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Traveling pets may require extra care

Dr. Nadine Lober

Many of us travel with our cats, dogs and other pets via various means of transportation. 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 to evaluate the accommodations for your pet at your destination: Will it be too warm or too humid? Will there be fleas? Is heartworm prevalent in the area? 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 need to be caged for the safety of the passengers … common sense would indicate that.

Sometimes it is better for the well being of your pet to be left at home in a safe, familiar environment. If you have an older pet or a sick pet, he might be better off with a caretaker or staying at a kennel while you’re away.

These are all considerations to evaluate before taking your pet on a longer trip. I’m not talking about a short ride to Denver here, but more of a longer car trip or plane ride to a different state or country.

Comfy kennel

Let’s discuss long-distance travel via airplanes ” going from either state to state or to another country.

State-to-state travel requires a current rabies vaccination and a health certificate signed by a veterinarian. Some states have a three-year rabies vaccine and some have a one-year policy, so find out which type you are dealing with.

If you are traveling to a different country ” or to Hawaii ” then there might be a quarantine and more involved testing and bloodwork.

Heartworm and fleas are more prevalent in some states. In this case it is important to protect your pet and give them heartworm and flea medication. Some states, meanwhile, recommend immunizing a pet for lyme disease.

These preventative measures should be taken before your departure to insure proper protection.

What about tranquilizing your pet? This is always a major question. I usually advise using common sense.

Some pets get so nervous while traveling that they can give themselves stress-induced diarrhea. These animals may benefit from tranquilizers.

I usually like to start by giving a smaller dose a while before traveling. Then, you might give your pet a little more if necessary. These pills can last for more than eight hours and makes them quite groggy.

If you have an easy-going pet that doesn’t get stressed by travel, I would avoid tranquilizers.

Even though we have heard of some tragic airline situations with pets, the major airlines generally take good care of them. But it is advisable not to travel with your pet in extreme temperatures.

And as I mentioned before, take into consideration any pre-existing health problems. For example, heart patients and older pets might not be the best candidates for flying.

Also, try to familiarize your pet with the kennel before traveling if he has never been in one before. Give him treats inside the kennel or even feed him in it until he is comfortable.

Watch your head

Long-distance travel by car is more lenient as far as health certificates. You don’t usually see controllers at state borders stopping cars to check on your pet’s documents.

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 feed very small amounts. You also can give your pet anti-nausea before the trip.

If your dog likes to stick his head out the window or if he rides in the back of a pickup truck, realize they can get foreign material in their eyes.

I once had a patient, a black Lab, who had been riding in the back of a pickup, hit his head on a lamppost and broke his jaw. So be careful if your dog is hanging out of the vehicle!

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

For further questions, call Dr. Nadine Lober, 949-7972.

Vail Colorado


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