Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Quick Tips for Pet Travel

Maybe you're headed on a big cross-country road trip. Maybe it's just a weekend with the in-laws a few hours away. Whatever the occasion, traveling with pets can be fun, exciting....and stressful. Poorly planned, it might even be dangerous. Today's article covers several easy tips to lower the stress level and keep things safe, so you can focus on relaxing and having a good time together.

Bear in mind this just refers to domestic travel by car; airlines and international travel are different beasts that will be covered in future articles.
  1. Bring plenty of extra food / medications: This is an obvious one...so it should be no surprise it's the most common one folks forget. Imagine running out of food, having to substitute something else, and triggering a nice bout of diarrhea. While driving. In your car.

  2. Seatbelts / carriers:  I'm not going to lie - my dog usually rides shotgun, unrestrained. He's also been dumped forcefully into the floor when I've had to slam the brakes. That wouldn't happen if I was smart enough to practice what I preach and get a pet seatbelt. Excited pets bouncing around the cabin isn't conducive to safe driving, either.

  3. Windows up: I once witnessed a Yorkie jump out of the car window as it drove by the vet clinic I was working at. Good timing, I guess - but it nearly killed him.

  4. LEASHES!: Never let your dog (or cat, or iguana) off leash in an unfamiliar place. I don't care how much you know/trust them - the unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells could provide the unexpected surprise that leaves you spending the day searching for them, or worse.

  5. Dealing with anxiety and car-sickness: Pheremone collars (DAP or Feliway) can help many pets with mild travel anxiety. For motion sickness or more significant anxiety, talk to your vet about Benadryl and other options.

  6. Current flea & tick prevention: Make sure your pet's flea prevention will cover the duration of the trip; no one wants to finish off a vacation with a bunch of nasty new house guests. Do this even if you don't normally use a flea preventative - trust me. 

  7. Microchips: Make sure your pet's microchip is registered to your current address. If they don't have a microchip consider getting one
Here are a few more things you may want to ring your veterinarian's office for:
  1. Get a record or certificate of all vaccinations (and make sure they are up-to-date): Most hotels require up-to-date rabies vaccination at a minimum. Tell them where you are going, and ask if there are any other vaccines they'd recommend. These may include Bordetella, Leptospirosis, lyme disease, or others.

  2. If your pet has any major medical history - chronic diseases under treatment or past major surgeries - ask for a copy of the medical record to take with you. Hopefully your pet won't need veterinary care during the trip, but if they do that record may be invaluable.

  3. Ask your veterinarian about an official health certificate: may be required to enter certain states or to stay at some hotels, and all airlines require them. Your veterinarian can provide one after a thorough physical exam - which is itself valuable, since more than once I've picked up problems owners weren't aware of that might make travel a bad idea. Health certificates may only be good for a limited time (10 days for airlines), so set your appointment appropriately.

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