Cars, Planes, Cats & Dogs – Traveling with a Pet

“Cars, Planes, Cats & Dogs – Traveling with a Pet” by Dr. Ryan Llera

dogs in car harnessesWe’re in the midst of the summer travel season and perhaps you’re getting ready to take some vacation time with the family, including the pets. Traveling with pets can be lots of fun but also can be an anxious endeavor for both you and them.  Before you hit the open road or take to the skies, let’s do our part to make it a safe and enjoyable time for everyone with these tips for your upcoming adventures!

Safety in the car just isn’t for you; your pets have to be safe also.  We’re talking about restraint.  Cats should always be in a carrier.  Preferably the carrier should be large enough for them to stand up and walk around in (though my cat prefers to curl up) but small enough to fit on the floor behind a seat which is the safest place.  For longer trips you may need a larger type crate (if space allows) for a litterbox and water or food dishes.  Dogs should wear a seatbelt harness unless they are a toy breed, then they should be in a carrier.  Seatbelt harnesses should be comfortable, well fitting, and sturdy. One such recommendation is the Sleepypod Clickit Sport harness.  There may be other restraint devices out there but they may not have been tested for safety ratings.  For more safety info, you can visit the Center for Pet Safety website where they have tested many types (using crash test dummies).

sleepy pod harness
SleepyPod Clickit Sport harness (from Sleepypod.com)

What about when you fly?  Each airline will have specific requirements so you will need to check their website beforehand.  If your pet is going in cargo, make sure the carrier has a secure type of closure, not clips as we wouldn’t want anyone escaping!

pillsA common request is for sedation for the pets during the trip.  Many dogs don’t seem to be bothered by a car trip but some do mind and there is a fair chance that many cats will vocalize.  In some cases they’re just talking, but sometimes cats and dogs are quite distressed by travel and need some help from their veterinarian.  As mentioned before, by no means would we suggest that your cat roam freely in the car as it is a safety hazard to everyone.

We must first stress that you should never give any over the counter or prescription medications without the advice of a veterinarian.  Cats and dogs are not miniature people and may react badly to medications we use.  Sedatives or anti-anxiety medications can vary from homeopathic to mild common medications to heavy tranquilization.  It is best to the test medication at least a few weeks before your trip.  We prefer to start on a mild medication (something that won’t affect heart rate or blood pressure) or start on a lower dose of a stronger medication.  Each pet will be different and may require different drugs.  When traveling on a plane, we do not recommend very strong medications that would normally require monitoring unless we have no other choice.

These are the two main points to focus on when traveling with your pets.  There is much more but we will touch on them briefly here.

Nausea : Some animals can get car sick just like people!  If they do, it may be best if they are fasted before a trip or only feed them a small meal.  Alternatively, your veterinarian can recommend or prescribe something to help settle their stomachs and prevent vomiting.

Identification & Records : Before leaving, make sure your pets tags or microchip information is up to date in case of a separation.  If you will be gone for awhile or if your pet has a medical condition, it may be useful to bring a copy of pertinent records or information should they need medical attention.

First aid kit : Particularly if you’re camping, this may be a necessity.  Bandage material, antibiotic ointment, tick removers, peroxide, and eye wash are just a few of the items that might be handy.

Pit stops : Take a break every few hours on longer trips!  Stretch your legs and let your dog do the same.  For cats, this might be a good time to set a litterbox in the back of a vehicle for them to try to use though some cats may be too stressed.  We also suggest having a leash & harness on cats just as another aid in keeping them from escaping or getting under car seats.

Gremlin the cat sleeping in her carrier
Dr. Llera’s cat Gremlin napping in her carrier

Well that’s the basics of traveling with your pet.  Please plan ahead and be safe.  Remember, it’s not just a vacation; it’s an adventure!  Have a happy and safe rest of the summer from all of us at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic.

Disclaimer: We did not receive any compensation from SleepyPod or the Center for Pet Safety.  All other photos courtesy of Dr. Ryan Llera.

Written by Dr. Ryan Llera 



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