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The Ultimate Guide to Traveling With Pets [2017]

When you’re planning a trip, you have dozens of details to worry about. If you add a pet to the mix, those details may begin to feel overwhelming. Whether you’re traveling for pleasure or moving to a new place, that doesn’t mean you have to leave your dog, cat, or small animal behind.

Here are some tips to show you how to keep yourself and your pet calm and comfortable, no matter what distance or mode you travel. This information will help you and your pet navigate every phase of the journey, from planning and packing to boarding and feeding.

Prepare for Your Journey

Pre-travel preparation is one of the most important parts of successfully traveling with or without a pet. By making the right plans, you can save yourself and your pet much discomfort or even trouble. Here are some key things you should do before you set out:

  • Rehearse With Your Pet: If your pet has never been on a long journey before, get them ready by taking them on short drives and then increase the time gradually. Be sure to put them in their crate every time, so they get used to it faster. Take a walk around the airline terminal or station to get them familiar with the smells and sounds. Reward your pet for good behavior and talk reassuringly to them.
  • Take a Relaxing Walk Before Boarding: It helps to let your pet walk or run around before boarding the plane, bus, boat, or train. See if there are any areas outside of the airport or station for a quick round of exercise. This will help both you and your pet expend excess energy and be more tired during the flight, which will make for a peaceful journey.
  • Buy the Right Crate or Carrier: If you’re buying a shipping crate for your pet, be sure it is IATA approved. Any crate or carrier should be large enough for your pet to sit, stand, and turn around in with ease. It should be secure enough not to slip around when the vehicle or plane moves or stops.
  • Prepare the Crate for Comfort: Line it with absorbent bedding, like shredded bits of paper or cloth. Before you leave, freeze a small bowl of water, which will melt when your pet gets thirsty and won’t spill during loading time. Close the crate securely but never lock it, so it can be opened for feeding or emergencies. Attach a bag of dry food or seed to the outside of the carrier or crate, so your pet can be fed during a long trip or layover. Last but not least, be sure to attach your pet’s identification to the crate to avoid misplacing them.
  • No Crate, No Problem: If you don’t plan to use a crate in the car, be sure your pet rides safely with its head inside the window at all times. Keep pets in the back seat in a harness you can attach directly to the seat belt buckle.

Research the Pet Rules of Your Destination

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If you are traveling internationally or even between states, check the requirements of your destination country, city, town, or state. The rules and laws may be different from your state or country of origin. Many countries and states have specific health, vaccination, and quarantine regulations. You can verify these rules by visiting the official embassy website of the country.

More countries are starting to require pets to have a microchip implant, which is an effective way to find your pet if it gets lost or runs away. Ask your pet care specialist about getting one for your dog or cat – they are inexpensive and could save you a lot of heartaches!

Contact A Specialist Pet Relocation Company

Just as a pet owner should go to a vet for specialist veterinary advice, or to a relocation company to move their furniture, pet owners should contact a specialist Pet Relocation Company for all the peculiar requirements for the destination, route, crating, air carriers, transit stops etc. that will be required.  Every country and every carrier is different and the rules are inclined to change at any time. This Association IPATA has specialist members throughout the world.

Learn About Your Airline’s Pet Policy

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Just like different countries have different rules, traveling with pets can vary by airline as well. Make sure you are informed about all requirements and restrictions before flying with a pet in the plane and the terminal, too. Try to book a direct flight so you won’t have to deal with stopovers. Moving your pet from one plane to another could be stressful and increase the chances of losing them.

You’ll also need to make different arrangements for in-cabin pet travel versus cargo pet travel. Sometimes, smaller “pocket pets” are allowed in the cabin, like birds, hamsters, and reptiles. Larger animals like dogs and cats are usually housed in a back area. Ask about the environment they will be in while on the plane to see if you need to provide extra blankets, water, or even a comfort item like their favorite stuffed animal.

