Traveling with pets safely takes planning, preparation

by Melissa Martin

You’re gearing up for the big summer vacation. You’ve already purchased the plane tickets, rented a house and scoped out all the attractions and restaurants you plan to visit. Now there’s only one more major decision to make: what to do about the dog and cat.

It’s no secret your four-legged friends love to follow you everywhere and you equally enjoy having them by your side. While leaving them home in the care of a pet-sitter may be hard on all of you, there’s also a chance that taking them with you could prove to be even more difficult if their well-being isn’t considered ahead of time.

“Is your pet going to be happier with you or at home? This is what you have to ask yourself,” said Dr. Kim Smith, veterinarian and owner of the Bath Veterinary Clinic. “Some pets really enjoy new places and new experiences, others not so much. If your pet tends towards being anxious away from home, you may want to consider a pet sitting or boarding service.”

Should you determine that taking your pet or pets with you is the way to go, Smith said there are a host of other factors to take into consideration.

First, for those traveling by plane, Smith recommended seeking out the airline requirements ahead of time. The rules vary by airlines, and there are different requirements for pets flying in the cargo versus ones who will be traveling in the cabin with you. In extreme temperatures, either hot or cold, the airline may also require a certificate of acclimation, she added.

Additionally, she noted, there are special forms that need to be obtained for emotional support animals – all of which require prior authorization. “In order for a veterinarian to sign health certificates, they need to be able to examine the animal at the same time, so you cannot always get what you need e-mailed to you when you are at the gate,” she said.

If your pets will need to be in a crate or carrier for the first time when traveling, Smith strongly suggested getting them used to it well ahead of time.

“Do not wait until you are loading up to leave,” she said. “If you think your pet maybe anxious in the car or on the plane, talk to your veterinarian. While sedatives are not used as much anymore, there are several anti-anxiety medications that can make the trip less stressful for both of you.”

Smith also advised pet owners to be aware of local health requirements once they reach their final destinations. Even if the airlines does not require proof of vaccines or a health certificate, the states or countries you are headed to may. 

“It is always a good idea to have proof of vaccines, especially rabies, on hand as well as contact information for your veterinarian’s office,” she said. “If your pet is microchipped, have that information on hand as well. Hopefully, you will not need any of it, but it can make a trip to an emergency room out of state a little less stressful.”

Smith also recommended pet owners be cognizant of where they will be vacationing to keep pets happy and safe.

“Camping, weekends at the lake and hiking are all fun vacations for your dog,” Smith said. “But if they do accompany you, they may need some additional parasite protection.” Likewise, she said, “Algal blooms on some lakes can be dangerous and poisonous snakes in some hiking and camping areas can cause serious illness.”

Additionally, be aware that some hotels prohibit it animals to be left alone in the room, which means pet owners should ensure their daytime activities are dog- and/or cat-friendly.

Finally, for pets who suffer from chronic health issues, owners are advised to make sure they bring along extra medication, should travel plans be delayed, and locate nearby veterinary care.

“This is especially true if your pet is under the care of a cardiologist, for example,” she said. “Making sure a specialist is available is essential should any urgent matters arise while you’re away.” ∞