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Plan when traveling with pets

Nadine Lober

Many of us travel with our dogs, cats and other pets.

While some pets require special attention and others are very easy going, it is important to assess the health of your pet before taking any extended trips and also evaluate the accommodations for your pet at your destination town. Will it be too warm, too humid, will there be fleas, is heartworm prevalent in that state or are there other parasites to consider?

Cats may need to be caged while traveling in cars if they are not used to the situation. Exotic pets and birds have to be caged for the safety of the passengers. And sometimes it is better for the well-being of your pet to be left at home in a safe, familiar environment.



An older pet or a sick pet might be better off with a caretaker or at a kennel during your absence. When bringing a pet to a kennel, try to familiarize your pet with the facility before traveling if he has never been in one before. You can give him treats inside the kennel or even feed him in it until it is comfortable for him.

These are all things to consider before taking your pet on a long trip – I’m not talking about a two-hour ride to Denver, but a longer car trip or plane ride to a different state or country.



Over the border

Traveling from state to state or to other countries with pets requires some preparations. Taking a pet to another state, for instance, requires getting a health certificate signed by a veterinarian and that the pet’s rabies vaccination is current. Some states use a 3-year rabies vaccine and some have 1-year, so find out which one your pet received.



If you are traveling to a different country or Hawaii, then more testing and bloodwork may be done or your pet may even be quarantined.

Heartworm and fleas are more prevalent in some states. In this case, it is important to protect your pet and give them heartworm medication and flea preventatives. And some states might recommend your pet be immunized for lime disease.

These preventative measures should be taken shortly before you leave to insure your pet is protected.

Sleeping pills

Pet owners often ask if they should tranquilize their pets – the answer depends on the pet.

Some pets get so nervous while traveling that they can give themselves stress-induced diarrhea. These animals may benefit from some tranquilizers. I usually like to start by giving the pet a smaller dose shortly before traveling. You might give the pet a small, additional dose, but only if necessary.

These pills stay in your pet’s system for over eight hours and makes them quite groggy, so if your pet is easy going and isn’t stressed by travel and different situations, then I would avoid the tranquilizers.

And even though we have heard of some tragic airline situations involving pets, major airlines generally take good care of the pets. But older pets and those with heart problems are not the best candidates for flying.

On the road

On long car trips, make sure that you give your pet adequate amounts of water and stop as often as necessary to let him out of the car.

If your pet gets car sick then avoid feeding eight hours before travel or try to give him small amounts of food. There are also anti-nausea pills that you can give your pet before the trip.

If your dog likes to stick his head out the window or if he is secured in the back of a pick up, realize that they can get foreign material in their eyes. I also treated a pet who was riding in the back of a pick up and this smart black lab hit his head on a lamp post and broke his jaw. So be careful if your dog is hanging out of the vehicle too much.

Pets can be great travel companions, so enjoy your trips with them.


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