If you think planning a trip is stressful enough on its own, bringing your pet along may seem out of the question. This isn’t the case at all. Your pet can even add to the fun of your trip. For many of us, our pets are family members. You don’t have to leave them home just because they have a tail or paws.
Here are the things you need to know when taking your pet with you on a trip.
General Precautions About Traveling with Pets
- Does your pet feel the same as you? You want your iguana to travel to Vegas, but are you sure that they want to paint the town red as well? Animals may not be as sociable as we like to think. They are perfectly content within the four walls of a home and the lawn outside. Take them elsewhere, and they might feel stressed. Dogs often cower under a table, or refuse to eat in a strange place.
- Always ask the hotel (or wherever you are staying) in advance about their pet policies. A hotel might have a limited number of rooms for use by pet owners. Unless you specify that your pet is coming along, both of you might be in for a rude surprise.
- Get your pet dog or cat tagged with a microchip. It’s a tiny device that carries your name and contact information. If your pet is lost, a simple scan of the microchip will provide your name and address. The chip is inserted via an injection and is entirely painless.
- The airline or railway must be approved as a pet carrier service. It is not easy to handle live animals, and not all airlines transport them. It would be traumatic if your dog was, by mistake, flown to the wrong country. Be careful to mark the cargo as “Live Animal,” and verify its well-being as often as possible. Your pet must also be trained to spend a few hours in a carrier. Otherwise, the stress of being in the carrier could be traumatic.
- Carry all medical records of the pet. This includes vaccinations and inoculations. Your veterinarian may be required to certify the animal as fit for travel. Carry hard and soft copies of your pet’s medical records. Ensure that the animal is free of fleas and is in good spirits.
- Be sure to purchase travel insurance. Research travel insurance plans that are able to provide coverage for your pet. This way, you can have financial protection if things do not go as you expect.
- Carry enough pet food. Animals are not humans, and do not like their diet to change drastically. Even if you are sure that the brand of pet food you need will be available at the destination, you should still bring some extra just in case. If your travel plans are delayed, you’ll want to have plenty of food.
- When you arrive at your destination, do not simply take off and go sightseeing. You need to spend time with your pet and get them used to their new surroundings. Highly intelligent creatures such as dogs are particularly susceptible to emotional upheavals caused by travel.
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Driving with Pets
Most trips with pets happen by car. Dogs and cats often accompany their owners on road trips. Although taking your furry friends along in the car is fun, you do have to take some precautions.
- Keep them safe and secured. Dogs and cats should not be free to move about the vehicle as they please. Doing so could cause a distraction and accident. Plus, not being secured could lead to them sustaining an injury. Dogs should either be kept in pet carriers, or wear a harness at all times. Purchase an attachment for the dog’s harness that allows it to clip into a seatbelt if possible. This will help keep the dog safe in case of a sudden maneuver or accident. Cats should be kept in pet carriers at all times.
- Keep humans in the front, and animals in the rear. To avoid distractions, keeping animals in the rear seats is usually the best division of space. If you are required to keep your animal in the front passenger’s seat, be sure that you are able to disable the passenger airbag. An airbag could cause injury or death to an animal if it deploys.
- Keep heads and paws inside the vehicle. Though we’re all familiar with the image of a dog hanging its head out of a car window, this practice is not safe. At the very least, the dog could get debris in their eye. At worst, they could climb or fall out of the vehicle while it’s moving.
- Make frequent stops. Your pet can not be able to tell you when they need to get a drink or go to the bathroom, so you need to make regular pitstops to give them the opportunity. Please keep all pets on a leash whenever outside the vehicle.
- Never leave pets in parked cars. Even on a relatively cool day, parked cars can become dangerously hot inside in a short period of time, leading to serious medical issues, or even the death of your pet.
- Keep emergency veterinarian contact information handy. If your pet falls seriously ill while traveling, you will want to be able to take quick action. Keep the phone number and addresses of several emergency animal clinics on your route and near your destination readily available.
Flying with Pets
Although flying with pets has become more common, it is certainly not a risk-free activity. Canines with short noses, such as pugs, have trouble breathing on a plane. Consider transporting pets by plane only when driving is simply out of the question. Tips to keep in mind when flying with pets include:
- Assess their health before flying. If in doubt, consult your vet. Much will depend on the animal’s physiology and mental state. It’s unlikely that a nervous dog will be able to cope with a 10-hour flight. On the other hand, a relaxed animal may be able to fly to the other side of the world with no ill effects. Understand what you can reasonably expect your pet to endure, and do not exceed it.
- Carry your pet in the cabin. This is always the best option, but not all airlines allow it. Try to choose an airline that does permit it if possible. Of course, this will cost extra, but it’s worth the peace of mind of knowing your pet is with you, rather than miserable in the cargo hold.
- Be ready to compromise. If you are allowed to travel with your pet in the cabin, be prepared to move seats. Some people are allergic to dogs and cats, and others simply do not like them. Try to handle objections and requests as politely as possible, and be gracious if you are asked to move seats. Remember, as much as you love your pet, the rest of the world may not feel the same way.
- Book nonstop, direct flights whenever possible, and try to be on the same flight as your pet. Request that the airline allow you to watch your pet being loaded. Never put dogs with short noses – such as pugs and bulldogs – in a plane’s cargo hold, as they may not be able to breathe. If applicable, ask your vet if there are any antianxiety medications you can give to your pet before the flight.
Reward Your Pet…
At the end of the trip, reward your pet with their favorite toy. Some extra attention can assure them that everything is alright. The hustle and bustle of travel is normal for humans, but can leave pets feeling confused.
Travel with pets is becoming more ordinary by the day. With the right planning and proper travel insurance, you can enjoy a safe and stress-free trip for yourself and your best friend.
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