Holiday travel tips for you and your furry friend

Posted on December 21, 2011 under Pet Health & Safety

A dog with pet insurance sits in a packed car.

By: Dr. Fiona Caldwell
Vet at Idaho Veterinary Hospital
For Pets Best Insurance

The holidays are a time for getting together with family and friends. This often includes Fido or fluffy, but travelling can be a little tricky with a furry family member. It’s always a good idea to research and invest in pet insurance well before you take off travelling with your pet. But there are some things to consider before toting your pet wherever you go, and some consideration to help make travelling less stressful for your pet and you.

When driving in the car, always ensure your pet is in a carrier that is large enough for them to stand and turn around. Never let your animals free in the car without restraint. A well behaved animal might tolerate a canine seatbelt, which is like a harness that attaches to the car’s seatbelt. A grate designed for your car, blocking off the hatchback might also be useful for larger dogs. Never leave your pet unattended in the back of a pick-up bed; always secure a carrier or use a harness that is specifically designed for pickups. This is important because just a leash tie in a pick-up can be a death sentence if your dog is able to jump or fall out, but is still attached by the collar. Because accidents can happed with even the most cautious of pet owners, it’s always a good idea to have dog insurance as a backup.

And don’t forget cats! Car travelling is possible with cats. I highly recommend placing kitty in a carrier over allowing your cat to roam free in the car. Cats can be quite vocal when riding, but will usually quiet down over time. Feline calming pheromones, such as Feliway sprays are very helpful to calm a stressed kitty. Prior to your trip, allowing your cat to acclimate to the carrier is a good idea too. Put her food and water and toys in it, and allow her to come and go and get used to the carrier

I only ever recommend sedatives for car travel if the pet is likely to hurt themselves, you or your property. The biggest reason for this is that if your pet has a reaction to a sedative while you are on the road, your access to veterinary care will be undoubtedly limited and while driving, you many not notice if there is even a problem. If your veterinarian agrees that your pet would benefit from a mild sedative or anti-anxiety medication such as xanax, discuss with your vet trying the medication prior to your trip. By “experimenting” before you go, you can see how your pet reacts, what doses work for them, and you’ll have access to veterinary care should your pet have a reaction to it. Many pet health insurance companies, like Pets Best Insurance will even help cover a portion of medications such as these.

Pets can get motion sickness, just like people. Especially puppies, which will not uncommonly vomit during car rides. Most will out grow this, but you can try withholding a meal right before to help ease nausea (be cautious withholding meals in small breed young puppies, who need access to food often to prevent low blood sugar). Most anti-nausea medications such as Dramamine and Benadryl are safe to use in dogs, but always talk to your veterinarian regarding dosing and to ensure the dose is correct and your pet is a good candidate for this medication prior to administering any drug to your pet.

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When travelling across country borders, such as Mexico and Canada by car, a veterinarian-signed official health certificate current within 10 days is required. This health certificate ensures your pet isn’t carrying any communicable diseases, is up to date on rabies vaccines and is healthy enough to be travelling. An official veterinarian signed health certificate is required for interstate travel as well.

Travelling by plane can be a little more stressful for you and your pet, but with some planning and foresight, this can go smoothly as well. It is very important to communicate with your airline carrier for details and specifics, since every airline company is different. The requirements will vary depending on whether your pet is small enough to fly with you in the cabin, or will be flying cargo.

All airlines will require a health certificate; this usually has to be current from your veterinarian within 10 days, but this timing can vary. All will require a carrier that your pet can stand and turn around in. When flying cargo, most will require that the carrier frame be bolted shut, not shut with the easy access plastic clips. Access to food and water is required as well. Many airlines won’t fly pets in extremely cold winter temperatures, so plan your flight at a time of day which will be warmer. Dog and cat insurance companies like Pets Best Insurance accept claims from any licensed vet, anywhere. So if you’re traveling in another state or country, you can visit any vet of your choice.

Most airlines will NOT allow your pet to be sedated for the trip, especially when flying cargo. The reason for this is that sedatives can compromise the pet’s ability to thermoregulate, and their ability to right themselves if they fall over.

Allow PLENTY of time if you are travelling to a foreign country or to Hawaii. Occasionally paperwork, permits and testing can take MONTHS. Do not expect to be able to get your pet into a foreign country without some significant preparation in advance. You can contact the state veterinarian, usually through the USDA for the regulations for the particular country you are travelling to. Your regular veterinarian should have access to those phone numbers and might be able to assist you.

The holidays are a joyous time and excluding those furry family members who give us the most unconditional love and kisses can be disheartening. It is easy to include your pets with a little planning, and have the whole family together for the holidays. Have a safe and wonderful holiday season!

For more pet health information or to learn more about pet insurance, visit Pets Best Insurance.