This is a guest post from Asher Fergusson, a traveler, writer and video editor, and owner of five little dogs. Asher has always had a passion for animals and travels, and tends to write a lot about these topics.
If enough planning and training are done ahead of time, traveling with our pets can be a pleasurable experience. When they experience new environments and meet new people, we get to see a different side of their personalities. It’s also reassuring to have them with us while we’re away from home. When traveling with pets, however, there are some basic rules to follow and pitfalls to avoid. We’ll go through seven problems to think about before you hit the road in this post.
Assess your pet’s ability to travel
The thought of a car ride excites some dogs. They enthusiastically climb into the car and gaze out the windshield. Others are fearful. If your dog isn’t used to riding in the car, you can take him on a few quick drives first to make sure he’s relaxed. You’ll be able to tell if your pet gets car sick if you take shorter car rides.
If your pet does get car sick, your doctor will prescribe medicine to alleviate the symptoms. Be aware that certain drugs can have dangerous side effects! It’s important to ask the veterinarian about a prescription that has a low risk of side effects. Some drugs could be covered by pet insurance companies.
It’s a good idea to take your pet for a stroll or a short round of exercise before every trip to help them relax. This way, they’ll be happy and tired, making it easier for them to relax during your car or plane trip.
Examine your pet’s health insurance coverage
Is it possible to see a particular veterinarian under your insurance policy? Is your pet covered if you travel out of state? Is your strategy comprehensive enough to cover unexpected situations and after-hours visits? Trusted pet health insurance providers, let you choose your own veterinary clinic. Knowing that your pet is protected takes a weight off your mind and allows you to relax and enjoy your trip.
Prepare and pack all pet supplies ahead of time
When packing for your journey, remember to include the following items:
- A plentiful amount of fresh water for pets
- Comfortable bedding and a leash
- Medication that has been prescribed
- Updated information on pet identification tags.
If you’re going on a journey that will last longer than your pet’s food supply, look for stores that sell his food along the way. Traveling can be stressful, and stress can result in a variety of symptoms ranging from stomach upset to a loss of appetite. The last thing you want to do on a cross-country trip has to change your pet’s food.
Look for a pet-friendly hotel or other lodging options
A number of websites provide lists of pet-friendly hotels. Keep an eye out for any limits on pet size or the number of pets permitted. Weight and shedding limits apply to certain holiday inns. Some establishments have free lodging for dogs, while others charge by the night. It’s possible that a refundable or non-refundable pet deposit is needed. Use Google Maps to find a motel or hotel with a designated area where you can walk your dog, or use a motel or hotel with a nearby park.
While on the lane, keep your pets safe
Allowing your dogs to roam freely while driving is not a good idea. Not only can this result in injuries to both your pets and any human passengers, but a pet can flee in fear if an accident occurs. At a rest stop, a slinky cat or an excited puppy may even escape out an open car door in the blink of an eye. Crates or special harnesses or tethers designed to connect to the seatbelt may be used to restrain dogs. When traveling by car, cats should always be kept in pet crates or a cat carrier. The cat would not be able to get under the driver’s feet and cause an accident if it is carried in a carrier.
If you’re flying, there are a few things to keep in mind
Get your pet examined by a veterinarian prior to your travel to ensure that he is fit enough to fly. Find out what restrictions and conditions the airline you’re traveling with has in place about pets on their website. Your pet will be confined to a pet crate for the duration of the trip. To keep your dog healthy, small dog carriers come in a variety of sizes. If your dog is too big to travel with you on the plane, he will have to travel in the cargo hold. If you’re looking for a dog crate, make sure it’s an airline-approved carrier for the job. It’s a good idea to have your pet wear a collar and identification tags in addition to wearing a harness.
When traveling, be prepared for pet emergencies
When you’re on the road, dealing with medical issues and accidents can be more complicated. Be prepared and bring the following things with you on your trip:
- First-aid kit for pets
- Health history for your animals
- The telephone number of your veterinarian
- Food and water on hand as a backup
A road trip with pets is undoubtedly more difficult and time-consuming than traveling without them, but it is well worth the effort. Pets, after all, love the thrill of travel just as much as humans do. Perhaps even more!
Thanks Asher for those helpful tips for travelling safely with pets! Here are some additional comments and suggestions from Dr. Lopez:
Great tips on getting medications for motion sickness. I think for travelling, pets that get really anxious in the car or that are going to be on a plane really benefit from some type of sedative or anxiety-reducing medication (minimally, trazodone, but some pets need something stronger).
Plane travel on hot days can be disastrous, especially for breeds with the squished faces (brachycephalics like bulldogs, pugs, and long hair (pomeranians, huskies). Often there are delays and pets will get left on the tarmac in scorching heat…every year dogs die from heatstroke during plane travel. Might be worth mentioning that a dog can die very quickly in a hot car, so if you run into a store on a hot day, have a friend stay outside and walk the dog (if you leave them tethered or in the car, there also is a risk of them getting nabbed by vigilantes…dog napping of pets tethered outside stores happened twice this year already just in Whistler).
I see tons of pets staying in pet-friendly hotels coming into the emergency room for intoxications in the hotel room. Even pet friendly hotels are dumb enough to leave out dark chocolate on the table (the last dog I saw for chocolate intoxication in a hotel ate a fatal dose of dark chocolate, but luckily he lived). Lots of dogs manage to find recreational drugs in hotel rooms that were missed by hotel staff (the Weimaraner with the crazy high heart rate and dilated pupils in the dogs on drugs video was staying in a hotel with a nice family that had small children, found drugs in the hotel room, and started convulsing in their hotel room shortly after they went to sleep), and in some pets staying at Airbnb’s and hotels I have seen pets in the ER for rodenticide poisoning (poisons were not properly stored).
Plan your route ahead of time and make an emergency plan (find out where the vets are where you are be travelling, and where the nearest 24h emergency care is). If you have a pet with lots of health problems (especially breathing problems or heart problems) and there will be no emergency care available where you are travelling….honestly, I wouldn’t go on the trip. In the ER I see a lot of pets with breathing problems (collapsing tracheas, heart problems, etc.) that get very anxious in the car, and by the time they arrive in Whistler they are in distress and can be very challenging to save. In retrospect, everyone always says that they should have just stayed home and usually the family feels really guilty about having brought them, which is OK if we save them, but hard to wash away if we don’t.