As the summer approaches, those of us with pets and plans to getaway need to make arrangements to travel with or without our pets. It’s not always easy putting the dog and two cats in the car and driving the distance to your summer home. The cats may meow the entire way. The dog may get carsick. Other people may be planning to take their pets on an airplane. Have you ever sat next to a dog that won’t stop crying on the plane? It’s not pleasant for the dog, the owner and the passengers on the plane. Whatever your travel plans may be, it is important to start making preparations.
If you plan to leave your pets at home while traveling, there are many options. Boarding them in a kennel, leaving them at home with a dog-sitter, or just leaving them with a good friend are only a few of the alternatives.
If you can’t bear to part with them and are lucky enough to be able to take them with, then that is a whole different scenario. I am currently traveling to a conference on an airplane. Unfortunately my best buddy, Quincy, was unable to come on this trip. However, when he does travel, he is a wonderful traveler. He travels in a travel bag underneath the seat in front of me on the airplane, and doesn’t make a peep! I can count numerous times when our plane has landed and the passenger sitting next to me didn’t even know he had come along for the ride!! And he also jumps right into the car and sits in the passenger seat when we need to travel in a car. He falls right to sleep. He loves the car.
While Quincy is an excellent traveler, we need to take into consideration that some pets may not travel as well. They may get motion sickness or just plain anxiety. If they get motion sickness, there is a medication on the market that may prevent them from feeling nauseous and puking all over your nice leather car seats. Ask your veterinarian if the anti-nausea medication, Cerenia, may benefit your pet.
If they become anxious, sedatives may be an option. Some sedatives are safer than others. Acepromazine is commonly dispensed for both dogs and cats that have anxiety while traveling. However, this medication can drop blood pressure and cause excessively long sedation, and therefore, may not be a good option for older animals or those with heart or other health problems. Benadryl is a safer option for most dogs and cats. Ask your veterinarian for the correct dose of Benadryl, and make sure to give the Benadryl that is “straight-up” and not mixed with decongestants that may act as stimulants and be harmful to your pet. Reactions to Acepromazine and Benadryl are variable amongst individual dogs and cats. Try giving these medications at home prior to travel to determine the effects and dose needed for your pet. Ask your veterinarian about the appropriate sedatives for your pet and if it is appropriate to sedate them at all. It is often better to keep dogs alert and not overly sedated when they are traveling in cargo.
If you choose to bring your dog or cat on an airplane, then there are several steps you must take prior to travel. Bring them to your veterinarian to make sure they are up to date on all vaccinations and then get a health certificate. When making a reservation for your pet with your airline provider, ask what type of documentation is necessary. Often a health certificate is needed. If their weight is above the on-board weight restriction, then the health certificate may need to state that your pet can withstand only certain temperatures that they may be subject to while in cargo. Also, make sure the health certificate is within the appropriate date range prior to the dates of travel. For example, some airlines require that the health certificate be written within 10 days of travel.
If you plan to travel internationally, it is important to check with the consulate of the country to which you are traveling and your veterinarian as far in advance as possible for any additional restrictions. Your pet may need certain vaccines, a microchip or other medications prior to travel. Some countries, such as the UK, require a dog or cat to have a microchip and then have an adequate rabies vaccine titer drawn six months prior to travel. Also, make sure your veterinarian is USDA-certified and can write an international health certificate if you plan to travel outside the United States.
Once you get to your destination, hopefully you and your pets can enjoy your vacation and it was worth the effort it may be for some of us to travel with our pets. Quincy and I will be traveling in a car for a few hours next week. Hopefully, he will jump right into the car and sleep until we get there with maybe one or two bathroom breaks along the way. Then he will be free to run through the grass and enjoy the suburbs. He doesn’t get to see grass very often as a NYC dog, and boy does he enjoy running through the grass.
Happy and Safe Travels!
Jessica Melman, VMD
Director of Veterinary & Technical Services