By Dr. Ric
Crossroads Veterinary Hospital
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Sixty-five percent of Americans are loving, pet parents, and so it comes as no surprise that traveling with the family pet is on the rise. Cats may be the number one pet in the nation, but dogs are the travel companion of choice, by a whopping 78 percent.
Most pet travel is done by automobiles and RVs, but regardless of the transportation preference, successful pet travel is all about planning and preparation.
First of all, it is important to know if your pet enjoys traveling. Plan small, close to home excursions before venturing out for a long trip. Once it’s been established that Rover and Roxy enjoy the road as much as mom or dad, prepare the “30 day prior” checklist. At the top of the list should be a visit to see the veterinarian for a wellness check-up, making sure vaccinations are up to date.
Identification and pertinent information are next on the list, including a microchip, a collar with ID and owner’s cell phone number, current health records and a recent pet photo. A health certificate may be needed to cross state lines and for air travel. Make sure the vet’s phone number is included in case of emergencies.
Preparations should also incorporate a proper pet travel restraint. Appropriate restraint is crucial to travel safety. Pet barriers work well with SUVs; pet seat belts/harnesses and car seats are well suited for smaller dogs; secured travel kennels and crates in the backseat are also an excellent choice for safe and comfortable adventuring. Be sure your pet is familiar and at ease with the restraint prior to vacationing.
Positive traveling for humans and pets rope in the best of both worlds: new horizons with a few comforts from home. Keep the food routine (and brand) as normal as possible, and don’t be tempted to share those fast food fries with Rover. Avoid large meals just prior to hitting the road to avoid queasy stomachs. Personal bedding, blankets and toys are a must to transition the new experiences. Don’t forget grooming supplies and keep in mind, a groomed pet is easier to travel with — bathed, brushed and nails trimmed. A litter box for Roxy and elimination bags for Rover, along with items with scents from home help keep anxiety down and provide a calm, stress-free environment.
Remember to make plenty of pit stops, ideally every three hours or so, always using a leash. This is a great opportunity for stretching legs, giving outdoor attention, bathroom breaks and eating and drinking. It’s important to stay hydrated and a collapsible water dish works well for road travel. Upon leaving home or when in towns, load the water bowl with ice cubes rather than water to help keep spills and messes to a minimum. Be mindful of never leaving pets unattended in the car, even in moderate temperatures with cracked windows; heat builds quickly and debilitating heat stroke can occur.
As reservations are made and suitcases are packed, another nice item to have on hand is a pet first aid kit. They may be purchased at pet supply stores or easily assembled at home. A few items that should be included are gauze rolls and pads, adhesive tape, hydrogen peroxide, disposable gloves, rectal thermometer and petroleum jelly, tweezers, blunt-ended scissors, a pillowcase (cat confinement if treatment is needed), small flashlight, antibiotic ointment and hand towels. Adhere the veterinarian’s phone number to the inside lid of first aid kit.
A welled-planned trip takes time and effort, but the rewards for all members of the family, pet and human alike, make it worthwhile. Keeping a calm attitude and adjusting well to changes and surprises will assist the furry family members to relax and enjoy the ride. Beautiful weather is upon us, so head on out and start making vacation memories with all the members of your family.