Is Traveling with my Pets a Good Idea?

When traveling with pets there are many things that need to be looked into before hitting the road. First of all, make sure the pet is up to date on all vaccines and have a copy of the latest vaccine certificate that specifically shows the last Rabies vaccination given. If traveling across state lines by airplane, check with the airlines to see if a health certificate is required. If so, Claws & Paws Veterinary Hospital® has doctors on staff who can provide that service.

However, please note that a health certificate is only good for ten days. Keep that in mind for the return trip in case another health certificate will be required from the destination point back to Pearland. If the destination is outside the continental US, contact that consulate (if needed) for that particular country’s requirements. An international health certificate is required and some countries require a quarantine period before entering or leaving. It is always advisable to research all the required information before traveling with a pet. Claws & Paws Vet Hospital® does not provide international health certificates. There are other veterinary hospitals/clinics in the area that will provide an international health certificate.

The two most common ways to travel with a pet is by car or airplane. In either case, a pet carrier is a must. In the car, this is to ensure the pet’s safety. An airline, whether the pet is traveling in the back of the plane or under the seat in the passenger area, requires a carrier. When purchasing a pet carrier, it should have enough room for the pet stand up and turn around comfortably. A hard crate is recommended at all times for the safety it provides. However, if traveling by car, a soft-sided carrier will work. It just does not provide the safety of the hard carrier in case there is an accident.

Prior to hitting the road, we recommend that research is done on pet friendly lodging. There are many hotels/motels that will accommodate pets. Consider requesting the first floor for access purposes. That makes it easier when it’s time to go potty or exercise. Also, remember to inquire about any additional fees, banned breeds, limit amounts and if there is a deposit (some of these are refundable if no damage is incurred.) Here is a list of pet friendly travel websites.

Claws & Paws Vet Hospital® recommends acclimating the pet to the crate well ahead of departure time. Start making the crate a pleasant and comfortable space so the pet is more willing to go in it and stay in it for longer periods of time. Start by leaving the pet in the crate for 10-15 minute at home. Reward them and make a big fuss when the pet comes out of the crate. This will send the message that staying in the crate is a good thing. Gradually increase the time left in the crate each time until the pet is able to remain for a good amount of time without accidents and without crying. This is very important when taking a long flight or going somewhere that will require your pet to be left alone for long periods of time.

It is better to not feed the pet the morning of travel to avoid motion sickness and possible vomiting. If the departure time is later in the day, it is okay to feed a very small amount that morning. Just make sure there is sufficient time for the pet to have a bowel movement before departure (5-6 hours minimum.) Water is okay but we recommend small amounts especially if taking a flight so the pet does not have to go potty while in flight. Make sure to have appropriate bedding for whatever temperature ranges the pet will encounter. For example, if the pet will be in cargo, the pet may need something warm.

Make sure to provide comfort toys as well as a time consuming toys such as a rawhide or kong filled with peanut butter (if traveling by car.) This will help pass the time. However, make sure the pet does not get car sick if planning on providing treats. If the pet is snacking we recommend stopping every two hours for a potty break. Even if no treats are provided, we recommend stopping every three hours to allow for a potty break and exercise time out of the crate.

Please make sure the carrier has secure latches with all necessary information provided: pet’s name, gender, age, owner’s name, address and phone numbers where they are available while traveling. Be sure by the travel date that the pet is acclimated to both the carrier and a collar/leash.

Planning ahead and taking the steps recommended will help to ensure all members including the four-footed variety, have a great trip/vacation. Please look below for a checklist that will make things easier for traveling with a pet.

  • Use a collar/halter with a leash to prevent injury, avoid loss, and as a consideration for other people. It will take time to acclimate the pet to this if there has not been a regular use of a collar/halter with the leash.
  • Crate train the pet well ahead of time. The crate will help protect the pet in case of an accident.
  • Be sure the pet wears a collar, Rabies Tag, and ID tag in case the pet becomes accidentally lost. A microchip is strongly recommended for traveling.
  • Sudden diet changes are the most common causes of vomiting and diarrhea. Never assume that your pet’s food will be available away from home. Carry an amount of pet food to last two days into the travel plans and stick to as normal a feeding schedule as possible.
  • Take with you any prescription medications the pet may need.
  • Take the pet’s vaccination records and rabies certificate. Be sure to have a health certificate if needed but keep in mind that it only lasts for ten days. If the travel time away is longer than ten days, a return health certificate may be needed.
  • When driving, stop every three hours to exercise and give some water. Remember to use a leash at all times.
  • Tranquilizers and car sickness medications are available from Claws & Paws Vet Hospital. However, if the pet has never had these, we recommend testing the pet’s tolerance and needed dosage well ahead of time. Most of these medications work best if given on an empty stomach. We recommend only feeding the pet once each day’s destination has been reached.
  • Be responsible for the pet’s eliminations. Carry a supply of plastic bags which can be placed on the hand – then turned inside out after the stool is grasped in the hand. There are commercial travel bags available.
  • Never leave the pet unattended in the car, even on cool days.
  • Consider the feelings of others before taking your pet to visit friends or relatives. Be sure there are no allergy problems and make sure your host really does not mind the pet visiting as well.
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