By Tom James
Record numbers of people will take to the road and sky with their pets this year as more and more hotels, resorts and other accommodations roll out the welcome mat. Recreational activities like camping and hiking will also involve four-legged members of family like never before.
Why such an upturn in pet travel activity? Manufacturers have realized that just as you need special products to make getting around with children easier, your pets are no exception. From car seats and strollers to carriers and seat belts, the things you use for your children’s comfort and safety are in hot demand for pets. More accommodations properties have realized, too, that instead of turning away customers with pets and having empty rooms, they can fill more capacity by welcoming the pet traveler.
But before you hit road, trail or sky, there are some things you should know. Make your pet travel experience safe, fun and enjoyable by following these simple, common sense tips:
Before you venture out on a long trip, try short jaunts across town and back to get your pet used to the ride. A carsick pet can make the trip miserable for everyone. A seat upholstery protector, such as a pet hammock or waterproof seat cover will make clean-ups easier in case your pet does get sick or has an accident. And be sure to take along a few cleaning supplies to avoid having to search out a place to purchase them at the last minute.
- Safely secure your pet while traveling. An unrestrained pet can become a deadly projectile in the event of a sudden stop or crash, causing serious injury (even death) to itself, you or your passengers. For example, an unsecured, 25-pound dog in a 40 mph crash becomes a 1,000-pound mass (half a ton) flying uncontrollably inside the vehicle.
- Dogs should be restrained with either a harness designed for pet travel. Smaller dogs can be secured in pet car seats, which allow them to also see out, while being properly restrained.
- Never attach a restraining device to a pet’s collar. Always use a harness to prevent injury.
- Cats should be contained in a crate or cage that is secured, if possible, with a seat belt. Never allow a cat to roam freely in the vehicle, as it could get tangled around the driver’s feet or get in the driver’s sight of the road.
- Do not allow your pet to ride with its head outside of the window. An obstacle close to the vehicle could potentially strike your pet’s head, causing injury or death, or dirt particles could get into your pet’s ears, nose, eyes, or throat, causing health problems.
- It’s a good idea to stop every couple of hours for your pet and you to stretch and walk around. A pet leash is essential to have control of your pet when you go outside. Pets in unfamiliar surroundings may either become scared and run away or curious and go exploring.
- Have your own supply of cold water, as fresh water is not always handy or convenient when you need to stop.
- Have your pet consume small amounts of food and water, but don’t allow to overeat or drink if you still have more traveling to do. Reserve your pet’s main meal for the end of the day.
- Leaving a pet in a parked car is never a good idea. Temperatures in confined spaces in the spring and summer can heat up fast, causing heatstroke – even death – to a pet.
- A pet first-aid kit is an essential item to pack when venturing out and should contain things such as antiseptic cream, assorted bandages, tweezers, eye drops, gauge, tape, and the like. Know what items are in your kit and how to use them.
- Your pet’s medical records, medications and health certificate should also be packed. Phone numbers for your pet’s vet, the National Animal Poison Control Center hotline (888-426-4435), and emergency pet hospitals in the areas where you plan to travel should be taken along.
- A travel tag on a pet’s collar will help someone locate you should you and your pet become separated. The travel tag should contain information about where you are staying locally (while away from home), including addresses and phone numbers. A cell phone number is also a good idea since most people have one with them, especially when they travel.
- Take along a recent photo of your pet. In case you become separated, it will help others better identify the pet they’re looking for.
- Be considerate and practice good “petiquette” by cleaning up after your pet. Always keep a supply of pick-up bags with you.
- Check with your vet before you leave about flea and tick treatments or repellent, heartworm medication and other preventives. Ask your vet about diseases and infestations that may be prevalent in certain locales you plan to travel.
In addition to the tips for traveling with your pet by car, RVers should consider the following:
- Check ahead at the RV Park or campground to make sure they permit pets on the premises. Don’t assume that “pet-friendly” means all pets are accepted. They may have certain size restrictions or a limit on the number of pets you may bring. Others may offer kennels or other boarding facilities for travelers who may want to set out on excursions or attractions that don’t allow pets.
- Don’t leave your pet locked inside your RV without the air running or proper ventilation. If a generator malfunctions, temperatures can heat up fast in the spring and summer and can cause heat stroke or be fatal to your pet. Make sure your pet has plenty of water and air circulation if you must leave him for short periods of time.
- Do not tie your pet to your RV with a metal chain in case of a power surge or improperly grounded facilities.
- Be aware of the kind of metal steps on your RV that may be a potential hazard to your pet. Some RV’s are equipped with steps that have little holes in them. There has been a report where an unattended dog had gotten its claws stuck in the holes and, in trying to get freed, tore out its nails and bled to death.
The first thing to consider when thinking about traveling with your pet by air is to make sure your pet’s physical condition is conducive to flying. An ill, injured, pregnant, very young, or senior pet has a higher risk to travel.
Certain breeds of dogs, such as collies and pugs, have special respiratory considerations because of their long or short snouts, and flying in the cargo area of a plane can lead to breathing difficulties because of poor ventilation. These types of dogs, as well as cats, should fly in the cabin, if allowed.
Bottom line is to know the risk factors when preparing for air travel with your pet, and always be sure to check well in advance of your trip to ensure you have the latest information regarding airline pet policies.
