Traveling with Pets

My way or the highway!

How to Prepare for Travel With Pets

Whether you’re crossing the Atlantic or simply crossing over state lines, there are some necessary precautions to take for your pet’s health and safety. Some of these can take months to complete, so it’s best to get a head start.

Make Sure Your Pet Is Properly Vaccinated

Whether traveling by train, plane, or car, staying in a hotel or at a campground, vaccinations are extremely important. Jeff Werber, D.V.M., the chief veterinary officer for Airvet Telemedicine says there’s typically a core set of vaccines that are given in a series when your pet is young and then updated every three years. Your vet may recommend additional vaccines depending on your location, your lifestyle, and other factors. Every shot is different and has a varied timeline for immunity success, so Dr. Werber recommends letting your vet know about your travel plans ASAP. If you’re going to a destination that could put your dog or cat at a higher risk of infection for a disease that’s not common in the U.S., it may require another vaccination. More often than not, your vet will provide some sort of health certificate that will be checked when entering a new state and/or country, says Dr. Jerry Klein, the American Kennel Club‘s chief veterinary officer. In some cases, this certificate must be vetted by a USDA-accredited veterinarian and may require a notary stamp for verification. This document is particularly important for international travel; your beloved pet may not be admitted into your destination country without it.

Consider Microchipping Your Pet

Losing a dog or cat in an unfamiliar place is every pet parent’s worst nightmare. For your peace of mind — and to meet the requirements of some countries and states — Dr. Klein recommends getting your pet microchipped before traveling.

Your vet will do the simple, fast, in-office procedure, and the chip will be connected to your current contact information. “A tag is included when you have a microchip that has the microchip number and a mobile contact of the owner, so if the pet is found, they can use the tag to determine ownership without having to contact a veterinarian,” he adds.

Pack Extra Food

Try to keep your pet’s food consistent when traveling. Generally speaking, it’s best not to feed your pet the morning of your travel day to reduce nausea, says Dr. Brian J. Bourquin, the founder and chief medical officer at Boston Veterinary Clinic. He recommends measuring out your pet’s food and bringing enough for each day, plus some extra, in case there are delays or changes in your travel plans. And as every owner knows, there are never enough treats to reward good behavior or provide comfort, so be generous with them.

Tips for Traveling by Car

For some pets, there’s nothing quite as exciting as a drive down a windy road, head hanging out the window and tongue flying in the air. For others, the car signifies a scary experience, largely associated with a visit to the groomer or the vet’s office. If you plan to take your friend on a road trip, there are some ways to ensure it’s as cozy and calm as possible.

Regularly Introduce Them to the Car

With puppies, the more you expose them to different aspects of your lifestyle, the more comfortable they will be as they grow. Mary R. Burch, PhD, certified applied animal behaviorist and family dog director at the American Kennel Club, suggests introducing your dog to the car as early as possible before your journey. Here’s how:

  1. Put the dog in the backseat for a few minutes, close the door, and stand outside.
  2. Once the dog appears quiet and calm, give it a treat and let it out of the car.
  3. Put it back in the car, and get into the driver’s seat, all while giving praise.
  4. Start the engine, and wait a few minutes.
  5. Stop, and get everyone out of the car.

Once your dog gets comfortable with this process, you can begin to take short trips in the car, driving down the street or to a park. Make sure to reward its good behavior with treats and a positive attitude.

Make Sure Your Pet Is Constrained

While in a dream world, your faithful companion would remain snuggled in your lap every mile of the way, it’s not safe for you, other passengers, or your pet. Instead, Dr. Werber says your pet must be properly restrained while in a moving vehicle. This could be with a harness that attaches to a seat belt or an enclosed carrier. The crate your pet sleeps in is also a great option because it’s familiar and comforting.

One way to make this more comfortable for your pet: Bring its favorite toys or chew sticks from home.

Map Out Pit Stops

Before packing up the car and hitting the road, travel expert Josh Viner likes to map out the drive so he can be aware of construction zones or heavy traffic and make sure his dog, Frankie, will have access to pit stops along the way. Every few hours, he says it’s beneficial to let your dog stretch its legs, use the restroom outside, or run some laps to get out the nervous energy.