Most airlines have specific web pages that describe their policies on pets, as well as how to make in-cabin or cargo arrangements. Here some links to specific pages with airline information about traveling with pets:

Prepare for Other Modes of Travel With Your Pet

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Even if you don’t plan to fly, you’ll likely still need to transport your pet via at least 1 mode of transportation. If you have a travel crate or kennel for your pet, that is ideal; especially because they will be in unfamiliar surroundings and may feel threatened or uneasy.

  • Cabs, Rideshares, and Taxis: Because there are so many cab companies, you’ll want to ask about their pet policies when you call for a ride or before you get into the car.
  • Rental Vehicles: When leasing a vehicle, talk directly to the rental company to find out about their pet policy before the trip. You may need to sign an agreement or pay a small deposit upfront.
  • Buses and Trains: Many buses and trains, including Amtrak, allow small cats and dogs on certain routes, so be sure to ask ahead of time before you board.
  • Boats: The same goes for boats as for other types of transportation, even the smaller commuter versions. Take time to call them or check the website so you know their pet policy.

Never leave your pet alone inside a vehicle to avoid dangers like theft, heatstroke, and freezing. As a responsible pet owner, you need to gauge the mode of travel depending on your pet’s temperament. You want to protect your pet, but you also want to protect others from scratches, bites, messes, and undue noise.

Find Pet-Friendly Accommodations

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Although many hotels allow pets, others may prohibit them. If you don’t want to get stuck with a hotel that isn’t pet-friendly, make sure to do your research before you book. Even if you know that your hotel welcomes pets, you should make sure you have a room where pets are specifically allowed. Some hotels may have particular rooms for pet owners.

In addition, most hotels will specify the animal’s type, size, weight, and other things, so be sure to review all their rules and ask any questions before you arrive. You can also search for pet-friendly hotels, as most establishments readily publish their information online on their official website.

Schedule a Pre-Trip Checkup With Your Veterinarian

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Pet owners are advised by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to let their vets know as soon as travel becomes a possibility. It may take several appointments before all the paperwork and vaccinations are complete, so plan your vet visits well in advance of your trip.

  • Immunizations, Certificates, and Tests: Certain countries may require blood tests, rabies certificates, and specific vaccines as much as 6 months in advance of travel. Failure to abide by these rules could lead to separation from your pet in your destination country, because officials may need to quarantine your pet upon arrival.
  • Medications and Flea Prevention: If your pet is on any medications, special food, or requires flea and tick prevention, make sure to get a sufficient supply from your vet to last through the trip and a few weeks beyond.
  • Stress Reduction for You Both: In addition to any essential blood tests, vaccinations, medication, and paperwork, your vet can also inform you about treatments that could make the journey with your pet less stressful. For example, getting a microchip implant for your pet could calm concerns about losing your pet while away from home. Also, asking your vet about sedation options for the trip could be a good idea if your pet is susceptible to anxiety.

Prepare Your Pet and Pack the Essentials

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Create a list and stock up on all the things that will increase your pet’s comfort during the flight. You should ensure that you have a spacious carrier that is appropriate for travel. If you plan to fly, your airline will specify the requirements. Some items you should acquire and prepare include the following:

  • Get Your Pet Comfortable With the Carrier: Give your pet plenty of time to get used to the carrier at home by leaving it out with the door open. Put their favorite bed or blanket inside, leave a toy or treat, and praise them for going in on their own. Don’t push it, just give your pet time to adjust.
  • Invest in Calming Products: You might also want to consider anxiety-reducing products like a pheromone collar or lavender oil, which you can sprinkle inside the carrier for a calming effect. Another accessory to consider is a pet calming vest, which applies gentle pressure to specific areas to reduce anxiety. If your pet has a beloved blanket, stuffed animal toy, or even a shirt that smells like you, place that inside the carrier for comfort. Important! Make sure no tranquilizer is used on your pet that will reduce their blood pressure. This is especially dangerous at altitude for brachycephalics.
  • Pack Items for Restraining: Make sure you have collars, leashes, muzzles, safety vests, and other items that will help you keep your pet under control at all times.
  • Think Comfort: Check the weather and environmental conditions where you’ll be going. Be sure to pack collapsible water bowls, treats, toys, rain jackets, swimming safety vests or any other items your pet could use.
  • Prepare a Pet Travel Kit: Depending on the mode of transportation, pack the essential items for your pet, including:
    • A small amount of dry food
    • A small collapsible bowl
    • Medications and first aid items
    • Travel documents, like a rabies certificate
    • A favorite soft toy, blanket, or pillow
    • Treats and dental chews
    • Your veterinarian’s contact information

