Tips For Travelling With Your Pet

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For many travellers a vacation just isn’t a vacation without their furry family members. Here, some tips on keeping your pet safe as you travel.

In the air

Keep the skies friendly for your favourite jet set pet by following these recommendations from the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association:

— Do not sedate your pet on a flight, unless advised by your veterinarian. High altitudes and sedatives can be a dangerous combination, potentially inhibiting an animal’s ability to regulate its body temperature or cause breathing problems.

— Consider making an appointment with your vet prior to departure to make sure your pet is in good health and can withstand the rigors of air travel.

— Be sure to bring your pet’s certificate of health and immunization record. When traveling outside the country, contact the appropriate embassy for quarantine or health requirements.

— Book your travel well in advance, as most airlines accept a limited number of pets on each flight. Ask about the airline’s procedure regarding pets, as each one is slightly different. (See Pet-friendly skies?) Some airlines allow for small pets to be taken on board, provided that the carrier fits underneath the passenger seat.

— It’s best to travel in off-peak hours and on non-stop flights. Ideally, your pet should be the last on and first off the airplane.

— Purchase your carrier either from the airline, a pet store or animal hospital. The crate should be large enough for your pet to stand, sit, turn around and lie down comfortably. Additionally, before boarding make sure that all screws on the crate are secure. Carriers should be labeled “Live Animal” and “This End Up” in letters at least 3 cm high. Do not lock the crate so that airline personnel can access your pet in the event of an emergency.

–To minimize stress, introduce your pet to the travel crate several weeks before departure to allow him to become used to it.

–Arrange for fresh water to be made available for your pet sometime during or directly after the flight. Keep your pet’s leash and collar easily accessible for walking prior to departure, but do not take your pet out of the kennel inside the airport.

–Be sure to have identification tags for your pet and travel kennel, including pet’s name, home address and phone numbers (including cell phone).

On the road

– Buckle up! You’re not the only one who should be wearing your seat belt. For protection in case of an accident or an abrupt stop, secure your pet with a travel harness, carrier, crate, tether or dog/cat car seat.

— It’s safer for young children to sit in the back seat – and the same is also true for your pet. Not only will this protect your dog or cat from deploying airbags, but also they will also be less of a distraction for the driver.

— You’ve heard it before but never leave your pet in a hot car, even for a short period. During the summer, temperatures in a sealed car can reach heat in excess of 48 degrees C (120 degrees F) within minutes. (For more summer safety tips, see Dog Days of Summer.)

On the water

— Protect pets from drowning by providing them with a life vest. This will provide buoyancy and better visibility should they get knocked off the boat or dock and take an unexpected dip. Using a life vest could save your pet’s life, particularly in cold or choppy water

— Pets should be shown the pool steps or boat ramp so they know how to get out of the water.

— Don’t forget the sunscreen. Too much sun exposure can be harmful not only to pet parents, but also to pets. Certain breeds of dogs such as Dalmatians and white bull terriers – as well as white cats – are particularly susceptible to sunburn. And pets that have been recently groomed and have a less protective hair coat are more at risk. Apply sunscreen to your pet’s nose, ears and other parts of the skin that is not pigmented or well furred. And the “stay in the shade” rule applies not only to us, but also to our animal friends. Try to keep your pet in the shade when the sun is strongest, from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

— Give your dog a good rinse after swimming. Salt water and chlorine from the pool can irritate an animal’s skin.

In the great outdoors

–Be aware of the vegetation in the area as there are hundreds of plants and flowers that are poisonous to pets – including lily of the valley, iris, daffodils and many more. (Find out more.) Also, watch for any fruit that has fallen to the ground as this could make your pet sick.

— Runoff and pooling water can contain dangerous traces of chemicals such as coolant, engine oil, fertilizers, plant foods and pesticides.

— Protect delicate paws from hot sand or pavement. If hot surfaces are difficult to avoid you may want to consider using pet booties.


Pet packing list

Health documentation. As a precaution, carry two copies of your pet’s health and vaccination records.

Two types of ID. Have your pet wear two tags when traveling: one with your permanent address and telephone number, another with a way to contact you while traveling (including your cell phone number). A useful trick is to staple a card of your hotel onto your pet’s collar. You may also want to have your pet micro-chipped in addition to wearing traditional identification tags. And, finally, in the event your pet should become lost, carrying a current photo can be useful.

Bedding. Be sure to pack your pet’s favourite blanket or pillow

Flashlight. This is useful not only for emergencies but for late night walks

An extra leash and collar or harness with ID tags.

Mini-fan. This comes in handy if your pet becomes overheated while travelling or in the hotel room

Toys. Of course, you’ll want to pack the tried-and-true favourites, but also include toys that can occupy your pet, such as Kong toys, which can be stuffed with meat, cheese, peanut butter, or kibble.

Collapsible bowls and specially designed pet water bottles. A spray bottle can also be used for squirting water into your pet’s mouth. Always carry a container or two of water.

Medicine and First Aid. Be sure to include all prescription medicines, as well as a basic first aid kit. A supply of plastic bags may also come in handy. (See Your Checklist for Healthy Pets.)

Sources: Canadian Veterinary Medical Association;

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