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Pet Travel Tips

Pets won't bury their heads in comic books, ask "are we there yet?" every two minutes, or spill juice in the back seat, but they do have special needs when they travel, so planning ahead is essential. These tips from Merial.com can help you make sure your pet is prepared to travel around the block or around the world.

Tip #1: Identification
Tip #2: Before You Leave
Tip #3: Things to Bring
Tip #4: Safety and Comfort in the Car
Tip #5: Safety and Comfort in the Air
Tip #6: Stops along the Way

Tip #1: Identification.
Pets should always wear an identification tag and a rabies tag. When you're going on a trip, you can use a luggage tag to list your destination address and contact information as well as the name and number of a third party in case you can't be reached.

Tip #2: Before You Leave.

  • Be aware that some types of transportation don't allow pets unless they're service animals. Check first.
  • If you're traveling in the U.S., be sure to use the Merial.com Vet Locator service to identify veterinarians along your route and at your destination in case an emergency arises. Just click here to register for Vet Locator, a part of the Merial.com online Pet Benefits Program.
  • Be sure to get a copy of your pet's health records from your veterinarian, and have your pet examined if it's flying or going on a long car trip. Your veterinarian can advise you about tranquilizing your pet for certain types of travel.
  • Familiarize your pet with its carrier or crate so it will feel at home and secure.
  • If you're traveling or relocating internationally or even between states make sure you understand applicable rules and regulations.
  • Identify pet friendly places to stay enroute.
  • Try not to feed your dog or cat for about six hours before traveling to minimize the chances of car or air sickness.

Tip #3: Things to Bring.
Depending on your mode of travel and the length of your trip, consider bringing your pet's favorite toy, cleanup supplies (including scooper and plastic bags), cat litter (including just a bit of litter your cat has already used), air fresher and carpet cleaner, regular food and treats, food bowl, can opener and spoon, water and water bowl, grooming supplies, familiar blanket or bedding, health documentation and regular medications, leash, crate or carrier, and recent photos of your pet.

Tip #4: Safety and Comfort in the Car.

  • Make sure your pet can enter your vehicle safely. In the excitement to "go for a ride," short, long backed dogs such as dachshunds may be hurt trying to make the jump. It may be safer just to pick up your pet and put it in your vehicle.
  • If your pet isn't comfortable in your vehicle or hasn't ridden in a vehicle very often, take a few local spins before your trip begins. Go to a pet friendly park in your area so your pet will associate riding in the car with a pleasant experience.
  • Remember that pet passengers may be hurt seriously or fatally, even in a low-speed accident, so protect your pet against injury from sudden stops or swerving by using an appropriate carrier or restraint. Don't try to use the seat belt in your vehicle - after all, it was designed with humans in mind. There are several types of dog and cat restraints on the market - they not only protect your pet, but protect the driver and other passengers too by keeping a pet from hitting the driver or the back of the driver's seat during a collision or sudden stop.
  • When you park, be sure to choose a shady spot. It is unwise to leave your pet alone in your vehicle, even for a few minutes - unattended pets can be stolen, and even seasoned travelers may panic when alone in unfamiliar surroundings. And never leave your pet in a vehicle when the weather is warm. It only takes a few minutes for a car to become hot enough to cause heatstroke and dehydration. Cold weather may pose the threat of hypothermia, particularly in pets that are very old or very young.
  • When you make stops, take shifts so someone is always with your pet. Open the windows wide enough to let fresh air in - but of course not wide enough to let your pet out!

Tip #5: Safety and Comfort in the Air.
Make arrangements well in advance for pets traveling by air and confirm those arrangements 24 - 48 hours before the flight. The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has issued specific guidelines governing pet air travel, and airlines require specific health documentation. Airlines may allow small pets to travel in the passenger compartment if the carrier meets cabin specifications. Consult your airline for specific rules and charges - many airline websites provide this information. Ensure that your pet's carrier complies with airline regulations or purchase a carrier directly from the airline. If your pet is traveling as cargo, be sure to attach a tag providing destination and contact information as well as feeding and watering instructions. Food and water dishes have to be secured in the carrier. You may have to deliver your pet to the air freight area of the terminal and you will have to provide certain health documentation. Try to schedule nonstop flights during cooler times of day.

Tip #6: Stops along the Way.
Traveling with a pet makes the trip a little longer - you should try to stick to your pet's normal exercise, walking, and feeding schedule. Be aware that even-tempered, gentle pets can misbehave in unfamiliar surroundings. Attach a leash before you let your pet out of your vehicle and keep your pet leashed until it's back in the vehicle with the door closed. Carry health documentation, including proof that your pet has been vaccinated against rabies. Campgrounds, parks, hotels and motels that accepts pets are likely to require it.

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