Traveling With Your Pets
Michael W. Stephan, D.V.M.
Juno Beach Animal Hospital
When traveling with your pets, either for vacation, evacuation for natural disasters, or relocation, there are some preparations you can make in advance to make your trip easier and less stressful for both you and your pet. Evacuation is often done on very short notice and planning ahead will make things go much more smoothly if you have to leave in a hurry.
First, consider your pets personality. Have they traveled with you before? Are they relaxed in the car, or do they get excited or experience car sickness? If the later, you may want to consider having some medication or sedatives on hand for them. If they have never been in the car with you before, a short ride to see how they respond might be a good idea.
Second, consider your destination. Are you headed for a hotel or resort? Many resorts recognize the close bond between people and their pets and are starting to make rooms available for dogs and cats. Check and be sure that your destination is expecting your pet, and that the accommodations will be adequate for them. The space requirements for a Great Dane are very different from those for a toy poodle. Is there an exercise yard for them? Are there kennels on the premises where you can keep them if you are going to be gone all day where you cant take your pet with you?
If you are heading off to visit family or friends, how do they feel about pets? Will they welcome them into their homes? If they have pets of their own, are they compatible with your pets? Some dogs are fine with cats, but may not tolerate other dogs. If things don't work out is there a reliable kennel nearby where your pet can stay?
Third, consider the duration of your trip. Be sure that you pack enough food for the whole trip, plus a couple of extra days. This is especially important if your pet is on a prescription food which may be hard to find along the way. Some animals are sensitive to changes in water and it is a good idea to bottle a few gallons of the water they are accustomed to from home and take it with you. Do you need medication for your pet? Be sure that you have enough for your whole trip, plus a few extra days. Many prescriptions can not legally be filled with out an examination of your pet, so this may entail an office visit to a veterinary clinic not familiar with your pets medical history or problems. Be sure to include medications such as heartworm prevention or flea protection when planning the trip.
Finally, consider the route you will be taking. How many days will you be traveling? How many hours per day? Keep in mind that birds and reptiles are very sensitive to changes in temperature or drafts. They need to be in secure cages at all times while traveling. Many pets are lost every year at rest stops, restaurants, and gas stations where vacationers make a quick stop and a loose dog or cat escapes from the car. In a strange location, your pet may run from you and not find their way back. Small dogs and cats should be securely kenneled before opening the doors to the car. Larger dogs should have a leash on them with someone holding onto the other end of it. For added security, have your pets microchipped. This small ID chip is injected under the skin between your pets shoulders and remains there for its lifetime. Microchips are good nationwide and can help someone trace your pet back to you no matter where they are lost.