Travel is one of the most exciting experiences for people, but it may not always be the same for a pet. The change of environment can cause a significant amount of anxiety for some animals, so you should think carefully if taking your pet with you on a trip is the best option. Always put your pet’s needs first, and if you do decide to travel with them, make it easier for everyone involved by doing a few extra things before you head out the door.
Before the Trip
Pet Health Check
Before embarking on a journey with your pet which involves crossing state or international lines, you should consult your veterinarian and ensure that you have all the required paperwork and certificates. It is best to plan the trip well in advance and inform your veterinarian about your plans as soon as possible. He or she will then determine if your pet is healthy enough for travel as well as what kind of blood tests, vaccinations, and health certificates are required for the destination you are going to.
In most cases, you will need a certificate of veterinary inspection, which is a document that certifies that your pet does not carry any illness or parasites that might be harmful to the people or the animals in the destination territory. This certificate is only issued by federally accredited veterinarians, and you can find one in your area by contacting the local veterinary service NVAP Coordinator (a spreadsheet with their contact information is available from the USDA at this address).
If you are traveling by car, you will need to obtain the health certificate within 30 days of your departure, and if you are traveling by plane, you will need to get the certificate within the 10 days before traveling. The medical requirements may vary significantly depending on the country of your departure and the destination, which is why you should always contact the embassy of the foreign country you are traveling to well in advance, to inform yourself about their medical regulations.
For more information, visit:
- CDC: International Travel with Pets
- Veterinary Medical Center of the Ohio University: Health and travel certificates
Preparing Tags, Leashes, Photos, etc.
Make sure to always provide your contact information to go along with a pet, especially if you have to transport them as cargo. In addition to a standard identification tag which is carried on your pet at all times, their collar should also contain your address at the destination and rabies vaccination information. Furthermore, it is required to microchip your pet well before departure.
Bring a photo of your pet with you, so you can show it to the flight crew and airport personnel in case your pet gets lost.
You should also bring an extra leash in case the one you usually use gets lost or damaged in transit.
For more advice, visit:
- Napa Humane: Tips for safe travel with pets
- Georgia Veterinary Medical Association: Traveling with your pet
When you are packing your pet’s travel bag, try to include their favorite things to make your pet feel more at home and help with possible anxiety abroad. Your pet’s travel pack should include:
- Copy of medical record and vaccination certificates
- Water/food bowl
- Food and bottles of water
- First-aid kit
- Any medication
- Favorite toys
- Favorite bedding
- Grooming supplies
- Litter and a litter box (for cats)
For more information on this topics, visit:
- American Red Cross: Preparing to travel with your pet
- American Veterinary Medical Association: Traveling with Your Pet
Your pets need to be properly restrained and secured whenever they are traveling with you in a car. Leaving your pet unrestrained represents not only a danger to the animal but also to you and other passengers, as it is one of the leading sources of distraction to drivers. Automobile pet restraining harnesses are inexpensive and can be purchased in pet stores. Your small pets will be the safest in a crate.
For more information about pet restraints, visit:
- Center for Pet Safety: How to select a harness
- MSPCA Angell: Pet travel tips
- RSPCA Derby: Helping your dog to travel safely
Planning for Pet-Friendly Lodging
Before making a reservation at a hotel, make sure you completely understand their pet policy. You should inquire about which types and sizes of pets are allowed in the hotel. Find out if you need to show vaccinations and/or medical documentation upon check-in, as well as if there are any additional charges for your pet staying in the room with you.
Let the hotel staff know if your pet barks or meows a lot, and ask for a room away from other guests if it is possible. Ask beforehand if you can leave your pet unattended. If you have to leave your pet alone in the room, try to get back quickly. Inquire about the closest place where you can walk your pet, and always make sure that you are considerate to other guests and personnel of the hotel. Remember, if your pet causes a lot of problem for the management, they may decide not to allow any pet again!
For more about pets and hotels, visit:
During the Trip
Keeping Your Pet Inside
Properly restrain your pet in the car to prevent injuries to your pets, passengers, and yourself. Do not let your pet ride in the back of a truck, in someone’s lap, or near the driver’s feet. Small pets should be confined in crates, while larger pets should be restrained with harnesses attached to the car’s seat belts. Dogs sometimes love to ride with their heads outside, but you should not allow them to because debris can enter their nose, ears, and eyes and cause injury or infection.
