By John Lamb
So youre thinking about taking your
pet along on your next vacation. Well, whether you plan to fly or drive, theres
plenty to consider before making the trip.
First and foremost, of course, is whether
your pet has the temperament and physical well-being to be a satisfying traveling
companion. Theres nothing more disconcerting than facing a medical emergency with
your pet away from home and your regular veterinarian. Remember, this is a critical
decision to make and one that should be free of emotion from, say, the kids begging you to
let the family dog go along. Face it some animals just dont travel well.
the case of flying, airlines require that you obtain a current health
certificate for your dog or cat within 10 days of your departure. While the Air Transport
Association reports that 99 percent of the half-million dogs and cats that fly the
friendly skies yearly do so problem-free, that still leaves about 5,000 of our furry loved
ones that will suffer some health problems as a result.
For plane travel, experts suggest you
follow these basic guidelines:
Above all else, your
primary goal is to make sure your pet will not be exposed to extreme weather conditions.
As a rule, pets should stay home if you cant book direct flights (layovers of more
than an hour can leave your pet exposed to the elements on the airport tarmac) and if
temperatures are expected to fall below 45 degrees or rise above 80 degrees. Some small
pets can be carried on board most major airlines (sometimes for a considerable additional
charge and a limit of one pet per cabin.....by the way, NEVER let your pet out in flight.
And in the case of Southwest Airlines, forget about it -- the company maintains a no-pets
policy). Otherwise, its the cargo hold for larger pets. Kennels -- which your pet
SHOULD get used to before traveling -- must be of legal size and construction, and
reservations usually are necessary. Pets may also be shipped, alone, by air freight, but
typically at an astronomical cost. If possible, ask to observe the loading of your pet
onto the plane. Also, notify a member of the flight crew that your pet is in the cargo
Think long and hard
about taking your pet to a country with a lengthy required quarantine period. And be aware
of immunization requirements.
sedating your pet prior to travel. Most experts agree that a doped-up pet might not be
able to react properly to any of the myriad movements it will go through in transit,
injuring itself in the process. And the jurys still out on how these medications
affect animals at high altitudes. Go cold turkey, but make sure your pet has secured bowls
of food and ice -- not water -- in its kennel. And maybe a familiar toy or piece of
bedding to calm the nerves.
If you discover your
pet has taken ill during flight, contact a veterinarian at once and make sure an airline
representative is alerted so he or she can observe the problem. Most of the time, airlines
take a very imperialistic approach to pet problems, treating them in the same vein as
damaged luggage with a maximum liability of $1,250. Some pet owners, however, have sued
successfully to gain more compensation. But no one wants this kind of tragedy to occur. So
do your homework!!
with your pets requires similar but slightly more down-to-earth
Your pet MUST have
proper identification in case it gets separated from you. Include the number of a friend
or relative who would be willing to take messages for you OR a number where you will be
Daily exercise is
critical! For dogs, at least a half hour of out-of-car experience is recommended,
preferably in a vibrant game of fetch or a jog. Short strolls twice daily for bathroom
breaks. Cats, known to bolt from cars more easily than dogs, should be held in check with
a harness and leash until they have settled into your trek. But be verrry careful if you
decide to unleash your feline. Some experts recommend unleashing them, if necessary,
BEFORE a meal to boost the odds of a quick return. And yes, youll need to pack a
litter box for Fifi and disposable bags for Fido.
Repeat this like a
mantra: I will NOT leave my pet in a closed-up car on a hot day. Your car becomes a
solar-paneled oven, leading very easily to heat prostration for your pet, a condition that
can result in serious brain damage and, yes, death. Just say no.
Again, take favorite
items from home along on the trip -- toys, a sleeping basket, bedding -- whatever works to
make your pet more comfortable.
If your pet is prone
to motion sickness, some veterinarians recommend encouraging your pet to lie on the floor
of the car to prevent such an inconvenience. Others suggest adding an anti-stress
supplement (a complete B-complex tablet) to your pets diet a week before leaving.
Also be aware that your dogs cute habit of riding with its head out the window can
lead to some eye irritation. So pack an extra bottle of saline solution just in
And finally, some
advice that should go without saying -- treat the pet-friendly motels and campgrounds
where youll be staying with as much respect as your own home. These places
dont HAVE to serve pet owners, so always be prepared to clean up after your pets,
NEVER leave a dog alone in a motel room for a long period of time (barking and chewing
wont endear you to the manager), and bring only spayed or neutered pets along to
avoid territory marking (ugh!) and meandering.
Now, hit the road!! And have fun!!
copyright 2008 Unleashed!
ASPCA Pet Travel Page