Your family is getting ready for summer vacation and this year you have decided to take your pet with you. Here are a few simple tips to make sure you and your pet are ready for this adventure.
Get your paperwork ready. Before you travel with your pets be certain you have copies of all of their paperwork you may need. This includes vaccine records, rabies certificates, and health certificates if needed. If your pet has significant medical history (on long term medications, chronic medical problems, etc), please ask us for copies of your pet's full medical history. This ensures if your pet has complications while traveling, you will be able to provide this to another veterinarian. I also recommend having a recent picture of your pet with you. While hopefully you will not need it, if you pet is separated from you this may be essential.
Update your pet's healthcare. Make sure your pet is up to date on all vaccines he/she may need to travel. Ask your vet about any additional vaccines/preventative care your pet may need if you are traveling to areas with different diseases. As usual we recommend keeping your pets on their monthly parasite prevention (flea, tick, heartworm, and intestinal parasite prevention) year round. This is particularly important when you might be staying at places where you can't guarantee that other pets are parasite free or up to date on vaccines!
Make sure your pet has identification. While a collar with name tags (with a reliable phone number), is a must have, we also strongly recommend a form of permanent identification. The most common option is a microchip, which can be easily placed if your pet does not have one yet.
Stock up on supplies or medications you may need. Does you pet take daily medications? Don't forget to stock up on these before your travels. It is also a good idea to have a pet first aid kit-include items such as wound wash, simple bandage materials, benadryl (if your pet is stung/has an allergic reaction), triple antibiotic ointment for simple abrasions, thermometer, and other simple first aid materials. Also talk with your vet if your pet gets car sick. We can decide on a plan to help your pet out!
Have a secure area in the car for your pet to travel. While we recommend a crate (make sure your pets can comfortably stand and turn around in the crate), other options includes a seat belt, travel seats, and car barriers.
Be respectful of other people and pets. Remember that hotels and such may not allow pets in the future if we are not respectful/mindful of their property and other guests. Be certain that your pet is on a leash/in a crate except where allowed, clean up after your pet (always carry plastic bags for this!), and do your best to make sure your pet is well behaved. While we love our pets, other guests may not appreciate them as much!
Plan ahead. Be certain your lodging allows pets. Also have a plan for your pet when your family will be participating in non animal friendly activities. Most hotels do not allow unattended pets to be left in hotel rooms.
Be aware of the weather conditions. Always be cautious when leaving your pet in the car. While it may not seem that hot, when you take a quick break for lunch, keep in mind that it is very easy for your pet to overheat in the car. Heatstroke can be fatal to your pet. A dog can die after 5 minutes in a closed car in hot temperature. At the other end of the spectrum, freezing temperatures can be fatal as well.
Bring your pets own food and water. Avoid upset stomach issues for your pet while traveling by bringing your pet's own food and if possible water. Also don't forget your pet's bowls and beds!
Decide for certain that your pet can handle going on a road trip. While we might think road trips are fun, make sure your pet agrees! Does your pet get car sick, upset/anxious in the car, unhappy in strange locations, or nervous around new people/other animals? If so, consider leaving your pet at home, either under the care of a reliable pet sitter or at a trust worthy boarding facility.
And most of all, have fun!
Boo Donoho, DVM
Southern Animal Hospital