Don’t want to leave your pet home during your next road trip? You don’t have to! Some pets love a good car ride, and hitting the road together can bring you even closer to your furry sidekick. But before you take off, keep the following tips in mind.
Getting your pet used to the car
Ideally, pets should be taken on short car rides from an early age to become familiar with the different sounds, smells, and sensations. If you didn’t do this with your puppy or kitten, that’s OK—start taking your pet on car rides leading up to the big trip. Be sure to make each ride a positive experience with lots of attention and treats afterward (treats before or during the trip may cause vomiting).
Some pets experience extreme anxiety during car rides and may require anti-anxiety medications to calm down. Our veterinarians can examine your pet to determine if these medications would be appropriate.
Is your pet microchipped? If not, she should be before she travels with you. When a lost pet shows up at a shelter, she is scanned. If a microchip is present, a unique number will appear on the screen. This number is linked to your contact information so you can be reunited with your furry friend. If your pet already has a microchip, make sure the contact information in the database includes your current cell phone number.
If your trip will take you across state lines, you’ll need a health certificate for your pet. Issued only by a USDA-accredited veterinarian, a health certificate is filled out after the vet examines your animal and deems her to be free from obvious signs of contagious diseases and up to date on required vaccines. You should schedule an office visit at least a month before you travel to ensure your pet has a current rabies vaccination and is healthy for travel. The actual health certificate, however, must be issued within 10 days of travel so it reflects your pet’s current health status.
Keeping your pet safe and comfortable during travel
If you stop quickly or get into an accident, a loose pet can be thrown across the car and seriously injured, so properly securing your pet in a harness or carrier is important. An unsecured pet can also be a distraction if she moves around the car or tries to crawl into your lap while you are driving. Harnesses are available in a variety of sizes and allow a dog to sit safely in the seat of a car. Or, a well-ventilated carrier with blankets and toys can keep a dog or a cat safe and occupied.
During the ride, you should stop frequently for breaks. Dogs should be taken out of the car on a leash at least every two hours to stretch their legs and go to the bathroom. Bring a water bowl and bottled water in the car so you can offer water during these breaks. Cats will also need frequent access to water and plenty of opportunities to use a litter box.
A few warnings:
- Never allow your pet to ride with her head hanging out the car window. Flying rocks and road debris could hit her in the face and cause severe injury.
- Never allow your dog to ride in the bed of a truck, even if she is tethered with a leash. She could easily jump out and be injured or killed. A dog tied to a truck bed could jump and be dragged along the road or hang herself.
Even if your trip takes you to the skies, your pet may still be able to accompany you. Many airlines allow pets to fly, however, you will want to research the travel requirements many months in advance. Some airlines will allow your small pet to travel in the cabin with you, whereas others may restrict pets to the cargo area of the plane. You will need to supply a crate for your pet; the airline’s website should give detailed requirements for the crate’s size and specifications.
An up-to-date rabies vaccine and U.S. health certificate are required for all in-country air travel, although individual airlines may have additional requirements. If you’re traveling out of the country, it’s important to research the specific requirements of the country you are traveling to. In addition to a country-specific health certificate that must be completed by a USDA-accredited veterinarian, specific vaccines and diagnostic tests may be required to prove that your pet is healthy. The process required for an animal to enter some countries can be quite lengthy, so it’s important to do your homework well in advance.
Need help planning for a trip with your pet? Call us at 704-971-2075.