PET TRAVEL 101:
A ‘RUFF’ How-To Guide On Vacations With Your Cat Or Dog
Planning trips for yourself, or your family, is hard enough. But when you throw in your four-legged best bud too, it can get downright ‘ruff’! Whatever the reason for traveling, pleasure or business, that doesn’t mean you have to leave your pet behind. In fact, a study by AAA and Best Western International has found out that more than half of U.S. pet owners take their cats and dogs with them when they travel.
Here are a few tips to help keep you (and your little dog/cat too) comfortable and sane — no matter how far the trip or the mode of travel. This ‘ruff’ guide is an overview to help you and your pet navigate each part of the journey. In later articles we will, in detail, discuss each phase more closely. For a handy reminder, there is a custom ‘print quality 8 1/2 x 11 PDF’ In-Fur-Graphic at the bottom of the article you may print out and keep handy.
I. PRE-CHECK LIST
When traveling, whether it be between states or even internationally, you should check the requirements for bringing your pet. The laws and rules (especially international travel) may be different from your own home town. Many countries, and some states, have specific health, vaccination, and quarantine regulations.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention advise all pet owners to inform their vets about your travel plans with your pets as soon as possible, as it may take several visits to get all your paperwork and vaccinations completed. While at the vet, it is also a good time to ask about any ways to make the travel with your pet less stressful (micro-chipping) or about sedation options if your pet is prone to anxiety or any other questions you may have.
In fact, many countries are now requiring your pet to have a microchip implant. These implants are extremely efficient way to help you find your pet in case they become lost. They are not expensive and in the end can save you a lot of time, but more importantly, grief and heartache, in finding your pet.
Your pet should be up-to-date on all their vaccinations and shots. Foreign travel definitely requires your pet to have all their current shots. Be aware that more and more places here in the states, from hotels to dog parks, require proof your pet is currently healthy and vaccinated.
Make sure wherever you stay (hotel, campground, B&B, etc.) accept pets and that your pet meet their specific requirements for that establishment.
- Area Vets
In case of an emergency while you are traveling, you should have a pre-made list of area vets in case anything happens. You don’t want to be spending times looking up the local area vet when your pet needs them immediately. One good piece of advise is when making reservations before the trip is to ask the place you are staying for vet recommendations.
II. WHAT TO PACK
After deciding to bring your pet (and you have them all vaccinated and lodging all booked up), it is time to start packing for them. You should create a list of all the things that will make the trip safer and more comfortable for them. First off, make sure they have a comfortable, and spacious, pet carrier that is appropriate for them to travel. If your travel plans includes flying, each individual airline will have some specifications of their own. Here’s a list of possible things you should acquire to help you prepare your travels with your pet.
- Restraining Items
To make sure your pet is safe (and secure) in traveling, you should have collars, leashes, muzzles, safety vests, and other items that will help you keep your pet under control at all times.
- Pet Travel Kit
Depending on the mode of transportation, pack the essential items for your pet, including:
- Medications and first aid items
- ID Tages (should be placed on their collar)
- Your veterinarian’s contact information
- Crate that is comfortable and spacious
- Your veterinarian’s contact information
- A small amount of dry food
- A small collapsible bowl
- Favorite Toy (ball, bone) and/or blanket
- Travel Pet Documents: Rabies Certificate, Pet Photos
- Treats and dental chews
- Cleaning Supplies: Brush, Poop Bags, Paper Towels, Etc.
III. FLYING WITH YOUR PET
Flying with your pet can open up a whole new ‘bottle of doggie pills’ – you may not like the hassle, but if you take the medication (do the research) then in the end everything will hopefully be all right! Make sure you are informed about all requirements and restrictions before flying with a pet in the plane (and the terminal, too). If possible, try to book direct flight(s) so you won’t have to deal with stopovers — moving your pet from one plane to another could be stressful and increase the chances of losing them.
If you are looking to make arrangements for your pet to travel in-cabin with you, you will need to make some arrangements. Some airlines allow you to bring aboard smaller ‘pocket pets’ with you in the cabin – birds, hamsters, and maybe even reptiles. For your larger pets, like cats and dogs, they are usually housed in the back area of the plane. Always ask about the area they will be housed in, in case you need to provide extra blankets, little food for the trip or if they can have their favorite play toy!
