Wednesday, November 17, 2010


The holiday season is approaching and if you're traveling with a pet, you may want to read on about how to keep your best friend safe. The following tips will help make your travels safer and smoother, not only during the busiest time of the year, but all the other days too! Let's first start with the road, since pets seem to frequent that mode of transportation most often:


Traveling, or not, your pet should always be wearing a sturdy collar with a tag that details your home address and phone number. Make sure your contact info is updated! Many owners also choose to get their pets implanted with a microchip as a form of permanent ID. Pet nappers do exist, so if your pet does get stolen and the thieves take him to the vet, the staff usually will run a new pet's body under a scanner to confirm ownership. Also, if your pet gets lost or decides to take a little unannounced walk on his own, animal control usually has a microchip scanner too, in order to easily notify you if he's been picked up or dropped off.

Another "lost" tip: Be sure to always have a current photo saved, especially when traveling, just in case you need to make flyers... remember, if your pet ends up on his own, it's unfamiliar territory and he'll likely not know how to get back to where you're vacationing. And plus, you don't have neighbors who recognize him to help with his safe return. So, have a clear and recent photo saved in your email.

Before a road trip, it's a good time to take your pet to that overdue visit to the veterinarian. If you're staying with family, your pet could be exposed to other pets that may not be up-to-date on their vaccines. Getting your pet treated for fleas, ticks, Bordetella, Rabies and other transmittable parasites and diseases would be much appreciated by your pet, your family and their animals.

Certain areas you may be headed to might also be prone to other contractible pet diseases. So, be sure to do your research and inform your vet about any travel plans. Protecting your pet by vaccinating him for Lyme disease, Parvo, heartworm, and any other recommended preventatives is highly advisable. Also, is your pet the anxious type? Be sure to mention this to your vet--he may suggest prescribing your pet a sedative.

Just like you, pets like the comforts of home. So, pack and plan some familiar items like their bed, toys, brush, bones, and even their bowls. Also, have food and water readily available along with a first aid kit for pets and any medications. Be sure to bring their current treats and food--this is not the time to get experimental with their digestive tract.

Additionally, if you're traveling abroad, be careful. Municipal water systems vary from place to place, so drinking the local water would be an abrupt change to what your pet is used to, which could cause some serious digestive issues as well. As a precaution, start with a gallon of water from home and "water your dog" along the route, topping off the gallon from a local water source at every stop. This gradual change should be easier on your pet and your car.

As for hotel stops, be sure to check with the concierge in advance. Some places are not pet friendly due to insurance and other reasons. They may also charge a fee that you'll want to be prepared for. Make sure to ask about their pet restrictions, such as breed or weight limitations. Being surprised by any of these issues at say 11 at night after 12 hours of driving, would not make a very pleasant start to your vacation.

Pets are as fragile as a child, so travel with your pet as you would one of them! Would you drive around with a baby in your lap? What about placing your kid in the front seat with no seatbelt? Do you stick your toddler in the trunk with just a metal gate barrier? Hopefully, it's a big NO to all of these. I mean, just imagine what could happen to such a delicate body under no safety restraint in a car accident! Fortunately, there are plenty of vehicle safety items you can buy to better protect your pet. Here are two great options:



Even a bigger warning: Do not stick your pets in the back of your pickup truck! More than an estimated 100,000 dogs die from falling out of pickup trucks each year. Bumps in the road or a quick swerve can throw the dog from the bed, injuring or killing your pet and potentially causing more accidents as other drivers swerve to miss hitting him. Dogs are easily distracted, which may cause them to jump out. As well, there have been cases where a dog's paws have gotten too hot and they leaped from the truck bed, killing the dog instantly.

According to the Humane Society, there is no harness or leash that will keep a dog safe in the back of a pickup truck. In fact, a leash could strangle him, if he's thrown. If you must stick him in the truck bed, at least place him in a padded metal crate made for that purpose and make sure it is securely tied down. Put as much cautious effort in protecting your pet as if you were putting your toddler back there!

If your pet is one of the unfortunate few, give him a light meal a few hours before you leave and feed him minimally (if at all) during the drive. Be sure to offer him small amounts of water periodically in the hours before the trip. Consider taking along ice cubes, which will be easier on your pet than if he gulps down the water instead (this will also help keep your pet busy). If your pet is new to car rides, prepare him well in advance by taking him on short trips around the neighborhood and offer plenty of praise.

Yes, dogs absolutely love sticking their heads out the window. Although it's sad to deprive him of all those wonderful outdoor smells he craves, many dogs are injured when road debris or even insects fly into their eyes, nostrils, or windpipe. They can also become ill from having cold air forced into their lungs (especially at fast speeds). Even worse, dogs have accidentally stepped on the electric window control and strangled themselves. As well, a quick break and your dog could go flying out the window. So, let's keep the dogs inside and they can enjoy the fresh air from their car seat or safety harness, just like everyone else in the car.

