Are you taking a Thanksgiving Day road trip with your pet? Before you start dreaming of turkey and homemade pies, keep in mind that it's important to plan ahead for pet travel and always keep the best interests of your furry, four-legged friend in mind. Traveling with your pet can be a wonderful and bonding experience, or a not-so-pleasant one. It's all a matter of proper planning and preparation.
Your first decision is whether to bring your pet along with you on your trip. Not all pets are suited for travel. While it may be very tempting to bring your pet with you, keep in mind that not all pets are happy travelers. Things to consider include your pet's temperament, any physical impairments, or if your pet suffers from an illness. If you're uncertain whether your pet is suited for travel, you may want to consult with your veterinarian.
If you determine your pet is up for the trip, then following some common sense tips will help to ensure your Thanksgiving day travels with your furry friend are enjoyable for both of you.
•Healthy Start: The last thing you need is a sick pet when traveling. This means a visit to the vet for a medical checkup and to ensure your pet is up-to-date with all necessary vaccinations. The veterinarian can also issue a health certificate for your pet. If you and your pet will be traveling across state lines, you must obtain a recent health certificate and a certificate of rabies vaccination. If your plans include traveling with your pet from the U.S. to Canada, you will need to bring along a certificate issued by a veterinarian who clearly identifies the animal and certifies your pet has been vaccinated against rabies during the preceding 36-month period. Be sure to contact the government of the province you plan to visit as each province has its own requirements.
•Plan for Restraint: Have a plan for how you're going to properly restrain your pet in your vehicle. This is a crucial element of pet travel that is not taken seriously enough. The reality is hundreds of pets are injured or even killed each year because they are allowed free reign in cars, trucks, RVs and SUVs. Even more real is the toll in human life and property damage caused when an "enthusiastic" animal distracts a driver, leading to an accident. Vehicle pet barriers, pet seat belts, pet car seats and pet travel crates are all excellent ways to keep your pet (and you) safe when traveling in your vehicle. It's important to familiarize your pet with the vehicle restraint of choice weeks or months before traveling so that it is comfortable.
•Temporary ID Tag: In the unfortunate event your pet runs off while you're traveling, a temporary identification tag, along with a photo of your pet, will help ensure its safe return. Attach a temporary ID tag to your pet's collar in addition to its permanent tag. Include the address and phone number of where you'll be staying along with your cell phone number and perhaps your email address. This is one of the most important aspects of traveling with your pet, but also one of the most overlooked. In addition, bring along a current photo of your pet. A photograph will make it easier for others to help you find your lost pet.
•Packing Essentials: When packing for your pet, include an ample supply of your pet's food. Don't rely on stopping along the way to pick up its food or picking it up at your final destination. Its particular brand of food may not be readily available, and it is not advisable to introduce your pet to a new brand of food while traveling. Other essentials to pack for your pet include collapsible travel food and water bowls, bedding, litter and litter box, leash, collar and tags, favorite toys, grooming supplies, a pet first-aid kit and any necessary medications. And, of course, be sure to always have an ample supply of water available for your pet.
•Secure Pet-friendly Accommodations: If you're planning a long journey and will need to stay in lodging on the way to your final destination, be sure to secure these pet-friendly accommodations before you hit the road. Map out where you'll be spending the night and arrange for lodging along the way. Our "Search By Route" will allow you to find pet-friendly lodging along your route by plugging in your origination location and final destination. Pet policies do change some times without notice, and accommodations may be limited, so it's recommended you make reservations in advance.
•Medical Records: In case of a medical emergency while traveling, it is advisable to bring along your pets medical records along with your vet's contact information should they be needed for consultation.
Hitting the Road
•No Heads Out the Window: Although many pets find sticking their head out the window is the best part of the road trip, it's not safe. Flying debris can easily injure your pet. This should go without saying, but never travel with a pet in the back of a pickup truck. Some states have laws restricting such transport, and it is always dangerous.
•Frequent Pit Stops: Always provide frequent bathroom and exercise breaks. Most travel service areas have designated areas for walking your pet. Be sure to stay in this area particularly when your pet needs a potty break, and, of course, bring along a bag to pick up after your pet. When outside your vehicle, make sure your pet is always on a leash and wearing a collar with a permanent and temporary travel identification tag.
•Proper Hydration: During your pit stops, be sure to provide your pet with some fresh water to wet its whistle. Occasionally traveling can upset your pet's stomach. Take along ice cubes, which are easier on your pet than large amounts of water.
•Watch the Food Intake: It is recommended you keep feeding to a minimum during travel. Be sure to feed your pet its regular pet food and resist the temptation to give it some of your fast food burger or fries (that never has a good ending).
•Don't Leave Them Alone: Never leave your pet unattended in a parked vehicle. On warm days, the temperature in your vehicle can rise to 120 degrees in minutes, even with the windows slightly open. In addition, an animal left alone in a vehicle is an open invitation to pet thieves.
•Practice Restraint: Be sure your pet is safely restrained in your vehicle. Utilizing a pet safety harness, travel kennel, vehicle pet barrier or pet car seat are the best ways to keep your pet safe. They not only protect your pet from injury, but they help by keeping your pet from distracting you as you drive. A safety harness functions like a seatbelt. While most pets will not have a problem adjusting to it, you may want to let them wear the harness by itself a few times before using it in the vehicle. If your pet prefers a travel kennel, be sure it is well ventilated and stabilized. Many pet owners prefer vehicle barriers, particularly for larger pets. Vehicle barriers are best suited for SUVs. Smaller pets are best suited for pet car seats. The car seat is secured in the back seat using a seat belt, and your pet is secured in the car seat with a safety harness. In addition to its safety features, a pet car seat will prop up your smaller pet, allowing it to better look out the window. No matter what method you choose, back seat travel is always safer for your pet.
•Safe and Comfortable: Whatever method you choose to properly restrain your pet in your vehicle, be sure to make its comfort a priority. Just as it's important for your "seat" to be comfortable for your long road trip, your pet's seat should be comfortable, too. Typically, its favorite blanket or travel bed will do the trick. There are also some safe and cozy pet car seats available that your pet may find quite comfy.
Careful preparation is the key to ensuring you and your pet have a happy and safe trip.
TripsWithPets.com is an online resource for pet travel. Named best pet travel site by Consumer Reports, TripsWithPets.com's mission is to offer resources that ensure pets are welcome, happy and safe while traveling. The website features a directory of pet-friendly hotels and accommodations across the U.S. and Canada, as well as airline and car rental pet policies; pet-friendly restaurants, beaches and events; a user-friendly route search option; pet travel tips; pet travel supplies; and other pet travel resources.
Author Kim Salerno is the president and founder of TripsWithPets.com. She founded the pet travel site in 2003 and is an expert in the field of pet travel. Her mission is to ensure pets are welcome, happy and safe in their travels.