Most of the airlines have information on their website that describe the policies on bringing your pet and other important information. A few links to the major airlines are:
- Wilmington Airport Information: Fly ILM
- Delta Air Lines: Delta Pet Policy and Other Information
- American Airlines: American Airlines Pet Travel Information and Policies
- United Airlines: United Airlines Travel for Pets Information
- JetBlue Airways: JetPaws Program
- Southwest Airlines: Southwest Pet Policy and Pet Reservations
- Spirit Airlines: Spirit Rules for Pets Onboard
The following are some tips on helping you fly with your pet.
The regulations for pets (and the fees too) vary per airline – whether you fly the pet in-cabin or if they are checked in as baggage. Be sure to check an airline’s history of flying animals. Incidents of pets being lost, injured or dying have increased in recent years.
- Fit to Fly
If your pet is very young or old (or not in the best of health, it’s best to leave them at home. Also, many airlines do not allow certain type of dogs to fly — such as breeds who are prone to breathing difficulties (such as pugs and English bulldogs)
- Pet Papers
If you’re traveling outside the country, find out what vaccinations your pet will need and if quarantine is required.
- Carrier Preparations
Make sure the carrier is large enough for your pet to move around in without hitting their head. Make sure your pet is acclimated with the carrier – have them spend some time in it before the flight. Each airline have different requirements for the carriers, but the USDA does require the following for all carriers: food and water dishes, “Live Animal” stickers, upright arrows and bedding.
- Potty Break and Exercise
Feed your pet at least 4 hours before the flight and have water on hand while waiting to board. Before the flight, play with your cat or take your dog for a walk for exercise and for a finale potty break. The more tired your pet is, the more likely it is to sleep during the trip.
IV. DRIVING WITH YOUR PET
ROAD TRIP!!! What could be better than hopping into your car with your best bud (we’re talking four-legged ones here) and hitting the highways and byways? Not much, IF YOU’RE PREPARED — if not, it may as well be a trip from ‘Route 66(6)’, if you get my meaning! To keep the road trip fun and safe, just follow these few simple car pet tips.
- Trial run
If you dog hasn’t travel much by car (besides the occasional trip to vet or park), it may be best to take some shorter drives to see how they respond. Do they get car sick or anxious? If so, ask your vet about some possible solutions to help them out.
- Buckle up
According to AAA, around 30,000 accidents each year are caused by unrestrained dogs in the front seat. Wandering freely about (or in the lap of the driver), they can cause distractions to the driver and are also more likely to be injured in the event of an accident. Pet carriers, pet barriers, pet seat belts, pet car seats and more can help ensure a safe trip for you and your pet. Never travel with your pet in the back of your truck or in a carrier on the top of the car (yes, this has been done multiple times by multiple idiots!)
- Pit stops
It is advised by the AVMA (The American Veterinary Medical Association) to stop every two to three hours for your get to get some exercise and to use the bathroom. You should also keep a gallon of cold water on hand to ensure your pet stays sufficiently hydrated during the trip.
- Don’t leave them alone
On an 85-degree day, the temperature inside a car with the windows cracked can reach 110 degrees in 10 minutes, which can be deadly. If you’ll be visiting a destination where pets are not allowed, leave them at a pet-friendly hotel — or at home — instead of the car.
V. PET LODGINGS
Before starting the trip, you should make sure any (and all) of the places you are staying at accept pets. Follow these simple tips and you’ll have no trouble finding places for your pet to sleep away in after a hard days travel!
- Before you start out on your trip, book the lodging(s) for you and your pet. This helps prevents you spending unnecessary time finding places that accepts pets or somewhere that may have trouble with your particular pet breed, size, or temperament
- Many hotels (and other lodgings) have pet restrictions based on number of pets allowed, size/weight of pets allowed, and/or type/breed of pet that are allowed. Also, pets must be well behaved, clean and non-aggressive or they may not be allowed to stay
- Most places have a leash policy, requiring your pet to be leashed at all times (so make sure you have them secured)
- Most hotels do not allow pets to climb on the bed or furniture — make sure you got a way to keep them off or you may be charged an extra fee if anything is torn