Your pet can't tell you if he's hot or cold, so be cognitive of the temperature at all times. If you're wearing a jacket inside the car because the vehicle hasn't warmed up yet, perhaps your pet would like the extra insulation too. So, make sure to have a blanket handy. In warm weather, keep the windows open or raise the AC to prevent dehydration. If you think you're hot in the car, imagine what it'd be like to have a fur coat on. With that in mind, be sure to keep your pets (especially the dark ones) out of direct sun light and keep the vents directed on them as well. And remember, there may be vents only in the front of the car, so share the AC love in the back!

Never leave your pet, or your child for that matter, alone in the car. During the summer, the car's internal temperature can rapidly reach lethal levels, even with the windows ajar. If you need to run into a store, take the pet with you if possible. If not, ask a travel companion to walk your pet or request they please remain in the car with them. This also prevents pet napping.

Not only do dogs have smaller bladders than us, they also need to stretch their legs more. Rest stops are a great place to let your pets relieve themselves and exercise their joints. Remember to keep them on a leash and have them properly vaccinated. And keeping them under the cafe bench while you eat, is not exercise. So, take them on a brisk walk--it will be good for both of you.

Not only is this nice for you and others, but it could save your pet's life. If your dog's a chewer, remove any hazardous objects he could choke on or any items that may be poisonous. Also, make sure you don't have any loose gum or candy bars around that your dog could ingest. Some dogs will eat ANYTHING, so keep it clean to keep it safe!
Now for all you jet setters, be sure to fly your pet in the safest of styles. Much of the info above will apply to flying as well. But, for flight specific info, see below for some great general tips on air travel. Please note that each airline has its own guidelines, so it is important to notify your airline of your pet's travel and request any additional info regarding their requirements.


Animals that are traveling internationally must have an implanted microchip that meet ISO standards (or the owner must provide a compatible reader). The microchip number should appear on all veterinary and vaccination certificates. Pet "passports" are a great idea--it keeps all important health information in one spot and readily available.

If you cannot accompany your pet on the plane, or he's too large to fly with you in the cabin, then you can opt to transport him as cargo or accompanied baggage. May sound a little scary, but the airlines take serious measures in shipping animals as humanely as possible. Just to note, you may only fly your pet as accompanied baggage, if you're flying on the same flight as your pet. If your pet is flying alone, then you may ship him as cargo through regular cargo channels, or via expedited delivery service that many airlines have developed. Most airplane cargo departments have specialists in the transport of animals who can assist you with questions and will assure you that they are trained to handle your pet with care and experience. Be sure your pet's travel crate is airline, DOT, and USDA approved.

If your pet is small enough, most airlines will allow passengers to carry their pets on board with them. They must be able to fit comfortably under the passenger's seat in an approved pet carrier. Contact your airline to find out about their pet policy regarding animal size, acceptable crates, procedures, and restrictions.

From experience, I will tell you that a comfortable pet bag is a must! The pet weight limit for most airlines is about 20lbs for in-cabin traveling. So, if you want to haul that type of weight on your shoulder for several hours, be my guest... but trust me, you'll wish you had one of these:

Deluxe Backpack Pet Carrier on Wheels


Is your pet old enough?
The USDA says that your animal must be at least eight weeks old and fully weaned before traveling with the airlines.

Which flights are easier on your pet?
Whenever possible, book a direct, nonstop flight and avoid holiday or weekend travel, if your pet is flying via cargo. Consider schedules that minimize temperature extremes. For example, try to avoid travel during excessively hot or cold periods. During periods of excessive cold, an Acclimation Certificate may be required. Morning or evening flights are preferable during the summer. In the cargo system, it is possible to reserve space on a specific flight by paying for either priority or the special expedited delivery service.

If your pet is on board with you, then make sure to provide a sweater or blanket inside their carrier during cold weather. If it's hot, place them in the largest carrier that will fit under the seat, so more air can ventilate through their cage. If possible, trim their hair short, so they're not forced to wear a fur coat during the summer months!

Is your pet healthy?
Check with your veterinarian to be sure your animal is fit to travel. Some species such as pug-nosed dogs (e.g., Boxers, Boston Terriers) - simply do not fly well, because they can have difficulty breathing even under normal conditions. You will need a health certificate in order to comply with the rules of most airlines, as well as state and federal rules. Your veterinarian will be able to supply this. Most airlines ask that it be issued no more than seven to ten days before departure. Be sure to check with the airline to get the exact amount of time they require before your pet's trip.

