It’s summer time! Maybe you’re thinking about a trip to visit family, or to see some of the sights this beautiful country has to offer. Or maybe you’re a student trying not to think about how soon you have to head back to school. Whatever your travel plans, if your pet is coming with you we have a few things for you to consider before you load the car.
1) Health Certificate. If you are flying or traveling out of the country with your pet you will need one. It is a document that states your pet has been vaccinated, is free of contagious diseases, and is healthy enough to travel. Your pet will need an exam by a veterinarian to get one, and in most cases it is valid for 10 days. If you are flying, be sure to check with your airline for specific requirements they may have regarding pet transport. If you are traveling out of the country you will need to make sure all requirements for importing a pet to that country have been met. The USDA is a great resource for that information: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_welfare/pet_travel/pet_travel.shtml. Your veterinary clinic can help you sort out what you need, because it can be confusing. Just don’t wait till the last minute to look into it. Some countries do require vaccines be given a certain number of days (or weeks) prior to travel, so you don’t want to miss the deadline!
2) Travel accommodations. Where is your dog (or cat) going to ride? If you’re on a plane, it usually means in a crate under the aircraft. You’ll want to make sure you have a good, sturdy crate that is big enough for your pet to stand up and turn around, and that there is access to water. If they’ll be riding in the cabin with you, be sure to check the airline’s regulations for that as well.
The car is a different story. Many of us just let our pets roam free in the car (I’ve done it too). I mean, what dog doesn’t love sticking his head out the window and feeling the wind in his face? The truth is that this is dangerous. Loose pets are a distraction to the driver as much as cell phones and that double cheeseburger in the lap. Smaller pets can get under the driver’s feet and interfere with braking. Not to mention if you have to brake suddenly your pet will become a fuzzy projectile object that can be seriously injured (or killed) hitting a windshield, or injure another passenger flying into the back of their head. We recommend keeping pets in a comfy crate (big enough for them to stand up and turn around), and securing that crate with a seat belt. For larger dogs you can buy harnesses that can be attached to the seat belt to keep them in place.
3) Safety. Put together a pet first aid kit. Curious pets are great at getting into things they shouldn’t, especially when they are in a new place with lots of new things to check out! You never know where they might find some tasty (but toxic) chocolate, or take off after a squirrel and cut their foot on a rock. A good first aid kit would include bandages (several sizes), scissors, tweezers, q-tips, antibiotic ointment, elastic tape, saline eye wash, and hydrogen peroxide (to induce vomiting; use only under the advice of a veterinarian). Here are a few other items that are great to have along:
A) A blanket. This can be used to warm a pet, but also to restrain a scared or nervous pet.
B) A muzzle. Even the sweetest, most laid-back pet will bite to defend herself if something hurts her. Use a muzzle so you don’t get hurt in the process of trying to help your pet. Sometimes the muzzle will even have a calming effect.
C) Harness and leash, and/or crate. Being able to control your pet is imperative in an emergency situation. Scared pets may run off, and can easily get lost in a new place.
Your pet should have a collar with ID tags worn at all times, or a microchip (or both!). If your pet gets lost, an ID is their ticket home. If your pet has a microchip, be sure your contact information is updated, or it will be much harder for a person to find you and return your pet! It may also be helpful to have a current picture of your pet in case he does get lost.
Do not ever leave your pet unattended in a car, even if it doesn’t seem that warm out. It doesn’t take long for a car to get very hot and stuffy, and your pet can quickly become overheated.
Finally, be mindful of the activities your pet will be doing on your trip. Be sure she has plenty of water to stay cool and hydrated. If it is really warm your pet may need breaks in the AC, or if a body of water is around let her get wet to help cool off. Consider sunscreen! Believe it or not, your pet can get sunburn. This usually happens around thinly haired areas, such as the top of the nose, tips of the ears, and on the belly. Use baby sunscreen, or a dog approved sunscreen if you can find it, and make sure your pet doesn’t lick it off right away. Be cognizant of hot concrete or pavement, and spend as little time as possible on those surfaces. Pets can get sores, blisters, and burns on their foot pads from them.
Hopefully you find these tips helpful. We wish you happy travels wherever you are headed this summer!
-Dr. Sue Sappington