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By Dr. Sarah Wallace
What’s better than traveling? Traveling with your dog. Sure, it can be overwhelming and there can be some hiccups associated with that, but their presence can make a trip a lot more fun (and you won’t be glued to that pet camera all trip long, or obsessively texting your sitter). Here are our top 10 tips
Traveling can be stressful for animals. This is a basic one, but it’s really important to objectively evaluate whether your dog has any illness or physical impairments that may keep them from being able to travel. Always consult with a veterinarian if you’re unsure whether your pet is up for traveling, and make sure he/she is up-to-date on their vaccines and prescriptions (which is extra easy to do if you’re a Fuzzy member). We also recommend scouting out the closest vet ERs in your final destination prior to your trip, just in case. If you’re traveling across state lines or overseas, a health certificate may be required for your pet. It’s actually a good idea to always have one on you when traveling with your dog.
The American Humane Association estimates over 10 million cats and dogs are lost or stolen in the United States every year, and studies have confirmed that a higher percentage of pets are returned to their families if they are microchipped. Consider microchipping your pet you haven’t done that already. If your pet does have a microchip, double check the information to verify that it is all up to date. You may also want to consider getting a collar-attached travel tag.
It might seem obvious, but it’s important to get a well-ventilated crate or carrier that is large enough for your dog or cat to stand, lay, and comfortably turn around. Mark your pet’s crate with proper identification and include your name, phone number, and a picture of your pet. This could be a lifesaver in the rare case your dog escapes! If your travel companion will be spending an extended period of time in its crate, be sure to line it with some type of bedding such as shredded paper or towels. For road trips, secure the crate so that it will not slide or shift during abrupt turns or stops.
There are many other ways to ease your pet’s nervousness before resorting to sedatives. If you are traveling often, using calmatives can cause you and your pet to become reliant on them. Instead of medication, try using your voice or body language to ease your dog’s stress. You can also try bringing familiar items from home, such as their favorite toys and blankets.
Stay upbeat and be a good role-model (this is important for all of your travel companions, not just your dog!). If your dog notices that you are nervous or stressed out, it can contribute to their own travel anxiety! Additionally, we recommend not leaving your pet for long periods of time, especially if they are prone to separation anxiety. Exhibiting positive body language and using assuring voice tones can help your dog or cat feel less nervous and more confident in what’s happening around them.
Walking your dog before and after travel is helpful in many ways. Taking a long walk may help your dog feel more relaxed before a road trip or flight. It’s equally important to exercise your dog after a long trip; just as we like stretching our legs after a long trip, so do our dogs! Being away from home also means many new sights, smells and sounds. Going on an explorative walk around hotels or different places you’re staying will encourage familiarization and may help your dog to become more comfortable with the new environment.
When traveling, places will be unfamiliar and schedules may be unpredictable, by definition. Implementing a little bit of routine with your pet, such as set feeding and walking times, can help them adjust to new environments a little bit better. Your dog might not respond right away, and that’s okay. Just encouraging the routine alone can greatly help your pet acclimate.
If you’re traveling far from home, pack a bottle or two of your home’s tap water. Unfamiliar water from new places can be upsetting to your dog or cat’s stomach. Don’t worry, you don’t have to bring enough water for your entire trip. Just bring a few bottles and gradually mix it with the water available at your new destination to protect your pet’s tummy.
You know how you have that little pouch or travel backpack that you take on all your trips? Do the same thing for your dog! Include items such as food, food and water bowls, a leash, a waste scoop, plastic clean-up bags, grooming supplies, medication and first-aid items, and travel documents. Side note: it might be helpful to always have a travel pack with these items ready to go. That way, you won’t have to worry about forgetting the important things and your pet will always be packed.
Finally, when planning your itinerary, we recommend planning some dog-friendly activities on your trip! Search for local dog meet-ups or events at your destination, or find some local dog parks to visit. Providing your pet with opportunities to meet and play with other dogs has numerous benefits, including easing anxiety and getting enough exercise. Who knows, maybe you will make new friends who can hook you up with local recommendations.