By Desireé R. Broach, DVM, MS, DACVB
Whether you are planning a move or traveling for leisure, taking your pet along with you can be stressful for both of you.
General Travel Tips:
- Visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) website, and research the requirements and regulations for the location(s) you will be traveling to and through.
- Work with your veterinarian to create a timeline for necessary vaccinations, completion of health certifications, and other area-specific requirements, such as rabies titer testing.
- Research the departure and arrival destination requirements regarding pet identification tags or registration, kennel markings, and ISO-compatible microchip information.
- If you will be staying in a hotel during your travel, leave a radio on at a soft volume, keep your time away from your hotel room short, and use your pet’s crate when away from your room to help avoid destructive behavior.
- If your pet has a history of anxiety, distress, or nausea when traveling, consult your veterinarian for recommendations to prepare your pet for the trip. These recommendations may include training exercises to acclimate your pet to a kennel or vehicle, tools to use to help your pet relax, or administration of medications to assist with anxiety or nausea.
NOTE: Sedation or tranquilizing a pet during travel is not advised (nor permitted for aircraft travel), as it can be fatal. Sedative or tranquilizer medications may cause pets to have breathing problems, blood pressure problems, or problems regulating their body temperature.
Flying with Pets:
- Research transportation options before booking travel and determine whether you will use a commercial carrier or a private charter company for transportation of your pet.
- On commercial carriers, pets may be categorized for travel as: checked baggage in-cabin with owner, checked baggage cargo on the flight, or manifest cargo on an unaccompanied flight.
- In-cabin transport is airline-dependent and is restricted to small pets that fit in a kennel under the cabin seat.
- Pets must be at least 8-10 weeks old for transport but may be required to be at least 15-16 weeks old for international travel.
- Brachycephalic, short-nosed, flat-faced, breeds may be prohibited from flying in cargo due to safety risks. Some examples are bulldogs, Boston terriers, boxers, and pugs, as well as Persian or Himalayan cats.
- To minimize stress on your pet, it is recommended to book a non-stop flight when possible.
- Carry on copies of your pet’s veterinary record and health certificates, along with a leash, food, and any medications in case luggage is delayed or lost.
- Check with the airline you are using to ensure your pet’s kennel meets specifications. Each airline may vary, but general specifications can be found on the International Air Transport Association (IATA) website.
- Kennels need to be well-ventilated and big enough for the pet to stand, sit, lie down, and turn around in. Food and water bowls must be secured to the carrier and absorbent material supplied for the pet to lay on. Soft-sided and wire-sided kennels are not permitted for cargo travel.
- Ensure your pet is acclimated to his travel kennel early.
Driving with Pets:
- Carry a copy of your pet’s recent health certificate which is required when you cross state lines.
- If your pet is not comfortable riding in a vehicle, work with your veterinarian to discuss ways to improve your pet’s comfort.
- Research the safety data and size restrictions for any restraint devices or kennels you plan to use. The safest method of restraint for car travel is a kennel on the floor in the back seat or secured in the rear cargo area. This prevents driver disruption and keeps the pet secure in the event of an accident. Front seat travel should be avoided due to driver distraction and possible airbag injury. The kennel should be well-ventilated and big enough for the pet to stand, sit, lie down, and turn around. Other restraint options include harnesses, car seats, and pet barriers.
- Never leave your pets unsupervised in a parked vehicle, regardless of the outside temperature, even when windows are left open.
- Pack a travel kit for your pet. Include medications, leash, fresh food and water, bowls, waste disposal bags or litter and litterbox, as well as cleaning supplies.
- Plan breaks for every few hours; offer water and the opportunity to go to the bathroom.
- Offer food in small amounts to help reduce possible upset stomach. This is pet dependent.