Road trip? Tips for traveling with your pet

Road trip? Tips for traveling with your pet
by Damian Battersby and Shelley Skopit on Jul 22, 2014 • 9:25 am

With the vacation season upon us, many of us have taken the time to make preparations so our trips can go off without a hitch. However, while making these family plans, it’s easy to forget about the four-legged family members who may also be traveling with us. Just like with our kids, a little preparation beforehand can prevent a variety of problems that may be encountered while traveling with pets.

The first step is to make sure that he or she is comfortable with travel. Although most dogs enjoy a good car ride, some others — and many cats — may become anxious or uncomfortable when leaving the safety of their homes. If your pet falls into the latter category, then finding a reliable pet sitter or boarding kennel may be your best solution. Older pets or those with medical conditions may also be better off staying home, in a boarding facility, or even at your veterinarian’s office.


Always make sure when traveling with your furry friends that they have proper identification. Just as important is making sure that your contact information is up to date. Older, worn identification tags should be replaced with new, easy-to-read tags. Microchips are recommended as well. For pets with microchips, remember that this type of identification is only effective if it is registered with your current address and telephone number.

Air travel

If you plan on flying with your pet, you will need to obtain a health certificate from your veterinarian before you travel. It is also strongly recommended that you contact the airline you plan to use well beyond finalizing your travel plans. Rules and regulations vary between airlines.

The four-legged passengers often have to travel in areas of the plane where the temperature cannot be regulated, and this becomes unsafe when temperatures are most extreme. Many air carriers will also have requirements for size and type of carrier or kennel that they will accept on the plane, as well as limitations on the number of pets allowed per flight.

International travel

If you plan to travel internationally, you must obtain an international health certificate signed by a USDA accredited veterinarian. This is important because your family veterinarian may not be USDA accredited and, therefore, will not be able to sign an international health certificate. It is recommended to speak to your family veterinarian and a local USDA accredited veterinarian at least 3-4 months before expected travel so that country-specific requirements for pet travel can be met. As the pet owner, you are the person ultimately responsible for meeting importation rules and regulations.

Regulations for importation of pets vary greatly from country to country. Most of this information can be found online, and you need to research it long before your expected travel date, as well as prior to speaking to your local USDA accredited veterinarian. Some countries require specific vaccines, vaccination titers (or blood tests), and deworming treatments before a pet will be allowed into the country, and each country is very specific as to the timing of these tests and treatments. In addition, some countries even have quarantine periods, during which your pet must be housed in a certified quarantine facility-at your expense-for several days to weeks to months before he can be eventually admitted into the country. Be sure you are prepared ahead of time for such a travel stipulation, especially if your pet has special medical and/or dietary requirements.

Road trips

Many pets are accustomed to and enjoy short trips in the car, like that two-minute trip to the veterinary office or the Saturday morning trip to the dog park, but longer road trips may cause anxiety and even motion sickness for some pets. In addition, laws vary from state to state regarding the transportation of animals in vehicles. You should never let your pet sit with you in the front seat. All pets should be secured within the vehicle.

There are a variety of pet seat belts and pet barriers on the market that will help keep your pet safe in the car. Smaller dogs and cats should always travel in a carrier, which should be secured to prevent it from falling over in the event of a quick stop or an accident.

In addition, never allow your pet to ride in the back of a pickup truck-this is a serious injury waiting to happen. The biggest rule of all, though, is to never leave your pet in a parked car on warm, hot, and sunny days.

The essentials

When traveling with your pet, be sure to pack all the essentials. These include food and water dishes, and enough food and fresh water for the entire trip. Sudden changes in diet coupled with the stress of travel can cause gastrointestinal upset, resulting in vomiting and diarrhea. If your pet is on any medication, be sure to bring that with you too, and have enough for the whole time you’re traveling. It is also a good idea to carry some things in case of emergency: a first aid kit in your car or travel pack, as well as the names and phone numbers of 24-hour veterinary hospitals along your travel route, in case of emergency. Furthermore, travel with a copy of your pet’s updated vaccine history and your veterinarian’s contact information in case a problem arises.

Tranquilizers and motion sickness

The question of tranquilization always comes up talking to pet owners about travelling. Generally speaking, it is not a good idea to use sedatives or tranquilizers for travel, but each animal’s case should be considered individually. Please speak to your veterinarian before you travel with your pet.

The key to any successful trip is preparation. Keep the information here in mind when planning to include your pet in the next family vacation, and you’ll end up with a trip that is safe and enjoyable for everyone.