January 2nd is National Pet Travel Safety Day. This day serves as a good reminder for pet owners to consider that their pets are properly taken care of while traveling. Whether you are going across town or going out of state, it is a good idea to plan your trip ahead of time. Here are some considerations for traveling safely with your pets.
Your Pet’s Health
- Young pets or even senior pets may not be the best candidates for traveling. They are susceptible to getting stressed out easily and may have weakened immune systems. Before traveling with an extremely young pet or a senior pet, it is always wise to ask your veterinarian about their opinion on what may need to be considered for your adventure with your pet.
- Consider your pet’s vaccination status before traveling. Depending on where you are going and how you are getting there, the location may require your pet to be current on vaccinations before traveling. If you are flying with your pet, there may be some vaccination requirements, so always check with the airline. Check out the “Traveling via plane” section for more information.
General Travel Considerations
Before traveling with pets, ensure you have packed the following items for your adventure:
- Health Documents: If your pet has any medical conditions, it would be wise to pack a copy of their medical records in case something happens while you are traveling. Some destinations require a health certificate for your pet. A health certificate is a document signed by your veterinarian stating that your pet is healthy for travel, free of disease, and is current on any required vaccinations. If you are traveling via plane, going to a foreign country, or driving across the United States Border into Canada or Mexico, you will likely need a health certificate for your pet.
- Food and Water: ensure your pet has enough food and water for the entire trip.
- Medications: If your pet is on any medications, ensure you have brought enough for the trip, plus a little extra in case of a delay in travels.
- Clean up items: ensure you have enough sanitary cleanup items in the event your pet gets sick or has a bathroom accident while traveling. Pack some pet pick up bags, absorbent paper towels, and wet wipes.
- Identification: your pet is going into unfamiliar territory, and they may be very nervous. It is a good idea to have identification on your pet at all times while traveling. Attach an ID tag to their collar or harness that has your current contact information on it.
- Is your pet microchipped? So many pets are lost each year while traveling, and microchips are another way to ensure your pet gets back to you. If your pet is microchipped, ensure you have current phone numbers and contact information on file with the microchip company.
- Collar and Leash: Even if your pet does not usually need a collar or leash, remember they are going to be in unfamiliar territory, so it would be a good idea to bring these items along.
- Familiar items such as your pet’s favorite toy, blanket, or even an article of clothing that smells like you can help keep your pet calm during travel.
- If you are worried about your pet making a mess in your car, consider blankets or car seat covers to put down while traveling.
If you are traveling with your pet via car, here are some items to consider before visiting:
- Have a way of safely securing or restraining your pet during travel. This will limit distractions for the driver, as well as ensure the pet is safe if you need to make a sudden stop or if you are in an accident. Many pets have been severely injured by hitting the dash or windshield of a car during a sudden stop. You can pack a kennel for your pet, or for dogs that do not do well in a kennel, you can have a leash or harness that will attach to your car’s seat belt.
- When making stops or rest breaks along the way, don’t leave animals alone in a parked vehicle. In the direct sunlight, even with the windows cracked in a car, the temperature of a vehicle can heat up very quickly. In fact, on a sunny day when the temperature outside is just 70 degrees, the inside of a car can heat up to 110 degrees in under 30 minutes. Your pet could start showing signs of heatstroke very quickly.
- Dogs traveling in the back of pickup trucks: although this method of travel is not as popular as it used to be, some folks still allow their dogs to be in the back of a pickup truck while they are driving. The Humane Society of the United States estimates that around 100,000 dogs are killed each year in accidents while they were riding in a truck bed. The dangers of riding in the back of a pickup truck include your dog getting ejected, being hit by another vehicle, or falling out if you suddenly accelerate or take a sharp turn. If your dog falls out of the truck, they are subject to fractures, joint injuries, and severe cuts/bruises. It is not recommended to even tie a dog in the back of a pickup truck as many dogs have fallen out and gotten strangled by their leash. Lastly, in warmer climates, on a hot day, the back of a pickup truck can heat up and cause your pet to suffer from burns on their paws.
Traveling via Plane
If you are planning on traveling with your pet via plane, consider the following scenarios before you start your travels:
- Make your travel reservations as early as possible, as airlines usually have limited space for pets and can fill up quickly. Some airlines also have blackout dates where they will not allow pets to travel for specific periods. This can happen around holidays and during the summertime in warmer climates. Even Service animals will need to be considered while making your reservations, as the airlines will need to ensure you have enough room for your animal.
- Species/Breed Restrictions: Unfortunately, some airlines have restrictions on what species or breed of pets they allow on the flight. Dogs and cats that are considered brachycephalic breeds, meaning they have a shorter face/nose than a standard breed, may not be allowed to fly. The airlines are concerned with shorter-nosed breeds becoming stressed out and not breathing properly during the flight. Some airlines also have restrictions on “aggressive” breeds of pets, due to safety concerns with their staff. Check on the airlines’ website to ensure your pet is not considered a restricted breed.
- Sedation or Tranquilizers: If you or your veterinarian feel your pet may need sedation or tranquilizers for the flight, double-check with the airlines to ensure they allow your pet to travel while sedated. Check the “traveling with pets” section on your airline’s website for more information.
- Health Certificate: As I have already mentioned, most airlines require your pet to have a health certificate at the time of travel. Pay close attention to the requirements of the airlines, as some airlines require this health certificate to be dated no more than 10 days before the trip. A health certificate is a document signed by your veterinarian stating that your pet is in good health for travel and is current on required vaccinations. If the airlines ask to see your pet’s health certificate and you do not have one to show them, they could refuse to admit your pet for travel.
- Your pet will need to be in a kennel at all times during the flight. Some airlines have restrictions on the size of the kennel for your pet. Ensure the Pet’s name, as well as your contact information, is written directly on the kennel. Ensure you have proper identification on your pet as well while traveling. If you have a delay or layover, the airlines may require their staff to walk your pet.
- Ensure you have enough absorbable bedding in the kennel with your pet in the event they get sick or have an accident.
- If your pet is traveling via the cargo area of the plane, food, water, and any medications usually are required to be with them.
Finally, Your Destination!
Before arriving at your destination, make sure wherever you are traveling to allows pets.
- If you are staying in a hotel, pet regulations can suddenly change, so make sure to mention your pet at the time of making the reservation.
- If you are camping in a national park, understand that some parks do not allow pets, so be aware of the regulations.
Lastly, a little prior planning and preparation will ensure a smooth trip to wherever you and your pet may travel to. We wish you safe travels with you and your loved ones!