The Vet Is In: Traveling With Your Pets

Dr. Marvin Ordway
By Dr. Marvin Ordway June 15, 2014 20:51

Plan to drive your Yorkie to Yellowstone? Take your Siamese to Seattle? Fly to Paris with your pug?

If the answer is yes, plan ahead to make your trip safe and enjoyable for all involved. Get started with this travel checklist.

Health exam: Have a veterinarian give your dog or cat a physical before traveling. Older pets may have arthritis, and the stress of travel could aggravate their pain. Your vet can prescribe medications to help. Depending on your pet’s condition and disposition, consider boarding it at a kennel instead.

Identification: Microchip your dog or cat for a permanent ID. Put a name tag with phone number on collars. Carry a photo of your traveling companion (better yet, the two of you together) in case he or she gets lost and identification or proof of ownership is needed.

Diet: If your pet is on medication or a special diet, bring a few extra days’ worth of pills and food in case you get delayed.

On the road: Train your dog or cat from a young age to ride comfortably in the family car. Reward your pet inside the car with treats and affection for good behavior. All pets should be restrained. For dogs, car seats (smaller breeds) and harnesses that attach to seatbelts are available. Put cats in a carrier or crate. Medications can help with motion sickness.

Safety first: Driving with a loose pet in the car may seem companionable, but it’s a bad idea. Unrestrained dogs and cats cause some 30,000 accidents in the U.S. each year. In a collision, your flying pet can seriously injure you or your passengers. Place restrained or crated pets in the back seat or in the cargo area behind it. Never carry any pet in the front seat where an air bag can injure or kill it. Carrying an unrestrained dog in the bed of a pickup truck is not only illegal, but injures thousands of dogs annually. Tethered dogs are allowed, but if the lead is too long, dogs can fall out of the bed. Crates are the safest option.

Easy riding: Pack your pet’s favorite blanket and toy. A chew toy with peanut butter in it can calm a dog as the miles pass. Feliway, a cat pheromone, or catnip can soothe a jumpy feline. Stop at least every four hours for dogs to relieve themselves and stretch. Leave cats in their carriers, with a non-spill water bowl and litter box, throughout the trip.

Overnight accommodations: Check for pet-friendly hotels at When making reservations, check on specific pet policies. Some hotels have size restrictions, and most will not allow any animal that shows signs of aggression.

No parking: Never leave pets in a parked car. Even if outside temperatures are only in the low 80s, a closed car can turn into a 100-degree oven within 10 minutes, subjecting your pet to heat stroke and even death.

In the air: Not all airlines carry pets and those that do limit the number, so reserve in advance. Call your airline 24 to 48 hours before flight time to reconfirm. You’ll need a rabies vaccination, a health certificate issued within 10 days of travel and, if your pet flies in the baggage hold, an approved crate. Never fly old, sick or pug-nosed pets in the baggage hold; pugs, Boston terriers and bulldogs are especially sensitive to heat. Cats and small dogs can fly in the cabin as long as their carriers fit under the seat.

Vaccinations: Make sure all shots are current and carry a pet health certificate if you travel out of state or overseas. Some states, such as Hawaii, have stringent pet entry rules, and it is best to plan months ahead. Some countries require extra vaccinations and treatment for fleas, ticks and parasites. Contact that country’s consulate or embassy for specifics.

Hot and cold: Airlines will not ship animals in the baggage hold if outside temperatures are above 85 degrees for any extended period. Pets can be shipped when temperatures get cold, but owners must sign a waiver. Fly nonstop if possible, take early morning or evening flights during warmer months and fly at midday during colder periods.

Buses, trains: Pets are not allowed on buses or trains, but exceptions are made for guide or service dogs.

Following these guidelines increases the odds of a safe, happy vacation with your traveling companions.

Marv Ordway owns and operates Twain Harte Veterinary Hospital,

Copyright © 2014 Friends and Neighbors Magazine


Dr. Marvin Ordway
By Dr. Marvin Ordway June 15, 2014 20:51
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