Tips for Traveling with Your Pet
Millions of Americans are hitting the highway this summer for family vacations—and, for many of us, a family vacation wouldn’t be complete without our canine or feline companions.
But even if Fido and Fluffy are accustomed to frequent outings in the car, if you’re planning to travel a long distance, it’s important to plan ahead to ensure a safe, convenient and enjoyable journey for all involved.
Here’s my advice for preparing your pet for car travel – these tips are ones I’ll be following myself as I prepare our newly adopted dog, Chilly, for a trip to Atlanta later this summer—his first road trip!
Preparing for your trip
Make sure that your pet has a clean bill of health before traveling. A routine visit to the vet will help you confirm that your pet has all of the necessary vaccinations and pest prevention gear, and is up to date on worming. If your dog or cat is an anxious traveler, your veterinarian can prescribe calming remedies, either pharmaceutical or homeopathic. Your veterinarian also can check your pet’s microchip or implant a microchip if he doesn’t already have one.
When you travel, carry a record of your pet’s medical history (or vaccinations, at least), proof of ownership, a photo of their pet and emergency contact numbers. Having a snapshot of your pet with you is a great idea in case your pet gets lost and you need to gather a search party. I keep a copy of Chilly’s vaccinations and his adorable mug shot in my glove box no matter if I am just traveling around town or headed out on a weekend trip.
Updating or obtaining identification tags is an absolute MUST not only when traveling, but at ALL times. Be sure to keep your pet’s tags up to date with your current address and the phone number where you can be reached while you are traveling. Be sure to include cell phone numbers as your home number will do you no good when you’re away!
Check to make sure your pet’s collar fits properly and isn’t too worn. One or two leashes or retractable leads always adorn my personal wardrobe and are necessary for pit stops, hikes and hitting the pavement around a quaint town or roadside shop. Never let your pet wander off the leash in a strange environment.
Don’t forget to pack enough pet food to last throughout the trip. Traveling can upset a pet’s stomach so you won’t want to make any quick changes in the type of food you are feeding him before, or during, your travels. Also, keep feeding during travel to a minimum. If traveling by car, it’s best to provide your pet with a light meal two to three hours before you leave. If traveling by air, feed him four to six hours before departure. Bring durable, travel-safe food and water bowls and remember that while food should be kept to a minimum, water should be offered frequently and in abundance!
When I travel, I like to be comfortable and have a few things with me that remind me of home – and Chilly is not any different. If your pet has a favorite bed, a crate that smells like home, or special toys or treats that entertain him for hours, be sure to pack it up. Don’t forget the litter, litter box, grooming supplies, first aid kit, any necessary medications, and dog waste bags to ease your travels. I also like to bring along a few easy clean-up supplies to help me keep the car and the places we’re staying neat and tidy. Try a lightweight, portable Pet Hair Eraser® corded hand vacuum for cleaning up pet hair messes in the car or when you stay as guests in others’ homes.
Hitting the road
All packed up? Don’t forget to make sure your pet is safe while you’re driving. If your pet would rather drive than be a passenger, it’s a good idea to secure him in a pet crate, by a dog harness connected to the seat belt, or behind a divider to keep him in the cargo area of a wagon or SUV. This will not only ensure your pet’s safety, but that of all of the two-legged passengers in the vehicle as well.
Cats always should be placed in a crate or carrier while traveling in the car. Be sure to allow them frequent stretching and potty breaks by pulling over in a quiet area. Cats may never enjoy traveling as much as dogs, but keeping them confined when the car is moving will help.
Parents don’t let their children travel in the car with their head hanging out the window, and pet parents should follow the same rule. If your pet’s head is hanging out the window, flying debris can hit the soft tissue around his face and cause severe blunt trauma. Other debris such as pollen, dust, and gravel can fly into your pet’s eyes and cause inflammation or even blindness. It’s also unwise to leave your dog unrestrained in the bed of a pickup truck where he could fall or jump out.
Because pets aren’t always welcome in restaurants and other businesses, it’s important to keep in mind that pets can suffer from heatstroke when left in a confined space or in a hot vehicle. Most pet owners don’t realize how quickly the temperature in a parked car can skyrocket —even on a cloudy, humid day—and leave pets in serious danger of heat stroke or even death. A Stanford University test found that when it is 72 degrees outside, a car’s internal temperature can climb to 116 degrees within an hour, even with the windows cracked. When it’s 85 degrees outside, the temperature inside a car can reach 102 degrees in 10 minutes and 120 degrees in 30 minutes.
One of the easiest ways to determine if it’s safe to leave your pet in your vehicle is with the Wag’N Auto Alert Tag. Pet owners can leave the tag hanging from the rearview mirror and, when the temperature inside the car gets above 85-degrees, the Auto Alert Tag will display the message Heat Alert. Get Out. This indicates that no pet (or child) should be left inside the car REGARDLESS of whether or not a window remains somewhat open.
Minding your manners
Lastly, as someone traveling with a pet in tow, you should keep in mind that hotels, restaurants and parks that allow pets are making a special accommodation for you, and you should not abuse those privileges. Remember to respect pet rules in public areas and be mindful of other people’s space. Don’t let Fluffy and Fido leave their pet manners behind when you head out on your summer adventures.
Happy tails—er, trails!