You've decided to take your pet along on vacation. It will be more fun, and you won't have to worry about leaving a member of your family behind in an unfamiliar kennel. With some extra planning and forethought, you can have a safe and enjoyable trip with your pet.
Taking a Road Trip
If you're driving with your pet, you'll need to find a comfortable and safe way for your pet to travel. You can place your pet in a carrier and secure it in the car. Alternatively, you can purchase a seatbelt-like harness for your pet that will allow him to be out of the carrier but still safely restrained. It isn't safe to allow your pet to roam freely in the car. He can be seriously hurt in the event of even a minor accident, and he is much more likely to escape and become lost when you make stops.
Don't leave your pet alone in the car, especially in hot weather. The heat can quickly become life-threatening. If your pet becomes carsick easily, you may want to ask your veterinarian for motion-sickness medicine before the trip.
Carry some of your pet's food along with you, and feed your pet only small amounts of food at a time. If your trip is short, you may want to have your pet wait and eat when you arrive to avoid carsickness. You should also carry some of your pet's water along, or purchase bottled water. Local tap water may contain different minerals or sulphur, which might upset your pet's stomach.
Flying with your pet
Many pet owners do not like to fly with their pets because it can be traumatic for them, but sometimes it's unavoidable. Unless your pet is very small, he will fly as cargo and not in the cabin with you. Check with your airline to determine what type of carrier is acceptable and what rules apply to flying with a pet. Also ask what safety precautions are in place, what conditions the pet will fly in, etc. Ask your veterinarian if your pet is well enough to fly or if there are any special precautions you should take.
Taking your pet out of the country requires careful planning. Check the regulations for the country you are traveling to and verify that your pet has the required vaccinations. In some cases, you'll need to have the vaccines administred weeks before your departure date.
Most countries will require a Rabies Vaccination Certificate and a Health Certificate. Your veterinarian can help you obtain both of these. The country you are traveling to may require that you complete paperwork gaining permission to bring your pet into the country. Also, some countries have quarantine regulations that may require your pet to remain in a kennel for up to several months.
Pet Friendly Hotels
A quick search on the Internet can help you find hotels that are receptive to pets. Many travel sites also allow you to specify only pet-frienly accommodations. Check with the hotel to find their specific rules regarding staying with a pet.
If your pet requires walks, ask for a room that opens on the outside. This will be more convenient for those late night trips outdoors.
Many alternative lodging sites, such as resorts, cabins and bed and breakfasts are also open to receiving pets. Check ahead of time for availability where you're traveling. Since many of these vacation spots offer outdoor activities, they can be great options for pet owners.
What Will your Pet do All day?
You know how you'll travel, and you've found a hotel that will welcome your pet, so now what? What will your pet do all day when you're out having fun?
An outdoor vacation is an ideal choice if you're traveling with pets. Consider renting an RV and taking a camping vacation. Many RV rental agencies allow pets with an extra deposit. A trip to the beach is another good choice for pet owners. However, keep in mind that sand can be irritating to some pets, especially dogs with deep skin folds. Some animals are bothered by long sun exposure as well.
If you're spending a lot of time outdoors, keep plenty of cold water on hand and watch your pet for signs of heat exhaustion.
Some restaurants now provide outdoor seating that is also pet friendly. Check ahead of time if any are available near where you are staying. If you'd like to spend mealtime with your pet and no pet-friendly restaurants are close by, you might consider takeout or even picnicing outdoors.
What if you're taking a more traditional vacation? Many tourist attractions will not welcome your pet, and it isn't a good idea to leave your pet alone in a strange hotel room all day. You may be able to place your pet in his carrier for shorter excursions, but for all day trips, consider researching pet daycare centers or kennels available in the area. You can leave your pet for a few hours in a safe environment but still enjoy his company on your trip.
What to Take Along
Bring your pet's food along or plan to buy it as needed. This is not a good time to change your pet's diet, and you should certainly avoid giving your pet any table scraps. Traveling can be stressful regardless of how careful you are, and you don't need the added complication of stomach upset for your pet.
Don't give your dog the local water, especially if you're traveling internationally. It's safer to give your pet only bottled water to avoid possible stomach upset.
Bring along any medicines your pet takes, including vitamins, flea medicines, heart worm prescriptions, etc. You should also bring some basic first-aid supplies in case of injury. Ask your veterinarian what should be included in your pet's first aid kit. These might include medicines for stomach upset and a mild tranquilizer in case your pet becomes extremely agitated. You can purchase pre-stocked pet first aid kits at many pet supply stores.
To make your pet more comfortable, bring along a few items from home. Bring some of your pet's bedding and a few of his favorite toys. Bring only treats your pet has eaten in the past with no stomach upset. Again, this isn't the time to try any new foods. The carrier you bring should be large enough for your pet to remain comfortably inside for a few hours. He should be able to stand, lie down and turn around easily within it. Also, be sure your pet has fresh water available within the carrier.
A Pre-Trip Checklist
Make an appointment with your veterinarian. Have your pet examined and any vaccinations done that are needed. Ask if your pet is healthy enough to travel, and ask for advice concerning any of your pet's health conditions. Remember that if you are traveling outside the country, you may need to plan weeks in advance.
Make sure your pet has current identification attached to his collar, and that it fits well and isn't likely to slip off. You might want to consider having an identification chip implanted before your trip, but you'll need to discuss with your veterinarian how soon your pet can travel after the procedure.
Gather phone numbers for veterinarians, pet emergency care facilities, kennels, etc. before you leave for each place where you'll be staying. If an accident or illness does occur, you'll be grateful that you don't have to take the time to find someone to care for your pet.
Make a packing list for your pet based on his needs and what your veterinarian recommends. Double-check it as you pack his things. Take your veterinarian's phone number along with you in case you need to call and ask a last minute question or have your pet's records sent to another clinic.
Take time to get your pet used to his carrier, especially if it's new. If you're driving, take your pet in the car for practice trips before the big day so it won't be so traumatic. Another benefit to this approach is that you'll learn if your pet become motion sick easily.
If you're traveling with your cat, bring a litterbox and litter along with you. It's easier to purchase cheap plastic litterboxes and throw them away rather than try to clean and transport them. If traveling with a dog, be sure to bring baggies to clean up after your pet's walks.
Embarrassing and Alarming Moments
Pets get stressed when traveling, so accidents can and will happen. Bring some disposable wipes and plastic baggies to clean up after your pet. Another good idea is bringing a small bottle of enzyme based cleaner. If your pet selects the hotel carpet as the perfect spot for his accident, this can remove the odor and stain before it has a change to set.
Never open your pet's carrier unless you're in an enclosed room. Pets can move much more quickly than you can, and nothing will ruin your vacation faster than losing your traveling companion.
Traveling with your pet can be challenging, but with some planning ahead, it can also be a fun and rewarding experience. Trying a short weekend trip before a longer vacation can also help your pet acclimate to travel, and you will learn how well your pet travels.
Author Ian White is founder of pet-sitters.biz Pet Sitting Directory
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