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Traveling with Pets is Easier With Advance Planning

Dog in CarTravel Safety Harness

One of our readers is undertaking a cross country drive with her dog and two hamsters and is concerned about how to prepare herself for traveling with pets for such a long drive. Sue Smith, our pet travel expert from Pet Travel, Inc., has some great advice for her.

“I’m going to be driving across the country with my pets (a dog and two hamsters) soon to move to a new part of the country. What all do I need in order to safely take my pets on the road so that they’ll be comfortable and safe while traveling?”

Make Sure Traveling with Pets Is Safe

“When traveling with pets in a car, the first thing that you will need to do is to consider safety. Restraints, a proper car seat or a travel carrier are a must when riding in a car to keep the driver, passengers and your pets grounded in the case of sudden stops. You should get these restraints far in advance so that you can get your pets accustomed to traveling with them.

Transporting your hamster will require a sturdy cage with water and food bowls and bedding made of shredded paper or straw. Be sure and bring their food and extra bedding. You will be placing the cage in a place where it cannot move and will be protected from exposure to the sun, your dogs or other articles you have in the car. Don’t forget to consider air circulation; covering the entire cage is not recommended.

There are different types of restraints that dogs can use when riding in a car depending on your dog’s size and the room that you have to work with. Booster seats are available for smaller dogs and well-made harnesses can protect dogs of all sizes. If you have room, you can also bring along a crate if your dog is accustomed to being in one.

Help Pets Adjust to Traveling Before Taking a Long Trip

Take lots of short trips in the car before the big day traveling with your pets so they can get accustomed to their restraints and the movement of the vehicle. This is also a good time to see if your dog will ride well in the car. Many dogs get carsick due to anxiety when riding in the car and this is something you need to know ahead of time. Make it a fun experience for them and always offer praise for good behavior.

A visit to your pets’ veterinarian before traveling with pets is always advised. Your vet will check to see your pets are in good health, have no fleas or ticks, and that their rabies vaccination is up to date. Although the US does not have border posts, it is always a good idea to travel with rabies and health certificates. You can also discuss micro-chipping your dog, as this is important for pet identification should your dog get separated from you. Be sure and register your information in the chip manufacturer’s database. Give your dog a bath or take him to the groomer prior to your trip. Clean pets are happier travelers.

Make Sure Your Travel Accommodations are Pet Friendly

Plan ahead – find pet friendly hotels along the way and contact them to make reservations and inquire about their pet policies. Many hotels advertise as being pet friendly but may only have a limited number of rooms available for pets. Research pet friendly restaurants and animal hospitals at your destinations as well so that your pets can enjoy being with you during part of your vacation.

On travel day, there are essentials that you must remember to bring with you. Here are some of them: any medications or vitamins that your pets are taking, the food they are accustomed to eating, bottles of water, travel bowls, sturdy leashes, your dog’s bed, identifying collar tags with your cell phone number on them, towels, dog treats, favorite toys, pictures of your pets with you, and bags to clean up after your dogs.

Take Regular Breaks When Traveling with Pets

Feed your dog lightly while you are on the road and drive no more than 2-3 hours of travel at a time if at all possible. Remember to offer your pets water when you make your stops. Plan to let your dog out to stretch his legs every 2-4 hours depending on his size. Always leash dogs before letting them out of the car, even if they are normally obedient. Remember that they are out of their environment and their behavior can change when in a strange place.

Keep the windows up at all times. Besides keeping the environment cleaner, it will keep your dogs contained and less interested in distractions outside of the car. Dogs should never ride with their head out the window, as they can get debris in their eyes. The wind hitting their face at a high rate of speed can also cause injuries.

Never leave your pets in the car alone unless absolutely necessary, and then only for brief periods of time. In addition to health risks at hotter temperatures, know that you are their security when in strange surroundings and your presence offers them stability. Leaving them alone can increase their anxiety.

Have a fun trip. Relax and enjoy traveling with your pets. There is no doubt that, even if they are anxious about the trip, they will love being with you.”

The Contemporary Pet suggests that if you’re traveling by car because you’re moving or relocating to a new home, you might want to check out “4 Ways to Care for Pets When Moving,” a guide to minimizing the chaos of moving for pets.


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