How to travel safely with your pet

Originally published in the Rolesville Buzz
June 2013

Traveling with pets is becoming more and more popular. Today’s dogs, and even some cats, are vacationing with their families thanks to friendlier airlines, safety innovations, pet friendly hotels, resorts and campsites, and restaurants with outdoor dining privileges.

Here are a few tips to aid in a more pleasant travel experience with our furry family members.

Traveling by plane in most cases is safe for your pet if your vet gives the OK. Animals accustomed to traveling in a car, going out on walks, and who are socialized tend to travel better.

Traveling internationally or even crossing state lines in a plane requires a health certificate from your vet.

Additional ways to prepare include making sure vaccines (especially rabies) are up to date and obtaining an ID collar with a tag or even a microchip ID.

The trend is against sedating your pet unless significant risks for injury exist. Sedation can cause the pet to feel unstable and grow more fearful. Cats tend to fly pretty well because they are usually allowed in the cabin in a carrier placed under the seat.

Preparations for international travel with pets can be complex and may require extensive planning. Double check with the airlines and your destination’s consulate to make sure you have the most up-to-date information about the documentation you need to bring. Many documents for international travel require the signature of a certified USDA veterinarian, which adds a step to your preparations.

Pet travel companies, like, remove a lot of the guesswork. It’s very tedious to have to do the work yourself. You would have to start six months ahead of time.

Traveling by car is, of course, the easiest, but still requires a bit of planning for longer trips.

Your dog should always wear a specially designed dog seat belt or harness in front and back seats. This can prevent any accidents that he may cause you as well as guard against your dog suffering impact injuries if there is an accident.

Always ensure adequate ventilation in a car. Never let your dog put its head outside the window; this can lead to ear and eye injuries.

Provide cats a good carrier, a place to sleep, and a safe place for the litter box. Make sure they cannot escape if the doors or windows open.

Some innovative products make boating and sailing with your dog safer. There are dog life vests, which enable you to pull them up if they fall overboard. Dogs can also use puppy pads and artificial turf products for elimination. Your pet can get acclimated fairly easily, but you should work on that well ahead of vacation time.

For any travel, make sure your pet is well groomed (not itchy or dirty), and take along some comforts of home – bed, blanket, toys and litter box. Rather than buying new types of food, carry your pet’s familiar food from home when practical.

Carriers should be big enough for standing and turning around, with room for food and water. Place absorbent towels on the carrier floor in case of accidents. Have a pet first aid kit for emergencies.

Always be prepared, and have safe travels.