Traveling should be stress-free and fun, especially when you’re on-the-go with pets. Veterinarian and pet health advocate Dr. Aliya McCullough is sharing everything you need to know about safely traveling with your cat or dog.
How to prepare for a trip with your pets?
Before you travel with your pet, start thoroughly researching the location, and pet travel requirements — especially if you’re flying or going to a different country. Here are some things to research before:
- How your pet’s temperament, age or any illnesses or injuries could affect your trip (ask your vet)
- Places where you can or can’t take your pets, like hotels or beaches
- Special licenses or permits that may be necessary for your trip
- Where the closest vet or emergency animal hospital is, and write down their hours and phone numbers in case of an emergency
- Poison control’s telephone number in the area you’re traveling
- If your pet is comfortable with your mode of travel (practice if possible)
What should you bring when traveling with pets?
Just like humans, follow a packing checklist before traveling. You should bring:
- Proof of vaccines
- Medical records
- Certificate for travel
- Up-to-date identification tags
- Microchip information
- Bed and blankets
- Medications (especially flea and tick medications if you’re camping)
- Food and water bowls
- Pet first aid kit
How can you prepare your pet’s behavior for traveling?
Before your trip, get them used to the crate or carrier they’ll be traveling in. If you're traveling by car, take them on shorter drives beforehand to get them ready for the adventure. You should start socializing your pet at a young age to ensure they’re friendly around other people and animals. Make sure your pet can participate in most of your travel activities — you don’t want to leave them alone in a new place, and many hotels and house rentals don't allow it.
How to fly with pets
There are some steps you should take before flying to ensure your trip takes off without a hitch:
- Contact your airline ahead of time to make sure your pet and their carrier meets all of the airline’s travel requirements and you’ve paid all of their additional pet fees.
- Make sure your pet can lay down, sit up and turn around in their crate (make sure your crate meets airline specifications).
- Make your preflight walk a little longer so your pet is sleepy.
- If possible, pick a non-stop flight.
- In warmer seasons, take early morning or late flights to prevent them from overheating.
- In colder seasons, choose mid-afternoon flights to prevent them from being too cold.
- Check-in for your flight as late as possible so your pet has less time in their carrier.
- Notify flight attendants if your pet is in the cargo area or underneath the seat in front of you to ensure they are safe.
How to drive with pets
When you and your pet hit the open road, there are some steps you should take to ensure they’re comfortable traveling by car:
- Practice driving with them before the trip
- Ask your vet about car sickness and any relief medication
- Make sure you have (and your dog is familiar with) the proper crate, car seat and seatbelt
- Stop for potty breaks every 2 to 3 hours
Traveling mistakes to avoid
Every pet is different, but there are some things you should never do when traveling with pets. Here’s how to keep them safe:
- Don’t let your dog’s head hang out of the window while driving.
- Keep your pet in their car seat or crate while driving, (don’t let them walk around the floorboard, get under your feet or sit in your lap).
- Never leave pets in a hot car unattended.
- If your vet doesn’t recommend it, or your pet is not suitable for travel, don’t force them (unless it’s absolutely necessary). Instead, look up reputable kennels or dog sitters.
Wherever the trips take you and your pet this summer, plan ahead to make sure your best friend is always safe.