane instead.
Pack your dog’s travel bag
Make sure you have plenty of the essentials: your dog’s usual food and treats, a water bottle, travel bowls for food and water, a leash and collar/harness, toys, familiar blanket and/or bed, grooming supplies, any necessary medications and clean-up bags. Above all, make sure you have plenty of water. (Some dogs may experience stomach discomfort if they drink water they are not used to.) Hand wipes and a towel are also helpful for cleaning dirty hands and paws. Other useful travel items include your dog’s current rabies tag or a copy of a vaccine records (which may be required for air travel or crossing state/international borders); contact information for your primary care veterinarian; a first aid kit and copies of their most recent veterinary visit and pertinent test results, if your dog has any ongoing medical issues.
Keep your dog safe in transit and at your destination
Always walk your dog on a leash and have identification for your dog when you travel. Identification can be in the form of a tag on their collar or harness (that includes your dog’s name and your contact information), a combination of a tag and a microchip under the skin, or ideally a combination of an ID tag, a microchip and a recent picture of your dog.
Earn your welcome
Once you reach your destination, double check the pet policy where you’re staying and ask about preferred locations for walks and bathroom breaks. Always clean up after your dog and bin your clean-up bags once they’ve served their purpose. Don’t leave your dog loose and unattended in your room; if you need to leave your dog alone, place him in his travel crate to prevent any damage to the room and to help your pet feel safe and secure. Remember, even the best behaved dog can get into mischief in a new environment. Be courteous to other guests and your hosts so that you and your dog will be welcome back for years to come.
For additional information about traveling with your dog, talk to your veterinarian. Pets are creatures of habit, so they may need some more time to get acquainted to the idea of traveling. Rushing to get out the door can leave pets feeling anxious and confused, so make sure to allow more time (packing up the car, getting to the airport, etc.) than if you were traveling alone. If you follow these steps and make sure you have everything you and your dog needs, you can both have a safe, comfortable, enjoyable trip.
If you plan to travel without your pet, read about how to find a pet sitter and how to keep your pets safe while you're away.
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Disclaimer: Big Business Scoopers received permission from a content marketing representative of Ghergich & Co. to republish this blog post. Read the article, originally written and published by Lisa Weeth, DVM, MRCVS on December 13, 2016, on Petco's Community Page here.