Traveling with Pets


Having your dog along on your driving vacation can be a delightful experience or a disaster. The outcome depends on how well you plan your trip. Considering that many families have multi-pet households, we will address several issues in this article.

Other Types of Pets

Taking pet birds and small mammals, such as rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs along for a ride is asking for trouble. In summer they quickly succumb to heat exhaustion, in winter to cold drafts. Unless you are in a deluxe motorhome, leave these pets at home in the hands of a caring pet sitter. Most dogs and some cats, however, learn to enjoy traveling.

Age is An Important Issue

Pets under six months old are too young to be much fun on a trip longer than a weekend. Geriatric cats and dogs may also find travel far too stressful. Regardless of your petšs age, prepare to plan your activities around the needs of your pet. In most cases, someone will have to be excluded from visiting a restaurant, museum, theme park, or other special place because dogs and cats cannot be left alone in the car for extended periods of time. (See the articles on eHeat Exhaustione in the Canine Health Book.) This can be a major hassle, and someone is always bound to feel left out, so think long and hard before embarking on a trip with pets in tow.

Crates for Safety

Purchase a sturdy metal or plasticcarrying kennel or crate for cats and small-to-medium sized dogs well before you start your trip. Encourage the animal to eat, sleep, and play in the kennel on a daily basis.

For cats, put a towel or blanket sprinkled with catnip inside as added enticement. For dogs, put their favorite blanket inside and reward them with a treat every time they go inside the kennel. (You can even feed them their meals in the crate.)

Never force your pet into a kennel or lock him up for extended periods of time in the beginning or they will learn to associate the confinement with punishment. Once your pet is comfortable with the kennel, start taking him for short car rides. Remember to never leave him unattended in the vehicle during periods of extremely hot or cold weather.

Containment of Large Dogs Large dogs should be trained to lie quietly on the back seat or in the very back of the vehicle behind a metal barrier. They should never be allowed to stick their heads out the window. The wind can dry tear ducts, and this may cause blindness.

Hotels and Motels

If you plan to stay in hotels and motels, making reservations in advance will save considerable time and trouble. Some establishments will not allow pets under any circumstances. Others will accommodate companion animals as long as they are kennel or crate trained. Some go so far as to even have special dog runs for them! Check your library or your local Canadian or American Motor Association office for information on pet-friendly hotels.

Be aware that pets left in hotel rooms can be destructive, so you may be asked to pay a damage deposit when you check-in. Some hotel/motel owners may also be concerned that housekeeping staff may open the door and find themselves facing a vicious animal or that the animal may accidentally escape. If you do have to leave your pet alone in the hotel room put him in his crate, or in the bathroom and hang the "Do not disturb" sign on the outside door.

Identification is Essential

When traveling, be certain your pet wears a collar and a tag with the area code and phone number of a friend or relative at home. Unless you have a cellular phone that you plan to take with you, having your home phone number on the ID tag makes no sense since you are not there to answer it!) Microchip ID and tattoos are also essential backup identification in the event that the pet loses his collar.

Vaccinations and Health Checks

Your pet should also be fully vaccinated against communicable disease, treated for heartworm, and have a complete medical checkup well in advance of your trip. Remember to take all health records with you. You may need to show them when traveling across the US/Canadian border. Without this documentation, you could be denied access into either country!

If you have concerns about your pet's general health and safety, your veterinarian can offer sound advice as to whether or not your pet is fit to travel. Pack a Doggie Bage And don't forget that your pet will need his own travel bag. Pack a first aid kit, enough food for the trip, food and water bowls, a filled water bottle, prescription medications, an extra collar and leash, grooming tools, toys, treats, and poop scoop bags for dogs. Cats will need the same equipment, but a harness is preferable over a collar. You'll also need to bring a litter tray and kitty litter.

If you are sensible, keep safety top-of-mind, and plan plenty of pit stops, you are certain to have a fun-filled, pet-friendly vacation!

Article submitted by: © Terri Perrin (Biography & Additional Information)