January 2nd marks National Pet Travel Safety Day, a time to make a resolution to keep your dog or cat safe every time you get in the car. Do you have a winter vacation coming up? We put together some of our top tips for traveling safely with your pets.
Whether you’re traveling by car or air, your pet needs to be safely secured in a carrier – you wouldn’t drive without a seatbelt, so your pet shouldn’t be loose inside your car! When choosing a carrier, you want to find one that is large enough for them to comfortably stand, sit, lie down, and turn around. It’s also a good idea to choose a carrier that allows you to attach a water bowl or bottle to the door, especially if your pet will be spending extended periods in it.
If you’re flying, be sure to review the airline requirements for carriers. They often have guidelines around the size, shape, and materials, depending on whether they’re going in the cabin or the hold.
Once your bags are packed, it’s time to get one ready for your pet. Inside this bag should be anything they may need during your travels, including:
This is also a great time to double-check that your pet’s microchip information is up-to-date. If your pet does escape from your house, a microchip is their best chance of finding their way home. Studies have found that the return-to-owner rate was 20 times higher for cats and 2.5 times higher for dogs with a microchip – you can learn all about microchips and their benefits in this blog.
Before your trip, take the time to review the requirements for pets both during your travel and at your destination. If you’re flying, in particular, you’ll want to review the rules for your specific airline – each can have different rules around weight limits, carrier sizes, among others. Your pet may also require specific vaccinations, such as Rabies or Distemper, and could require a period of quarantine when arriving at your destination.
It’s also helpful to look into pet-related bylaws in the place you’re staying so there are no surprises. Look into rules around leash requirements and whether dogs can be off-leash in public spaces, like parks or beaches.
If your pet has limited experience with cars, give them plenty of time to become familiar with them before you hit the road. The best way to do this is in stages:
While this can be a lengthy process, taking the time to make them truly comfortable in the car will make vacations with your pet more enjoyable for everyone involved.
If this is your pet’s first extended trip in their carrier, take the time to get them used to it well before the flight. Don’t wait until the day of the flight to introduce them to the carrier – instead, put them inside it regularly, increasing the amount of time they spend in it. Once they’re comfortable being inside it, you can take them for car rides so they become accustomed to some of the feelings of movement they’ll experience.
If you’re worried about your pet becoming anxious during the flight, consider purchasing a ThunderShirt. This lightweight, machine-washable, and breathable vest serves a similar function as swaddling a baby by applying gentle pressure to calm anxiety during the journey. This makes a great alternative to sedatives, which are known to cause respiratory distress in pets when used at high altitudes.
Unfortunately, no amount of preparation can guarantee that you and your pet won’t become separated while on holiday. However, what you can do is have a plan you can fall back on in the unlikely event that this does happen. Being prepared in advance will also help you stay calm and mobilize quickly, which can help you reunite with your pet more quickly. There are three key things you can do before your trip:
As pet parents, we know that you want your pet to join you wherever you go, vacations included! We hope that these tips will help you prepare for your upcoming trip and ensure that you make nothing but positive memories.