If you are traveling by plane, buy a sturdy airline-approved crate. It should be large enough for the animal to stand without touching the top of the cage, sit upright, turn around, and lie down in a natural position.
Make frequent stops (about every 2 or 3 hours) to allow your pet to go to the bathroom and get some exercise. Always put them on a leash before they exit the car.
Food & Water
It is usually recommended that your pet travels on an empty or nearly empty stomach by plane. Your veterinarian will give you specific instructions based on the size of your pet, time and distance of the flight and pet’s regular feeding routine.
When you are traveling by car, try to keep your pet’s feeding schedule close to the regular schedule as much as possible and bring along the food that your pet is accustomed to.
Staying with your Pet
Never leave your pet in the vehicle unattended. This increases chances of theft or heat distress for your pet.
For more information on travel with a pet, visit:
- ASPCA: Travel safety tips
- PETA: Top tips for traveling with dogs
- American Kennel Club: Travelling with your dog
- Kansas State University: Pet travel
- S. Food & Drug Administration: Travel training for you and your pets
Traveling with Pets and Children
Car rides are boring for everyone, especially for children, so do not allow them to tease or annoy the pet in the car. In order for everyone in the car to stay protected, older children should be taught how to behave around pets, while younger children and babies should be kept out of reaching distance. \
To learn more, visit:
- Kids Health: Safe pets for children
- TexVetPet: Traveling with pets
- Easy fundraising: 10 best dog breeds for children
Rules, Regulations, and Safety
Airlines have different procedures related to the acceptance of pets on flights, their handling, and delivery; which is why it is always best to call their customer service before reserving a seat.
A general rule is that only small pets (usually just dogs and cats) are allowed to travel with you in the cabin. Bigger animals have to travel as baggage or cargo, and there are some countries that do not allow any animal to travel in the cabin, no matter the size. When you are traveling outside of the country, you need to follow both the United States regulations and the requirement of the country you are going to. For example, federal regulations require that pets be at least 8 weeks old, and they should be completely weaned at least 5 days before they will be flying.
Animals can get very anxious during the flight, but the IATA discourages the use of sedatives and tranquilizers on animals traveling because this can increase the risk of heart and respiratory problems. For more information, you can visit the FAA page, Pets in the passenger cabin.
Leaving Pets at Home
When deciding whether you are going to bring your pet on a trip with you, consider their physical and emotional needs before your own preferences and plans. Some pets are not suited for travel due to their age, temperament, illness, or physical impairment, so it would be more beneficial for them to stay at home.
Finding a Professional Sitter
If you are hiring a pet sitter, interview the candidates and check their references. You should make sure that your pet is comfortable with the person you are hiring. You can check this by having him or her come to your house a couple of times before you leave. Make sure that the person you are hiring is covered with liability insurance and is bonded.
For more information, visit:
If you decide to board your pet in a kennel while you are away, you should get references (from your veterinarian or local shelter) and inspect it personally before choosing the best one. The kennel will probably require your pet’s up-to-date veterinary records. Some facilities also ask for vaccine for canine kennel cough. Kennels usually offer services such as grooming, training, and bathing at an additional price.
To learn more about kennels, visit:
- Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources: Tips for traveling with your pets over the holidays
- NC State University: Keeping pets stress-free for the holidays
Getting Help from Friends, Neighbors or Family
Sometimes the best solution for your pets is to ask your friends, neighbors, or family members to watch them while you are gone, especially if they are willing to stay in your home to take care of them. Your pets may feel most comfortable in the place they are familiar with surrounded by people they know. However, if your animal is going to stay with a family member or neighbor, make sure that your pet is already familiar with their pets if they have any.
For more information, visit:
- Tupelo-Lee Humane Society: What do you do with your pets when you go on a vacation
- Parma Animal Shelter: Pets- What to do when you go on a vacation
Pet-Friendly Destinations that Your Pets will Love
There are many destinations that your pets would love. Here are some great resources to start your search:
- Friends of Animals: Dog friendly vacation destinations
- Hawaiian Humane Society: Hawaii- dog friendly beaches
- San Diego Tourism Authority: San Diego: Traveling with pets
- Pure Michigan: Dog friendly Michigan destinations