Watch Your Pet’s Diet

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If you can keep to your pet’s accustomed diet for a while after arrival, it will help to avoid stomach upsets. Your pet will be out of sorts in unfamiliar territory, so changing up its diet could spell disaster. Here are some ways to keep your pet on course:

  • Dry Food: Depending on the mode of travel and destination, if you use a dried food, you can probably carry enough with you for a couple of weeks. You can also research the location to see if you can purchase some food upon your arrival, or even have it shipped there. Some hotels will have your pet’s favorite food on hand if you set things up ahead of time. In this case, planning is crucial.
  • Canned or Fresh Food: If you normally use canned or fresh food, it may be worth getting your pet used to a completely dry food diet before you travel. If they must have canned or fresh food, you will need to make sure you can either buy it or ship it to your final destination.
  • Seeds: If you plan to transport a bird or small animal that eats seeds, be sure to check the country you plan to go. Some places will not allow certain types of seeds into their country.

Your pet will most likely be hungry after the long trip, so do your best to ensure they have the food they need to keep them energetic and healthy.

Plan for Emergencies and the Unexpected

The U.S. Department of State recommends pet owners have an emergency plan in case they need to send their pets back home or leave them behind in the destination country. The plan should include:

  • Who to Call: Your contact information, as well as your veterinarian’s.
  • How to Care: Instructions about your pet’s care and feeding, including medications and preventative treatments.
  • Where to Stay: Contact details of at least 1 trusted person or facility with whom your pet could stay, both in the destination country and back at home.
  • How to Pay: Instructions on financial and medical resources your pet might need in an emergency situation and accessibility details, like phone numbers and hours of operation.

Keep Your Pet Calm and Comfortable During the Journey

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You may be feeling stressed on the big travel day, but it is important your pet sees you as calm and collected. Here are some tips from the ASPCA to help make your journey go as smoothly as possible:

  • Talk to All the Airline Staff: Tell every airline employee or personnel that you have a pet traveling with you. If your pet is traveling in the cargo area of the plane instead of the cabin, you may want to confirm they have loaded your pet onboard. This is especially important if you and your pet take multiple connecting flights.

Sometimes airline staff will voluntarily approach pet owners on the plane once their pets have been loaded safely onboard, but this is not always the case. If you haven’t already been notified of your pet’s whereabouts before takeoff, don’t be afraid to politely request confirmation from the airline staff.

  • Keep Your Pet Hydrated and Fed, But Not Full: Just like their human counterparts, pets should not have heavy meals before flying. Feed your pet between 3-4 hours prior to leaving. Be sure to give your pet a bathroom opportunity close to departure time.

Just like humans, pets get dehydrated while traveling and during flights due to the plane’s air filtration system. If possible, give your pet some bottled water to drink during the flight, but not an excessive amount as that will increase the chance of a messy accident. If you are unable to monitor your pet’s in-flight hydration, you should ensure they get rehydrated immediately after the flight. Be aware that drinking water that comes from a place your pet isn’t used to can cause digestive problems.

On other modes of transportation, like buses and trains, water may not be easily accessible, so find out if you can carry bottled water for your pet. If not, make sure they have water on board for your pet. You will need to do your research to make sure your pet has all the necessities and is well-cared for, no matter what mode of transportation you choose.

Enlist in the Latest Pet Resources

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There are a number of gadgets and apps to help make your trip safer and easier, such as:

  • Pet Insurance: You can go online to easily find a pet insurance plan that suits your budget and your pet’s needs.

Keeping your pet comfortable and healthy while traveling requires a certain amount of planning and preparation, but it is well worth the time. You will both enjoy the trip more and arrive ready to go!

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