Traveling with Your Pet: A Guide to Fun!

Dr. Baum as usual provides de-stressing ways to help pet owners handle this pet care situation, traveling with your pet, for ex., things you can do in advance.

Pet Health Care Articles by Dr. Baum

There are many factors to consider when traveling with your pets. Making the proper choices along the way is really a mixture of common sense and good awareness and observation.

The length of the trip, mode of travel and conditions that you will encounter at the destination should all influence your preparations.

As a general rule, strange places are stress inducers. To help prevent or reduce anxiety, preparation for travel really begins with preparations at home weeks before traveling. I advise all my clients to have their pets gain familiarity with the carrier that they will be traveling in. Making the carrier “their room” instead of “their prison” begins by keeping the carrier out for a week or two before travel and making it into the happiest place on earth with treats, toys and other creature comforts. The effect: less stress on moving day.

When raising our children my wife Linda and I were obsessive about bringing things to create diversions for them when we were going places that called for at least a minimum of decorum. The same goes for your pets; favorite blankets or chew toys should always be present. This axiom was so ingrained in me that I almost had an anxiety attack when Laila was four months old and I was proudly taking her to show off to my colleagues at a Board of Trustees Veterinary meeting in Cyprus. En route, I realized that I had left her favorite chew toys at home and that I was expecting her to sit in a room for three hours. I called my son and luckily for me, he guided me via Google to a pet store in the area, and all was saved!

Before traveling by car, take your pets on practice rides that do not involve going to see the veterinarian. A nice park will leave a more favorable impression. Anxiety issues or predisposition to motion sickness can both influence the pet’s reaction in a car—but at least you will know that in advance of your trip and can either mildly sedate or give an anti-motion sickness drug (Bonamine or Dramamine) at a child’s dose.

When using tranquilizers, you are not looking to “knock them out.” You just want them not to care. Due to the wide variations in sedative dosing, it is always advisable to do a trial run days before your trip so that you can make adjustments to the dosage when it really counts.

Airplane travel can be particularly challenging, as very often a plane ride means that you and your pet will be separated, further increasing the stress for both the owner and pet. Airlines differ in their pet policies so it is always advisable to check what the rules are in advance. Some people are able to get their dogs declared service animals, which enables the pet to sit at your feet, uncaged (and at no cost), while other pets that are small enough to fit under the seat can do so in their carrier (there is generally a cost for this). For pets that must travel in cargo, especially if you are going to a warm weather destination, I strongly recommend taking a night flight. For those of us in multiple pet households, very often taking two pets is easier than taking one, as companionship is a very important stress reducer. Mother Modi always accompanies her daughter, Laila, when we go on overnight trips.

Some destinations have quarantine restrictions primarily as a way to prevent Rabies from being brought into their countries. Traditionally, in places like England, Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand, animals admitted in would have to stay at a government approved facility for four to six months before being admitted. However, with the advent of Rabies antibody testing (Rabies Titers), the quarantine can be obviated when the test indicates adequate immunity to the disease. You must start this certification process three months before traveling.

Now that everyone has survived the trip and you’ve arrived at your destination, what will you find there? Do your accommodations include staying at place where there will be other animals? Will the host animals be hospitable or will barricades need to be set up? Are there specific disease conditions where you are going? We in Southern California are fortunate to be living in one of the areas in the country where heartworms are rarely encountered. But if you are traveling to most other regions in the summer, when mosquitoes are abundant, preventative medication against this parasite may be needed. You should also make sure that your pets have been adequately treated for fleas, lest they bring a plague upon their host, or conversely are the victims of their host animals or environment.

Hot weather and especially brachycephalic dogs don’t mix well. Avoid the heat of the day, stay in air conditioned, well ventilated places.

Should signs of overheating occur, application of cold wet rags is very helpful for your pet. The best places to apply these cooling cloths are the armpits and the groin. Large veins are relatively superficial there, and they can circulate the cooled down blood into the warmer interior. And make sure that you get your pets out of the sun. Bringing an umbrella, or parasol, can also be helpful, especially for those unshaded spaces, like high school athletic field venues.

Cold weather also has it potential pitfalls. Of particular concern in winter is the salt that is spread on sidewalks and roadways to melt the snow in urban areas. These salts are very irritating to the paws. If you don’t use protective booties, rinse the feet when coming back into the house.

Whatever the season, always bring a cache of the foods that your pet normally eats — this is not the time for dietary experimentation. Within a couple of hours before travel is also not the time to feed big meals. Feed enough in advance to allow adequate time for elimination. Sufficient water in a drinkable form is also always important. I start training my dogs to drink from a spray bottle when they are young, and I find that this is an easy way to carry and deliver the water to them on walks.

I also like to travel with a first aid kit that contains bandaging material as well as antibiotic ointments like Neosporin, as well as eye rinses. Obviously, don’t forget any medications that your pet might be on. Traveling with some Benadryl can also be helpful to minimize the effects of insect stings.

The advice given in this article will have served a purpose if it gets you to plan in advance. Doing a little bit of preparation before you leave will make your trip more fun for all involved.

I will be happy to comment more on travel or any other particular issues you may have regarding your pets. Please let me know what topics you would like to read about! You can send questions and topics you would like to know more about by using the form on the right side of the page.

Thanks, and for now, happy trails to you ….


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