Whether it’s the annual holiday pilgrimage or simply a road trip just for fun, pets often ride along with the rest of the family—some more happily than others.
When planning your trip, consider the needs of your four-legged family member, like car safety, packing meds, and of course, a special overnight bag.
Do a reality check
Ask yourself if it’s a good idea to bring your pal with you in the first place—not all pets like to travel. “Most dogs and cats like routine,” says Debbie Chew, DVM, owner and practicing veterinarian at East Greenbush Animal Hospital in East Greenbush, New York. “If you have a pet that gets upset in the car or unfamiliar surroundings, think twice about bringing him.” Also, short-nosed dog breeds, such as pugs and bulldogs, and some short-faced cat breeds, are prone to respiratory issues and can overheat easily, so they’re not the best travelers.
Pack your pet a bag
Bring your pet’s food and treats, food bowls; medications (including a few extra days’ worth in case you get delayed); leash and bed. “Pack anything that makes your pet feel more secure, such as his favorite squeaky toy or blanket,” says Chew. Don’t forget poop pickup bags, old sheets to throw over furniture and sticky rollers to remove cat and dog hair. Bring water to give your pet a drink every time you make a pit stop.
Make health a priority
Make sure you look at your pet’s records or see the vet before you leave to ensure that shots, heartworm and flea and tick medication are current. Keep your pet on a leash at all times—even the most well-mannered animals can be startled and act unpredictably away from home, cautions Chew. Keep a current photo of your pet on your smartphone in case you get separated, and be sure he wears a current ID tag that includes your mobile number (or get your pet microchipped).
Keep your pet safe in vehicles
“If you brake hard or are in an accident, your animal can become a missile and be injured, killed or hurt other passengers,” says Chew. A harness that hooks to the seat belt works for big dogs, or use a pet booster seat with a harness so smaller dogs can see out the windows. A crate strapped to the seat or cargo hooks is another option. Cats should be in carriers, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). Some states, such as New Jersey, actually have pet restraint laws.
Bring your pet’s records
Carry your pet’s rabies certificate—a collar tag is not sufficient evidence of vaccination because it doesn’t include a description of your pet. You’ll also need a health certificate if you’re taking your pet across state or international borders, according to the AVMA.
Plan ahead for the unexpected
In case of emergency while traveling, bring your vet’s phone number and add the American Animal Hospital Association locator to your bookmarks so you can find a local vet if need be. Add ASPCA Animal Poison Control (888-426-4435) to your contacts in case your pet eats something she shouldn’t. It’s also a good idea to have a pet first aid kid on hand that includes items such as tick tweezers, nail clippers, a towel and styptic powder to stop bleeding (available at pet stores).
Find pet-friendly accommodations
Call ahead to double-check policies for places that allow pets. There’s usually a small nightly fee and sometimes a pet deposit (refunded if your pet does no damage). Typically, you aren’t allowed to leave pets unattended in the room. Check petswelcome.com and bringfido.com for pet-friendly lodging. Don’t forget to ask family and friends, too, before bringing your pet for an overnight visit.
Take travel breaks
Stop every few hours for potty and stretch breaks, says the AVMA. And never, ever leave your pet in the car. When the outside temperature is a comfortable 75 degrees, the temperature inside a closed-up car can reach about 100 degrees in 10 minutes. On very cold days, hypothermia is a risk, too.
By Arricca SanSone