By Sophia Yin, DVM, MS May 30, 2009
Memorial Day Weekend has passed signaling summer is right around the corner. For many, it's time to start planning ahead for major vacations. Whether it's an extended road trip or a visit to the home of relatives some of the 77 million dog owners and 88 million cat owners will want to take their pets. Here are some tips to make traveling with your pet safe and enjoyable.
Tags and microchip: Your pets should wear a sturdy collar or harness with ID tags containing your pet's name and your cell phone number or some other number where you can be reached while traveling. Consider also getting your pet microchipped.
Photos: Bring a set of recent photos of your pet. You can tape them to their crate.
Health and Medical Needs
Get a health check or health certificate. Pets going on an extended trip should have a health check by their veterinarian beforehand. Those traveling on planes will need a health certificate within 10 days of traveling.
Bring your pets regular food and bring water in a bottle. Be sure to place the food in an airtight container. If you keep it in its regular bag, your dog or cat is sure to raid it at some point.
Remember to offer your pet water. You can use a bowl that attaches to the pet's crate and won't be knocked over. Or you can get a spill-proof bowl and leave it out. If you're going to take extended walks or hikes, bring along portable bowls.
If the weather is hot use a garden sprayer as a water mister. Dogs and cats don't tolerate hot weather as well as humans because their primary method for dissipating heat is by panting. If you're spending much time outdoors with them consider bringing a garden sprayer, filled with water so that you can mist the pets when needed.
Consider flea and heartworm prevention if you're traveling to locations with fleas or heartworm. To look for heartworm incidence by location, go to http://www.heartwormsociety.org/article_43.html, where you can download incidence maps.
When Riding in a Car
Your dog should wear a seatbelt, ride in a crate or otherwise be secured in the back seat.
Cats should ride in a cat carrier. For safety purposes, you may elect to have cats wear a harness and leash even when in their crate so that you have a way to handle them if they suddenly bolt when you open their door.
Crates and carriers serve a dual purpose of acting like your pet's palace and safe place when you visit new homes, hotels, and other unfamiliar places. Pets should first be trained to love their crates. You can place all of their meals in their crate and let them walk in and out anytime they want until they learn to associate the crate with good things. (See handout Training Cats and Dogs to Love Their Crates).
Pets can also be trained to love car rides by first letting them sit in the car while getting treats, and then taking them on short rides where they end up in places they like. (See handout Training Cats and Dogs to Enjoy Car Rides).
Make sure to bring things that help your pet feel comfortable, secure and relaxed—toys, bones to chew on, and food puzzles to help them pass the time.
For cats, remember to bring a litter box. You can place a box with litter in a larger covered plastic storage box so the litter doesn't spill or stink the car up. Then open the box when you want to give your cat the opportunity to potty.