Use of tranquilizers
Sedation is not advised since the effects of tranquilizers on animals at higher altitudes are unpredictable. The decision to prescribe a tranquilizer for your pet should be made by your veterinarian. If you believe some form of sedation might be helpful, be sure to obtain and follow a veterinarian's advice.

A note from a veterinarian, Dr. Levine: “I think the most common request I get from pet owners scheduling a trip is concerning tranquilizers. But a cat or dog that’s been tranquilized will be more likely to die during the flight because the medication changes how the body reacts to stressful situations.” Dr. Levine also added, “Tranquilizers don’t usually have much effect anyway. If you’ve taken sleeping pills and your house is on fire, you’re not going to have any problems staying awake when you’re running out the door. The adrenaline overrides the medication. The same goes for a pet who’s experiencing stress during a flight – its body will override the effects of the drug.” This doctor's advice is definitely something to consider...


Acclimate your pet to the crate or carrier
Prior to an airplane ride, the pet should be allowed access to his crate or carrier. Throughout the day, place treats inside the crate for the pet to find and enjoy. Feed the pet inside the crate. Place toys or a favorite blanket inside so that the pet begins to associate the crate with pleasant experiences.

Withhold food and water before a flight
A pet should not be given access to food within 12-18 hours of a flight; water should be limited during this time period. Withholding food and limiting access to water before the pet's flight will help lessen the likelihood of an accident while the pet is on the airplane.

Exercise pets before the flight
Shortly before leaving for the airport, exercise the pet who will be flying. Take your pet for a long run, or play a strenuous game of fetch at the park. This will help drain some of the pet’s energy, making him more likely to sleep and relax during the flight.

Line the bottom of the pet’s crate or carrier with puppy pads
When flying with a pet, there's always a chance that he'll have a bathroom accident. On the day of the flight, puppy pads can be used to absorb any unplanned messes, making for easy disposal, while also keeping the pet relatively clean and dry.

On top of the puppy pads, place a thick hand or bath towel (depending on size) or a folded fleece blanket, which can serve as a comfortable, yet absorbent surface for the pet to relax.

Pack pet supplies for the flight
A scared or nervous pet may urinate, defecate or vomit due to nerves. So it’s vital that pet owners take along at least two extra puppy pads and two extra towels of sufficient size to line the bottom of the pet’s crate or carrier. If you plan to keep any soiled towels from the crate bottom (instead of disposing of them), bring along a plastic zip-lock bag to contain moisture and odor.

Also bring along a package of baby wipes to clean your pet following any unexpected messes. Dry cabin air, combined with panting that often results from stress, can lead to thirst, so also bring along a portable pet water bottle, with fold-down drinking reservoir. But be careful not to give him too much, otherwise you may put those puppy pads to use! Opt for ice cubes instead, if you think it will sufficiently hydrate him.

Bring a chew toy to keep pets occupied
Most pets love bones and chew toys. Use this as a distraction from the stressful situation by keeping them occupied with something they enjoy. Make sure it's one of the long lasting bones best for strengthening teeth. If you get the easily chewable ones, be prepared for a real mess (and follow the steps above).

Before you Bark & Park
There's plenty you can do to prepare your pet for air travel, but the best thing you can do to prepare yourself is to check your airline's regulations for pet travel. Most airlines have a website containing the necessary information regarding required documentation that pet owners must present, along with information on dimensions for in-cabin crates and carriers. And just a warning, if your crate won’t fit under the seat, your pet will be transferred to cargo, so ensuring that a crate is the correct size will help pets and owners avoid unpleasant changes in plans and fees. Any questions that are not available online can certainly be answered by calling an airline representative.
The holidays are stressful enough. So, don't add to it by not preparing yourself for traveling with your pet. If you're well prepared, you will put yourself at ease knowing your pet is relaxed and safe. Your pet will thank you, too. Any additional tips would be greatly appreciated by commenting below. Happy Holidays, Renters!

Article by


  1. Ovie is a free spirit - you don't address free spirited dogs. you realize that he would chew through any type of seatbelt, he also takes up the whole backseat too. i'd like to see you put him on wheels!

  2. Attn: All Free Spirited Pets

    Check out the link to the safety harnesses above... they can contain up to 120 lbs of free spirit! If the spirit's got your mouth, Flaminger has one word for that: MUZZLE! (aka Hannibal transport look)

    And ps... for big boys like Ovie, the only wheels you'll be taking are the ones in the car right to the airport cargo line! ;)

  3. Love those pictures of the dogs. For traveling with pets I think it's one of the most stressful things and always worry about mines when I do