Ask about pet carrier size regulations for underseat storage or in the cargo area, required immunizations and health records, and if they allow pets in the cabin. In extremely hot weather, some airlines do not allow pets to be transported in the cargo area.
Follow these simple rules to make the most of your airline travel with your pet:
- Plan early. Book your and your pet’s reservations well in advance and get the airline’s latest pet regulations.
- You’ll need a general health certificate and a rabies vaccination certificate, which should be issued within 10 days of your departure. Have these with you as well if you are traveling interstate or internationally.
- Nonstop flights work best to avoid plane changes, which will minimize your pet’s anxiety.
- Think about the time of year you are traveling. Early morning or late evening flights work best in warmer weather. (Midday flights are better in colder months.)
- According to the Animal Welfare Act, you will not be able to fly with your dog or cat if your pet is less than eight weeks old. Pets must also be weaned at least five days before traveling by air.
- Allow plenty of time to exercise your pet when you arrive at the airport. Comfort your pet with words of reassurance as you place your pet in the carrier or crate.
Camping with Pets
Camping with your pet brings the whole family together to enjoy the experience instead of leaving your special member of the family behind to worry about.
It’s no fun to be cooped up in a kennel for a weekend or longer when the rest of the family is out having a good time. If your pet is physically able, well behaved and eager to go, wouldn’t it be nice to take him along for the trip?
Just as you would pack your own things, don’t overlook what your pet may need to keep him comfortable, too. Being prepared with the right essentials and equipment is the key to ensure a happy time on the road and in the woods. Also keep in mind when and where you plan to camp. The time of year and geographical location of your campsite can make a big difference in how and what you prepare for your camping trip. Know what the weather conditions are likely to be and pack accordingly.
Consider these tips to make your camping experience with your pet more enjoyable:
- Check out the campgrounds, parks or wherever you plan to visit well in advance to make sure they accept pet campers.
- Find out what types of facilities they have on site, such as dog runs, off-leash areas, drinking water, etc.
- Do they allow off-leash pets on nearby hiking trails?
- Is there a size restriction or a limit in the number of pets you can bring along?
In addition to some of the items for traveling on the road and getting to your destination, here are some things that campers may want to take along:
- Pet tent and bedding. Who doesn’t like his own digs? A small, easily assembled pet tent gives everyone a better night’s sleep. A pet travel bed or cot keeps your pet off the ground and away from crawling bugs.
- Leash and harness. You should always have a means of controlling your pet when you travel. Some animals get very anxious when they’re in new territory and can become scared and run away or excited and want to explore. Be courteous of others in the campground, park or on the trail so they are not unnerved by a pet on the loose. Remember to check the leash regulations where you plan to romp with your pet before setting out. Wildlife such as snakes, skunks, porcupines, raccoons, bears, mountain lions, and coyotes can be a problem with a pet on the loose and can cause serious injury. Make sure your pet stays in close proximity to where you are hiking.
- Treats, food and water. Pack the appropriate amount of food and water for your pet (and you!). New innovations in pet travel products make it easy to take along portable or collapsible food and water bowls and pet backpacks that even have their own water supply.
- Protective dog shoes. If you are hiking in rough terrain, these will protect your dog’s feet from cuts and scratches.
- Toys. A familiar chew toy is like a baby blanket and reinforcement to your pet. You may want to include two or three for a little variety or in case one becomes lost or your pet decides to hide one.
- Grooming supplies. Burs, beggar’s lice, hound’s-tongue… there are lots of names for all of those hijackers that get on pets and one’s clothing while in the woods. It’s advisable to have the right kind of brush to get those pesky things off your pet’s coat. Additionally, in case your pet gets into something he shouldn’t that may require a bath, some pet shampoo with you may do the trick. Pack some extra towels for drying or wiping muddy feet.
- Flea and tick repellant. Some products last several weeks to kill adult fleas (and larvae), ticks and mosquitoes. Consider treating your pet, according to the manufacturer’s directions, to make his camping experience more comfortable.
So whether you and your pet plan to travel by land or air, take a hike together, or go on a weekend camping trip, the bottom line is to be prepared. Having the right equipment and attitude will help make the experience of traveling with your pet very rewarding. Most of all, have fun!
About the Author:
Tom James is founder and president of PetTravelCenter.com, an Internet company and online community serving the pet travel industry and pet lovers everywhere. Information and resources about pet-friendly hotels and destinations, RV parks, dog parks, campgrounds, tips for traveling with pets using various modes of transportation, recreational activities with pets, articles by pet experts, a photo gallery, and special features, including a monthly newsletter for PTC Club members, are included in the site. PetTravelCenter.com also offers an online store of pet travel products to make the experience of traveling with pets “fun and easy.” Visit online at http://www.pettravelcenter.com/ and http://www.pettravelcenter.com/store.
PetTravelCenter.com is an Internet resource website and online community serving the pet travel industry and pet lovers everywhere. Information about pet-friendly accommodations and destinations, RV parks, dog parks and campgrounds, tips for traveling with pets using various modes of transportation, recreational activities with pets, articles by pet experts, a photo gallery to post images of your pet travels, and special features, including a monthly newsletter for PTC Club members, are included in the site.