For many pet owners, pets are members of the family, and a holiday trip would not be complete without their faithful, furry friend. Surely your pet would follow you to the ends of the earth, but, when it comes to travel, taking a pet along can pose unique challenges. This next installment of Passport Health’s holiday travel tips countdown corresponds to the Eleven Pipers Piping (said to represent the eleven faithful apostles in the classic holiday song), and here is how you can ensure that you and your pet, who would faithfully follow you anywhere, can have a happy and healthy vacation, no matter where you take him or her.
Be sure to review the laws for transporting animals into your destination. The last thing you would want is for your pet to end up in quarantine. The United States Department of Agriculture is a good resource for these regulations.
Visit a veterinarian
Visit a veterinarian to be sure your pet is healthy enough for travel, especially air travel. Any kind of travel like this can be stressful for a pet and even potentially dangerous. Make sure your pet is ready for the adventure to avoid any mid-travel or post-trip complications.
Vaccinate your pet for travel
As any savvy traveler knows, some countries require proof of vaccination for entrance, and the need for travel vaccines can extend to your pet as well. Check the USDA web page to see which shots might be required, and then talk to your pet’s veterinarian. Missing a shot could land your pet in quarantine or worse. Additionally, make sure you have an ample supply of all prescription medications your pet may need before traveling as not everything may be available outside of the United States.
Follow the pet-related travel rules closely
When it comes to pet transport, FAA and airline rules are rules and not guidelines. If you do not follow these restrictions to the letter, your pet will not fly. The same applies to car travel; follow the rules closely, and do not leave your pet unattended in a vehicle as this is against the law in some places both within and outside of the United States. See the FAA’s web page for more information.
Take your pet on a trial run
Before starting your trip, do a trial run of sorts. Taking your pet on a short trip away from your home in similar conditions to how it will be during your planned trip will help to acclimate your pet to traveling. If your pet can handle the short, trial trip, then you are likely going to be okay for the longer journey. If not, you may need to consider alternate plans.
Make sure your pet has food
When it comes to pet food, there are a couple of different options depending on where you are going and what your pet’s dietary restrictions might be. Taking all of your pet’s food with you is one option, but this can be a costly one, considering how much an extra bag or extra weight can cost. Alternatively, you can just mail the pet food to your destination. Another suggestion is to take note of the ingredients in your pet’s food, and then try to find something similar when you arrive in your destination. If you chose this route, research is required, but it can also save you a lot of effort and money in the long run.
Take a pet-friendly airline
While Pet Airlines (an airline dedicated to pet transport) no longer exists, there are still some airlines that promise “Fur-st” Class Care. Alaska Airlines is one of these companies, promising to care for your pet from the moment you arrive at the airport until you are reunited with your four-legged friend upon arrival.
That being said, it is generally suggested you travel with your pet (i.e. on the same flight). While your luggage can generally wait overnight at the airport, the same is not true for a pet. If you travel with your pet this won’t be something you need to worry about as much. Along those lines, be sure to book a direct, non-stop flight instead of doing a multi-leg trip. This will be less traumatic for the animal and save you from a lot of problems if you need to change planes.
Travel with your pet in the back seat
The American Humane Society suggests not allowing pets in the front seat of a car. Though it can be fun to spend time with your pet while you are driving, these types of seats were designed for humans, not animals. Secure your pet while driving just as you would for air travel. Your pet’s safety is of the utmost importance.
Consider a pet vacation
Sometimes, taking your pet with you just isn’t a viable option for any number of reasons, but this does not mean your pet cannot enjoy his or her own vacation! In many cities, there are pet vacation centers that offer an almost spa-like treatment for your pet while you are away. Although these pet hotels tend to be costly, they are usually still less than airfare for your pet and provide a pet-friendly atmosphere. Your pet may not be with you during the holidays, but at least you know he or she is being properly cared for.
Keep your pet calm during travel
Finally, if your pet does travel with you, toys and scents can be the best things to help the pet stay calm. Air travel and long car trips can be difficult for animals, and anything that might remind your pet of home will be a serious help. Think about your pet as a person – would you leave a child alone on a airplane with nothing to do? Of course not! Give the pet a few toys and maybe a treat, for the trip as this will go a long way toward keeping your pet calm and happy.
What have you found to be the best method for helping your pet travel? Comment below or leave your thoughts on our Facebook page.