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Plan for pets when arranging vacation

Taking FiFi and Fluffy on vacation is easier than it used to be, but still requires plenty of advance work, says an Iowa State University veterinarian.

Woman with sheepdog on vacation

As an increasing number of hotels and tourist attractions welcome pets and offer facilities, more and more families hit the road with a dog or cat in tow.

“It’s really important to make a plan for your pet at the same time you develop your travel plan. You need to make several decisions and think through many details before you go,” says Dr Kim Langholz.

For example, find out what health papers you need for the animal and which vaccinations are required where you’re going. If you’re traveling by air, will your pet fly under your seat or under the plane? And, as much as you love your animal, are you sure your friends and family will really welcome your pet into their homes?

Above all, start planning early, she said.

“If you were hoping to take FiFi to the beaches on Maui next month, you — and FiFi — will be disappointed. It can take six to eight months to prepare a pet to travel to a rabies-free area of the world,” Langholz said. “It’s much easier to have fun on vacation when you’ve planned ahead for the care of your animal,” she said. Langholz offers the following tips for including pets in your vacation.

1Before you go


Have your pet examined by a veterinarian. Tell the veterinarian where you plan to go, how long you will stay and your mode of transportation. Your veterinarian can help you determine which vaccinations and antiparasitic medications will help keep your pet healthy and parasite free. Always make sure the information inscribed on your pet’s ID tag is current. A cell phone number on the tag is helpful. Consider having your pet microchipped. This is especially important when traveling. If your pet wanders off in an unfamiliar town, a microchip can help ensure you’ll be reunited.

Make sure it is legal to transport your pet into specific cities, states or provinces. Right or wrong, some breeds — such as pit bulls — are not allowed in some areas. Ferrets also can pose legal difficulties.

2What to pack

Take a health certificate with you when you travel with your pet. Carry a folder with your pet’s vaccination information, medications, veterinarian’s telephone number and perhaps a copy of recent blood work, if your pet has a significant health condition. If your pet is on medication, make sure you have enough for the entire trip. Double check the medications!

Pack your pet’s favorites. Bring plenty of their regular food, so you don’t have to deal with upset stomachs and diarrhea. Some people take a supply of tap water from home, so their pet doesn’t have to adjust to water with a different taste or mineral make-up. Take plenty of your cat’s favorite kitty litter to avoid inappropriate elimination caused by a litter change. Pack toys and the favorite blanket or pillow. Carry a first aid kit for your animal when you travel. First aid kits are available for pets of different sizes.

3Air travel

If you are flying, check the airline’s policies before you go. Some will take pets as “carry-on” bags; some will allow animals in the cargo hold. Try to select a direct flight to minimize the amount of time the animal is in the carrier and the potential for overheating or chilling the pet if temperatures are at extremes.

4On the road

Transport your pets in a carrier. Or buy a good quality seat harness for your big dog and teach it to sit with a seatbelt on. Pets become projectiles in automobile accidents. Protect your pet just as you would protect your children. Do not let your dog hang its head out the window. Objects –rocks, sticks, insects and debris kicked up by tires — are traveling at high rates of speed and can cause severe eye injuries.

Dogs and cats with shorter faces — pugs, Boston terriers, Persian cats, etc. — can experience difficulty breathing even on a good day. It will be harder for them to breathe and cool themselves on hot, humid days. Make sure air conditioning is on when traveling in the car, and that their carriers are not in direct sunlight.

Do not allow your dog to ride in the back of a pickup truck without placing it in a secured carrier. Every year, many dogs are seriously injured or killed when they jump or are thrown from trucks.

Make sure your pet is secured with a leash before you open the car door to let the animal out at a rest stop. Do not leave any living thing in a parked car for any period of time. In the summer, your pet could suffer from brain damage and heatstroke. In the winter, your pet could suffer from hypothermia. It can take only a few minutes to kill your pet. Don’t make this irreversible mistake.

5The great outdoors

Animals on sailboats, motorboats or other watercraft should wear properly fitting, personal flotation devices. Not all dogs know how to swim! Animals (usually dogs) that go boating, camping and hiking with owners need clean drinking water. You can carry drinkable water or treat the water your pet will consume. Don’t let the dog drink from streams, ponds, standing water, etc. They can pick up some nasty parasites. Carry collapsible bowls for the animals’ water and food.

6If your pet stays home

If you plan to board your pet while you travel, visit some kennels to see their facilities before you make a reservation. Find out what vaccinations and antiparasitic treatments they require for animals that board. Vaccination requirements can vary slightly from kennel to kennel — some facilities may require proof of recent de-worming or flea and tick prevention. Ask if they will allow you to supply food for your pet. Do they offer any extra services, like extra walks during the day, play time or grooming services? If you like the boarding kennel, book your dates early, especially for peak vacation times.

Have your pet examined by a veterinarian before boarding. Tell the veterinarian what the kennel requires for preventive health measures.

If you decide to have a pet-sitter care for your animal while you’re away, be sure your veterinarian knows your preferences for emergency care or in case of an unexpected health problem. Some people leave specific emergency instructions with the veterinarian.

More tips for pet owners

Top 5 Pet-friendly global hotel chains
How to make traveling simple with a pet
Pet-friendly weekend adventures

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