Written by Jennifer Brown, President of Verona Street Animal Society
When you bring a new member of your family home, you may want to include him or her in your plans, including travel. Cats, which are customarily attached to their environment, would most likely do better staying at home. Dogs however, are attached to their owner and with enough preparation and research; you can make it as enjoyable for your dog as it is for you.
At VSAS we are always thinking of ways to help pet parents and have assembled some tips and useful online resources if you are considering or planning to take your dog on your road trip with you.
Consider all your options – including leaving your pet at home
It can be fun to travel with your pet – for both of you. But your pet’s overall health and safety has to come first. Before taking your pet on vacation, consider the pet’s health, age, whether your pet likes to travel, where you’ll be staying, and the time of year. For example, perhaps your pet does fine on short day or weekend trips, but longer trips would cause anxiety and stress. Or maybe your older pet suffers from arthritis and wouldn’t enjoy a long car trip to Maine in the dead of winter. Always do what’s best for your pet.
Know what to pack
If you decide to bring your pet on your trip, you need to pack for your pet, just as you pack for yourself. The essentials include medications and medical records, food and bowls, a pet First Aid kit, bedding, leash, collar and tags, grooming supplies, current pet photo (in case your pet gets lost), a favorite toy or two, a sturdy and well ventilated carrier, litter and a litter box (for cats). To make things easier, have one bag or small suitcase just for your pet’s supplies – this way you won’t have to look through your other luggage to find a particular item.
Get your pet’s papers and medications in order
Before any trip, have your pet examined by your veterinarian. Make sure vaccinations are up to date, and get any medications your pet might need during the trip. If you’re giving your pet medication specifically for travel, such as to reduce anxiety or travel sickness symptoms, test them on your pet several days in advance to ensure that your pet doesn’t suffer any adverse side effects. You don’t want to be several hours away from home only to realize that your pet is allergic to a new medication.
Know the rules of the road
If you’ll be traveling by car, build frequent stops into the trip so that your pet will be able to stretch his legs and have a drink of water. But before you simply put your animal in the car and go, you need to understand some basic car safety guidelines that will keep your pet safe. First, all cats should be in a crate or carrier. Dogs can be either in crate or carrier, or restrained in a special harness that attaches to the seat belt. If you use a pet barrier in the back seat or deck of your SUV, be sure it is sturdy and firmly attached so it does not collapse on your pet. Also, never allow your pet to ride in the front passenger seat (especially one that is airbag equipped), and never let your pet out of the car without proper restraint. And although most dogs love to ride with their head out the window, don’t allow it; they could get hurt by flying debris. Finally, never leave your pet alone in a parked car. He or she will be vulnerable to heat distress or theft.
Stays along the way
You should find out in advance which hotels or motels at your destination or on your route allow dogs. Many do not, or they may have size or breed restrictions. If your dog is allowed to stay at a hotel, be respectful of other guests, staff and the property. If your dog is barking late at night or at all hours of the morning, don’t ignore it. Get up and take them outside immediately and as quietly as possible. Walk around, have a bathroom break and expel some of that anxious energy. New environments are stressful so don’t leave your dog unattended as they may bark or destroy property if left alone in a strange place. If it’s unclear, you can ask the management where you should walk your dog but be sure to pick up after them.
For more tips on specific locations, checkout www.bringfido.com