You’ve packed your suitcase and compiled an upbeat playlist, but is your pet travel ready? If you are planning a trip with your four-legged friend, you want to ensure that you and your pet are prepared. Our American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA)-accredited team at Gentle Touch Animal Hospital wants to help by providing do’s and don’ts to ensure your pet is also ready for the trip.

DO plan a veterinary visit before taking your pet on a trip

Any change in routine is stressful for your pet, including traveling. Your pet should have a thorough wellness exam before traveling to ensure they are healthy enough for the trip, and to ensure their vaccines and parasite prevention are up to date, to decrease their risk of contracting an illness on your trip.

If you are traveling across state lines, you should have a certificate of veterinary inspection signed by a licensed, accredited veterinarian less than 30 days before your departure. This involves a veterinary professional examining your pet to ensure they are not exhibiting illness signs. Many airlines require this examination less than 10 days before your departure, so check with your airline about the documentation you will need before flying. 

DON’T neglect identifying your pet

Your pet may get confused away from home, and become lost, so they must be properly identified to help ensure you will be reunited. Microchipping your pet is the best way to provide permanent pet identification, but you must keep your contact information updated in the microchip’s registry. Your pet should also wear a collar and tags with your current cell phone number, so you can be easily contacted if your pet is found. 

DO practice traveling with your pet before your trip

Pets need time to acclimate to new experiences, so take them on practice runs before setting out on a long journey. Get your pet used to spending time in their carrier, and gradually go for longer car rides to see how they will react. If they remain stressed, they may be happier staying at home. These practice runs will also allow you to determine if your pet gets car sick—something you need to know before setting out for a long trip. 

DON’T forget to restrain your pet

For everyone’s safety, your pet should be restrained in a moving vehicle. Cats and small dogs should be kept in a carrier secured to the seat or placed on the floor. The carrier should be large enough that your pet can stand, lie down, and turn around comfortably. Larger dogs should be secured in an appropriately fitted safety restraint harness. These methods ensure your pet can’t distract you while you’re driving, and protects them should an accident occur. 

DO plan for a veterinary emergency

Before leaving, research veterinarians and 24-hour emergency veterinary hospitals on your route and close to your destination. In addition, ensure you have contact information for Gentle Touch Animal Hospital and  Animal Poison Control in case you need advice.

DON’T assume your accommodations allow pets

Ensure your accommodation allows pets. If you discover on arrival that your pet isn’t allowed, you may have difficulty finding new accommodations. Considerations include:

  • Friends or family — Call ahead and ensure your pet is welcome in your host’s home. 
  • Hotel or motel — Choose pet-friendly accommodation and inquire about their pet policy when making your reservation. Some locations only allow pets under a certain weight. 
  • Park or campground — Check the website, or call ahead to ensure the location you choose is pet-friendly. These areas typically require pets leashed at all times, and that you clean up after your pet.

DO pack a bag for your pet

Your pet also needs supplies on your trip, and items you should pack include:

  • Food — Diet changes can cause your pet a gastrointestinal upset, so pack your pet’s food brand to avoid a problem
  • Water — Bring water and offer your pet frequent drinks.
  • Bowls — Bring food and water bowls, so you can serve your pet easily.
  • Collar and leash — You should have a collar and leash to restrain your pet, and an extra leash should you lose one.
  • Medications — Ensure you bring any medications your pet will need.
  • Bedding — Bring a resting place for your pet to help them feel comfortable in the new location.
  • Toys — Bring toys to keep your pet occupied during the trip.
  • Treats — Treats will help make travel a positive experience for your pet.
  • Pet first aid kit — Stock a well provisioned pet first aid kit in case of an emergency.
  • Current picture of your pet — Bring a current photo of your pet to post should they go missing.

DON’T allow your pet to travel in the plane’s cargo hold

The plane’s cargo hold is not a safe place for pets. During the flight, drastic temperature and pressure changes can occur, and cargo can shift, injuring your pet or damaging their crate. In addition, your pet may have to wait for extended periods in extreme weather conditions while waiting to be loaded on the plane. Ensure your pet can travel in the plane’s cabin before planning to fly with them. 

Traveling with your pet can be enjoyable if you make the proper preparations. If you are planning a trip with your pet, contact our Fear Free team at Gentle Touch Animal Hospital, so we can examine them and ensure they are ready to go.