By Catherine Adcock
What about Fluffy?
You need to make an informed decision before taking your pet on vacation. Doing otherwise might put your pet in danger—and could turn your trip into something out of a National Lampoon
movie... or worse.
First, you’ll want consider you furry friend’s health. It’s best to make an appointment with your veterinarian a few weeks—or months, in the case of air travel—before the trip begins. “They need
to be in good overall health, not sick in any way—or you wouldn’t want to travel,” says Dr. Steve Ruffner of Golden Triangle Animal Hospital in Southlake.
Physical health includes mental health, too—any trip takes the pet out of its familiar environment and that means stress.
“We base recommendations regarding travel on the pet’s temperament as well as what works best for the owners of the pet,” says Dr. Susan Boeving at Southlake Animal Crossing veterinary hospital. For example, some animals don’t enjoy traveling. If you have the option, that pet may do better staying home with a pet sitter or finding a boarding facility where the pet is comfortable staying.”
If you must take your anxiety-prone pet with you, there are options for treating the nervousness. “If your pet is very anxious with travel, speak with your veterinarian,” says Dr. Boeving. “Anxiety is a medical problem. Behavior modification, training and medication are some options that can help anxiety, but the wrong actions could make the behaviors much worse.”
Sedation is also an option. “If the dog is super anxious and wouldn’t settle down, I would prescribe a light sedative,” says Dr. Ruffner. Though sedatives can have dangerous side effects, so let your vet make that decision, and don’t sedate Fido just because you’re anxious about the trip—that’s what airport bars are for.
Your vet will consider the type of transportation you’ll be using. If you’re driving to your destination, make sure you know how your pet responds to car travel. Air travel comes with its own rules and restrictions, so definitely make sure you plan far in advance. You’ll want to follow the airline’s guidelines to a tee.
On your way
Before you travel with your feline or canine pal, make sure to schedule a follow up with the vet closer to your departure date to get a certificate of health—which are only good for 10 days—and
documentation that the pet is up to date on shots. You may not need it, but you should have it anyway.
“Medically, be sure your pet is current on all necessary vaccines, deworming or health certificate if required,” says Dr. Boeving. Other things you’ll find out from your vet: Anything you might need to know about your destination, such as local pests that could be a problem for Fluffy or regional outbreaks of diseases that might put her in danger.
On the day of travel, don’t feed your pet for six hours before the trip and when traveling, keep the diet consistent to prevent any tummy issues. “The stress of travel has the potential to cause some nexpected issues with your pet...such as car sickness, vomiting, diarrhea,” says Dr. Boeving.
In planning your trip, check ahead with your destination about bringing non-human family members along. “Certainly more and more hotels are catering to those travelers who would like to bring their pets along,” says Karen Dawson, director at Southlake Travel Specialists. “There is a wonderful web site called OfficialPetHotels.com that helps you search for pet-friendly hotels.”
During your trip, remember that the most common injury seen from pets during travel involves the pet getting out and escaping or reacting in an unexpected way. “Behaviorally, some pets react
differently on trips than in their normal home environment. They may act differently around other people and animals, which can lead to fearful or aggressive reactions that are not normal for that animal. Or the pet may escape and become lost in an unknown environment. Prevention is the best way to minimize these complications,” says Dr. Boeving. If you’re pet isn’t already micro chipped, now might be a good time to do that. And make sure you have a current ID tag on your pet as well.
“We can’t expect our animals to be perfect or anticipate what we need from them. Even the best pet in the world with the best training has the potential to act differently during travel,” she says. “
“[You can] try to prevent any potential dangerous situations. Don’t allow your pet to interact with other animals or people until you are confident they are relaxed enough to handle it. Keep your pet confined either on a leash or in a crate so an escape does not happen.
Leaving them behind
You have several options to choose from should you decide to not bring Fluffy along with you. This, again, is something to discuss with your vet, who will have recommendations. One option is to find a pet sitter.
This will allow your four-legged friend to remain in his or her familiar environment, stick to the same diet and most importantly, continue with the normal day-to-day routine—which probably
involves sleeping on his or her favorite spot on the couch. However, your pet might get lonely, and you run the risk of the sitter only being able to visit once a day.
