The Road Less Traveled: Summer pet travel tips

Posted by Dr. Nina Mantione on Jul 05 2011

If you are anything like me you hate to leave your pets behind when you go on vacation. I imagine them wandering around listless because they miss us. I worry that my (very competent) house sitter will forget their favorite treats (despite my detailed written and verbal instructions), or worse yet, get locked out for the duration of our vacation leaving my pets to fend for themselves for 10 days. (Forget the fact that I leave an extra key with two separate neighbors and I do carry a cell phone!) But despite my overactive and somewhat morbid imagination, I do leave my pets at home (with the exception of a very portable Chihuahua) instead of having them travel with us.

I am not opposed to travelling with pets, and I know there are times when it cannot be avoided, but there are certainly many pros and cons that need to be considered before you make the decision to load Buster in the car or boat or plane and go on your merry way. In the upcoming series of blogs I will discuss how to prepare your pet for travel by auto or by plane, and in this blog I will give you some general tips to follow when traveling with your pet.

Traveling Tips

The first question you need to consider is whether or not your pet will be happier just staying at home. I would say that for majority of cats, the answer to this question would be a resounding “yes”. Most cats like sameness, not change, and will be more than happy to sleep on the couch without you as long as they have fresh food and water and a clean litter box. Most dogs, though, are keen for adventure, and would enjoy a change of scenery and a chance to spend more time with you. This doesn’t mean that all dogs enjoy travelling. Cars, new environments, and strangers make some dogs very anxious. Combine these pets with the ones who suffer from motion sickness and you have a group of animals who are more than happy to stay home.

If you decide that your pet would love a change of scenery and is a happy traveller, or that traveling is unavoidable let me recommend a few tips for safe and easier travel:

  • Always make a collar tag that has either the number of where you will be staying, or your cell phone number so that if, in the off chance, your pet wanders off, you are immediately reachable by phone. Getting your pet microchipped can also help increase the chances a lost pet is found, especially on the road.

  • Scope out local veterinarians ahead of time including emergency clinics. If your pet becomes ill, you do not want to waste time calling numbers out of the yellow pages. Having a pet insurance policy from Petplan can also help provide peace of mind that should your pet need emergency treatment on the road, he's covered.

  • Make sure you travel with enough food and medications to last a few days beyond your anticipated stay.

  • Make sure that your pet is up to date on all vaccines and heartworm prevention. Certain areas of the country have higher risks for certain diseases. Check with your veterinarian to make sure your pet is covered before you leave.

  • If you are planning to travel internationally make sure you investigate what documents and vaccines your pet may need and when. Different countries have different rules and regulations for animals that cross over their borders.

  • If your pet has chronic health issues, schedule a trip to your veterinarian before you travel to make sure his health is stable and he is safe to travel.

These tips are no substitute for a discussion with your own veterinarian, but hopefully they will provide some guidance before you hit the road.

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