Domestic Travel Guide for Dog Lovers
Traveling with your dog can be amazing, or amazingly stressful. It’s important to plan ahead for certain pet travel requirements as well as possible unexpected illnesses or emergencies. Here are some important tips to help make travel by car, airplane, and train with your furry friend a more enjoyable experience.
This article was written by a FirstVet vet
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Travel Safety Tips for Your Dog
- Check with your vet to make sure that all of your dog’s vaccinations are up to date.
- Make sure you have a printed copy or photos on your phone of all important health information, including vaccines and any current medication your dog may be on.
- Make sure in advance that you have enough of your dog’s medication for the days that you will be traveling.
- If you don’t already have one, purchase an identification tag for your dog’s collar that has your cell phone number on it.
- Verify that your dog’s microchip information is up to date and accurate. If your dog is not microchipped, this is a great time to do it!
- Schedule a vet appointment for a health certificate if you’re traveling on a plane because a signed health certificate is required for all air travel.
- Be prepared for an emergency by making sure you have the office phone number and emergency number for your regular vet. You may even want to scout out any veterinary emergency hospitals in the area that you’re traveling to.
Keep Your Dog Comfortable During Travel
A crate or carrier is a great way to keep your dog safe while traveling in a car and is required for travel on a plane or train. It can also be helpful at your destination to keep your dog from getting into trouble in a new environment. The crate should be well-ventilated and must be large enough for your dog to stand, turn around, and lie down.
Make sure to practice putting your dog into the crate at home before using it on a trip. If you’re traveling on a plane or train, check for exact carrier specifications and size guidelines.
Don’t forget to pack a supply of your dog’s regular food. Sudden diet changes can lead to vomiting and/or diarrhea, and this is never a fun addition to a vacation. Also make sure to have plenty of water, poop bags, and a sturdy leash.
It’s a good idea to tire your dog out before departure. Take a long walk or play some games. This will help him sleep easier while in transit. Also make sure to use a familiar cushion or blanket in his crate, or even a t-shirt with your scent on it. This can be a calming influence should your dog become distressed during travel.
Car Travel with Your Dog
Before taking your dog on a long car trip, make sure he’s comfortable in the car. Sit with him in the car while it’s parked in your driveway, and take some short drives to fun locations (like the park). If your dog only gets in the car to go to the vet or the groomer, he will have negative associations with car travel, and won’t be a very enjoyable traveling companion.
Withhold food for at least 4 hours before travel to avoid carsickness. Do not give snacks or treats while you’re traveling, but make sure your dog has readily available access to water. Make sure to plan frequent stops for exercise and potty breaks.
Do not let your dog travel unrestrained in the car. If he isn’t traveling in a crate, invest in a pet car seat or seat belt leash to keep him restrained. Like children, dogs should always travel in the backseat because front seat airbag pressures are calculated for adults and can be harmful to your dog should you get into an accident. Do not allow your dog to hang his head out of the window, because this could lead to injury should an unexpected object like a tree branch or another car get too close.
Keep your dog comfortable by closely monitoring the temperature and ensuring that there is an adequate amount of air circulating in the back seat and in his crate. NEVER leave your dog unattended in a closed vehicle.
Air Travel with Your Dog
Don’t forget to schedule an appointment with your vet to obtain a health certificate in advance of your travel. Most health certificates are good for 30 days, but check with the airline for specific requirements. Airlines clearly state that it is the owner’s responsibility to verify the dog’s health and ability to fly.
Ask your vet what the safest options are for your dog concerning anxiety during the trip. Tranquilizing before flying isn’t always an option, as it can hinder breathing. Also, be sure to check the temperature of the flight’s start and endpoints to ensure that it’s safe for your dog. Federal regulations prohibit shipping live animals as cargo if an animal will be exposed to temperatures that are below 45 degrees Fahrenheit or above 85 degrees for more than four hours during departure, arrival, or while making connections.
If your dog will be traveling in the cabin with you, contact the airline as soon as possible to reserve a spot, because only a limited number of animals are allowed on each flight. Each airline has its own specifications for crate and carrier size. If you do not meet their requirements, the airline may not allow you to fly with your dog, so make sure to measure ahead of time. Always be prepared for flight delays, and keep extra food in your carry-on bag in case your checked baggage gets lost en route.
Train or Bus Travel with Your Dog
Dogs are not allowed on buses operated by Greyhound and other interstate bus companies. Amtrak will only allow dogs that weigh less than 20 pounds (combined weight of the dog and the carrier) and will not permit dogs on trips that are longer than 7 hours. Local rail and bus companies have their own pet policies, so be sure to check with them before you travel.
Bottom line - with a little bit of leg work ahead of time, travel with your dog can be an easy, stress-free experience that you both can enjoy. And isn’t that what we all want from a vacation?
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