If you’re hiring a pet sitter, be sure you can trust the company and that you’re comfortable with the frequency of visitation. Dave Shackelford, owner of Elite Suites Pet Resort in Southlake suggests you ask yourself, “Can you really trust the person who’s coming in?
Find out if they are bonded...and so on.”
Deciding to leave your pet at a boarding facility also requires a little digging. Make sure to visit the facility first, says Shackelford, and take a thorough tour, noting how clean and well maintained it is. Find out if they have adequate staffing on weekends.
And another thing to consider, says Shackelford, is whether the dogs have access to the outdoors. “Dogs are trained to not go in the house, so they’ll hold it longer.” Make sure to tell the person or facility watching your pet all of the issues your pet has had, even if they’ve been treated and corrected, says Shackelford, so the staff knows how to best take care of your pet.Pet Travel Tips
DRIVING MS. FLUFFY:
SEATBELTS AND SAFETY:
Dr. Boeving recommends getting a restraining device for your pet while in the car. “I think that if the owner is able to crate, use a seatbelt harness, that would be ideal. We are going to minimize injury by doing that.” These devices keep the pet safe in the case of an accident, though you should always keep the pet in the back seat to prevent injury from airbags. They also prevent the pet from distracting the driver and keep the pet secure when people are exiting and entering the vehicle. “That way if someone does open a door, they’re not going to get out,” says Boeving. “[If you’re not using a crate or seatbelt], make sure the leash is on the pet before someone opens
If your pet is one of those dogs that must have his head out the car window, Dr. Boeving cautions you to make sure the pet is secure. “Make sure there’s no chance the window is going to go up and get them caught, that they have a leash attached and there’s someone’s there who if they do get a little overzealous can pull them back in.
Make sure you exercise your pet and give it a chance to use the bathroom before you leave. But don’t try to iron man the drive all the way to your destination—your pet will need more frequent potty breaks than you. During pit stops, give your pet some room to walk and exercise to help release any pent up energy. Dr. Ruffner warns to make sure the pet is leashed at all times. “Just to make sure that they bring a leash, so that when they stop, they have adequate control of the pet.” Make sure the pet has enough water to drink, but not enough to get full on, and don’t feed the pet until you reach your destination. “The other issue in cars is some of them can get car sick,” warns Dr. Ruffner.
FLYING WITH FIDO:
FOLLOW THE RULES:
If you want to take your pet with you on your plane trip, first consult with your vet to see if your pet is well enough to travel. Then call the airline to find out what kind of rules and conditions they have. Traveling by plane with your pet requires some planning and advance preparation, so start early.
RESERVE YOUR PET’S SPACE:
Even if your pet is small enough to be carried on, you’ll still need to speak with the airline before going on your trip. “Most airlines only allow one pet per cabin— inside the plane, under your seat” says Dawson. And those carry-on spots must be reserved. So call ahead.
GET A HEALTH CERTIFICATE:
Part of your pre-flight vet check up should also be to get a health certificate— even if the airline doesn’t require it. “It’s simply a document by the vet which says that it’s safe for the pet to travel and won’t infect any other pets,” says Dr. Ruffner. “Even if you were to call an airline, [and they said that you didn’t need it, the ultimate person who’s going to make that decision is the gate agent, so I tell clients just to be safe, to have a health certificate before they get on the plane.” Health certificates are good for 10 days, so it’s recommended to go in to get one the day before you depart.
CARRY ON CONUNDRUM:
If you’re going to carry your pet on the plane consider leashing your pet inside the carrier while going through security. “If you take a pet on a plane, you will have to take them out of their pet carrier, and hand carry them through security—that can be challenging,” says Dawson, who suggests that you might want to fly during times that are less busy, such as during the middle of the week.
In the case that your pet must be checked into the baggage area, you’ll want to book far ahead in advance, and check the average temperature of the day you’ll be travelling. “If the pet has to go below into the cargo area, the temperature cannot be above 85 degrees on both ends, where you are departing from, and the city you arrive in, or below 45 degrees,” says Dawson. Early and late
flights in the summer and flights in the middle of the day during winter will be your best bet.
GET THERE EARLY:
Most airlines recommend you arrive two hours prior to your trip if you’re bringing pets, though they won’t be able to check the pets more than four hours before the trip. Be sure to exercise your fur baby, and give them the time to go to the bathroom before they get ready to travel.