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Tips for Traveling with Your Four-Legged Friends

Veterinarian Reviewed by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM on October 10, 2018
Posted in General

A family vacation isn’t truly a family vacation if you don’t bring your fur-babies along for the ride! Some pets enjoy road-trips and other excursions, while others would prefer to never leave the comfort of their favorite chair or pet-bed.

If your pets enjoy travel, and if you’re going to a pet-friendly destination, sojourning with your furry friends is often exciting and fun for both you and your pet. Unfortunately, traveling with pets can occasionally be dangerous and difficult. Learning how to navigate traveling with your pets can help make the trip easier on you and on your furry friends.

Whether you’re traveling by car, plane, train or boat, there will likely be challenges that you’ll have to overcome when bringing your pet along for the ride. Preparing for the journey well in advance can mitigate any potential negative outcomes and ensure that you and your pet have a fun, relaxing time away from home.

Prepare your pet for the journey

For pets, travel is often stressful. Fortunately, there are number of steps you can take to prepare your pet for their journey:

  • Acclimate them to their carrier: You should teach your pet that their carrier is a safe, comfortable space. Place some of their favorite toys, lots of water and treats in the carrier, and encourage them to spend time in it before your journey.
  • Keep them well-hydrated: Dehydration can occur rapidly in certain circumstances, and it’s of the utmost importance that you keep your pet well-hydrated throughout your journey. Encourage them to drink before you leave and consistently provide them with clean water until you arrive at your destination.
  • Consider stress relief: Cats in particular are vulnerable to stress while traveling. Investing in a stress relief oil, either for cats or dogs, can help make your pet more relaxed and comfortable during your trip.

Getting ready for different modes of travel

A trip isn’t about the destination—it’s about the journey. This is particularly true when traveling with pets. The act of moving them from place to place can often be stressful and may cause the pet to harm themselves. Acclimating your pet and preparing for your mode of travel can go a long way toward making the trip more comfortable for your furry friend.

Here are a few tips for preparing for the most common travel methods you may use to transport your pet:

  • Car: The most common way that people travel with their pets is via car. For short distances, most dogs find car rides exciting and enjoyable. While traveling with your dog in the car, keep them in a well-ventilated carrier or strapped into a harness that attaches to the seatbelt. Cats should always be kept in a carrier while traveling by car. Take frequent stops to allow your pet to breathe some fresh air and stretch their legs.
  • Plane: Traveling with a pet via plane can be risky and isn’t really advisable unless it’s absolutely necessary. Due to cabin pressure changes, some cats and dog breeds may experience trouble breathing during the flight. Avoid placing your pet in a cargo hold at all costs; only fly with your pet if you’re able to keep them in a carrier that remains below your feet. This way, you can monitor your pet’s condition and attend to their needs.
  • Train: Many commuter train systems and long-distance train networks, including Amtrak, allow pets on some routes. Pets traveling via train should always be kept in a well-ventilated, hard-sided carrier. Ask the conductor when the train will be stopped for an extended period of time; if you have a long stop at a station, consider using this time to feed or exercise your pet.
  • Boat: Many ferry systems allow pets to remain onboard cars or in special crates on the vehicle deck during transit. Even though the vehicle deck is shaded and ventilated, you should never leave your pet inside your car unattended. Instead, place your pet in the provided kennels. Be sure that your pet has adequate water and ventilation and ask an attendant if it’s possible for you to check on your pet periodically during your crossing.

If you’re planning to take your pet along for your next vacation, preparing well in advance and choosing the right mode of travel can go a long way toward making your pet more comfortable and happy during the ride. Learning how to keep your pet safe, happy and hydrated on the road will allow you to enjoy more time with your four-legged friend.

Read also: Motion Sickness Keeps Your Cat from Being a Road Trip Companion

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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