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5 Tips on Traveling with Your Pet: Keeping Your Best Friend Comfortable on a Long Trip

May 17, 2012 09:08AM ● By Erin Frisch

Travelling with Animals

For many pet owners, a trip is not complete unless the furry, four-legged family members are included. But if you’re planning a longer journey, don’t assume that your pet will be a model traveler. Take into account the needs of your pet, and train him or her how to behave during the trip. While traveling can be stressful for both owners and pets, careful preparation can reduce stress levels for all and guarantee a safe and comfortable trip for your best friend.

Tip #1 Prepare your pet (and yourself) for the journey.

If you’re traveling by car with an animal who is not used to car trips, start conditioning him or her well before your trip by taking short rides near your home. If he or she is too skittish for that, begin simply by sitting in the car in your driveway with your pet for short periods with the engine running. If you’ll travel by plane, try to get nonstop flights whenever possible. Contact the airline when you book your flight to be sure that you will be able to bring your pet (some airlines have restrictions on how many pets can travel on a flight). In terms of conditioning your pet for air travel, make sure that your crate or carrying case is the right size (your pet should be able to stand, sit, and turn around comfortably). Familiarize your pet with its crate at home, and pad the crate with a favorite blanket. Be sure also to contact your accommodations to ensure that they are pet friendly and do not have any restrictions.

Tip #2  Visit the veterinarian before you travel.

See your vet to make sure that all your pet’s vaccinations are up to date and that your pet is in good physical condition for the trip. Traveling across state lines may require that you carry a health certificate that affirms your pet has been vaccinated against rabies and is free of disease. Plane travel usually requires a health certificate dated within 10 days of your departure. If you are traveling overseas or to a different country, begin these preparations well ahead of time, as some countries require your pet to be quarantined for a period of time upon entering the country. It’s also smart to have a list of veterinarians in the area you are traveling to. Look for those that offer 24-hour emergency care.

Tip #3 Secure your pet’s travel space.

Safety first! In the car, your pet should either be in a crate or a seat restraint. Just like people, animals become projectiles in the event of an accident, and that can be harmful to both you and your pet. Many harnesses are made to double as seat restraints. In addition, prepare the space where your pet will ride with a favorite bed or  blanket. In a crate for car or plane travel, ensure that the space is large enough for your pet, and line it with a familiar bed or blanket. Placing a piece of clothing that smells like you (a T-shirt you have worn to bed, for example) can help calm your pet if he or she becomes anxious.

Tip #4  Bring the necessities.

When traveling with your pet, it’s a good idea to bring food and water from home. Pets used to the food and water they normally eat and drink may not react well to a change. If you need to change the supply over the duration of the trip, begin by slowly adding new food or water to a larger amount of the regular food or water to allow for adaptation. If you’re traveling with a cat, be sure to bring along the litter it’s used to using. Also be sure to bring a petfirst-aidkit for any mishaps that may occur. Bring your pet’s papers (registration, vaccination records, health certificate, a photo, etc.), and if your pet is not microchipped, consider having it done. Your pet should wear an ID tag that includes not only his or her name but also yours, as well as your address and home and cell-phone numbers. Don’t forget to pack plastic bags for waste, a leash (don’t keep this in the crate to avoid your pet getting tangled in it), and your pets favorite toys and treats.

Tip #5 Tire your pet out before you head off.

A tired pet is a good traveler! If you wake up and head out on your trip, you’re likely to have a restless ball of energy as a traveling companion—and sooner rather than later! If you need to, wake up early to leave time to exercise your pet before you set out. Go for a long walk, or better yet, a run. You’ll ensure smooth sailing, driving, or flying with a tired, well-exercised pet.

For more great information about traveling with your pet, visit the American Veterinary Medical Association website here.

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