Tips for Traveling with Your Pets

a girl looking at a map with her cat

Tips for Traveling with Your Pets

You know what they say, “getting there is half the battle.” Bringing your pet along certainly makes for a more pleasurable trip, but long distance travel can be stressful for both you and and four-legged friend. With a bit of planning, a journey with you pet can be a safe and exciting adventure.

First things first, make sure your pet is microchipped and has on a collar and tag with your name, phone number and address. You may also consider including a temporary travel tag with your cell phone and destination phone number as well.

Below are some tips to help make your trip smooth and stress-free.

Traveling by auto:

Prep your pet for a long trip. Get your pet geared up by taking him on a series of short drives first, gradually lengthening time spent in the car. If you’re traveling across state lines, bring along your pet’s rabies vaccination record. While this generally isn’t a problem, some states require this proof at certain interstate crossings.

Keep your pets safe and secure in a well-ventilated crate or carrier.The crate should be large enough for your pet to stand, sit, lie down and turn around in. Secure your pet’s crate so it will not slide or shift in the event of an abrupt stop. If you decide to forgo the crate, don’t allow your pet to ride with his head outside the window, and always keep him in the back seat in a harness attached to a seat buckle.

Prep a pet-friendly travel kit. Bring food, a bowl, leash, a waste scoop, plastic bags, grooming supplies, medication and first-aid, and any travel documents. Pack a favorite toy or pillow to give your pet a sense of familiarity. Be sure to pack plenty of water, and avoid feeding your pet in a moving vehicle. Your pet’s travel-feeding schedule should start with a light meal three to four hours prior to departure, and always opt for bottled water. Drinking water from an area he or she isn’t used to could result in stomach discomfort.

Never leave your animal alone in a parked vehicle. On a hot day, even with the windows open, a parked automobile can become a furnace in no time, and heatstroke can develop. In cold weather, a car can act as a refrigerator, holding in the cold and causing the animal to freeze to death.

Traveling by air:

Book a direct flight whenever possible. This will decrease the chances that your pet is left on the tarmac during extreme weather conditions or mishandled by baggage personnel during a layover.

Make an appointment with your pet’s veterinarian for a checkup. Prior to your trip, make sure your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date and obtain a health certificate from your veterinarian dated within 10 days of your departure. Tranquilizing your pet is generally not recommended as it could hamper his or her breathing, so use this time to check with your veterinarian for ways to relax your pet if you suspect he or she may become afraid, anxious or uncomfortable mid-flight. For travel outside of the continental United States, additional planning and health care requirements may be necessary. Contact the foreign office of the country you are traveling to for more information.

Purchase a USDA-approved shipping crate. The crate should be large enough for your pet to stand, sit and turn around in comfortably, and lined with some type of bedding—shredded paper or towels—to absorb accidents. Prior to your trip, tape a small pouch of dried food outside the crate so airline personnel will be able to feed your pet in case he or she gets hungry during a layover. The night before you leave, freeze a small dish or tray of water for your pet. This way, it can’t spill during loading and will melt by the time he or she is thirsty. Make sure the crate door is securely closed, but not locked, so that airline personnel can open it in case of an emergency.

Make sure your pet’s crate has proper identification. Mark the crate with the words “Live Animal,” as well as with your name, cell phone and destination phone number, and a photo of your pet. Should your pet escape from the carrier, this could be a lifesaver. You should also carry a photograph of your pet.

Tell every airline employee you encounter—on the ground and in the air—that you are traveling with a pet in the cargo hold. This way, they’ll be ready if any additional considerations or attention is needed. If the plane is delayed, or if you have any concerns about the welfare of your pet, insist that airline personnel check the animal whenever feasible. In certain situations, removing the animal from the cargo hold and deplaning may be warranted.

International Travel:

Know Before You Go If your heart’s set on the perfect destination, it’s very important to make sure that your country of choice will allow your pet to accompany you. The United Kingdom has a strict quarantine policy for pets arriving from countries that do not fall under their Pet Travel Scheme (if you’re coming from the United States or Canada, you do). The Pet Travel Scheme requires that pets be microchipped, vaccinated, tested and certified – a process that takes up to six months. Guam and many islands in the Caribbean also quarantine pets, so it’s imperative to determine the country’s pet travel guidelines and then contact their individual consulate(s). The country consulates have all of the information that you will need and are generally very helpful. For more information on how to reach embassies and consulates, please visit the US Department of State.

Pet Passport Required Planning on traveling with your pet to Europe? If you’re headed to one of these countries in the European Union, you’ll need to have a passport for your dog, cat, or ferret. You can get a passport from your vet, given that your pet’s rabies vaccination is up to date. Your vet will also need to complete a health certificate and show proof that all vaccinations are up-to-date. This testing process must begin at least three months before you travel, so plan ahead.

The EU is currently the only place that mandates a pet passport. For more information, the European Commission website contains a comprehensive list of regulations and forms that you will need to be in compliance.

Other Pet Travel Documentation Most destinations will require an International Certificate of Pet Health or CFIA health certificate. You can get this from your vet or from the embassy of the country you’re going to visit. Here are some other things to keep in mind:

1. Find out whether or not your destination requires that your pet’s documentation be translated into the language of the country that you’re visiting.

2. Some countries, such as Ireland, have additional vaccination and testing requirements, such as tick or tapeworm treatments. Be sure to have this additional information with you if it’s required to avoid having your pet quarantined at the border.

3. You may need the original paperwork that came with your pet’s rabies vaccination.

4. Get a doctor’s letter detailing your need for your service or therapy animal. It’s often required in order to get access to places where animals are otherwise not allowed.

[ASPCA / Trips with Pets]

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