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    How to Travel with Your Pet  

Most pets will travel well if they are acclimated to the car. There are some things you should do before taking off on the road or putting your pet on the plane. Many people worry about the safety of air travel. Nearly a million pets a year are shipped, according to airline estimates. Each year, one or two well-publicized accidents detract from that fact. Often accidents happen because of poor planning, improper containers or other human error; sometimes things are truly an accident where no one person is to blame.

Air Travel
Federal Aviation Association restriciotns have grown stricter due to the number and types of air accidents around the world. Don’t be surprised if you have difficulty booking your pet’s travel plans. You may need the help of a pet transportation company. Your pet care facility may even offer this service.

Whether you have help or you “do it yourself,” certain things must be done:

  1. You will need an airline-approved shipping crate. If you are fortunate enough to have a small pet who can travel with you in the cabin (the airline decides if you are allowed to do this), a soft-sided carrier may be used. Otherwise, all dogs, cats and other small animals go into a hard fiberglass crate. There are a wide variety of crates available. In general, the less expensive crates are not the safest. The higher-priced crates are constructed of heavier fiberglass and have stronger doors that will not pop open easily. Each container must be appropriately labeled with live animal stickers and have bowls attached to the door.
  2. Every pet needs a health certificate and proof of vaccines (especially Rabies). This means your veterinarian has examined the pet and certifies that the pet is healthy and free of contagious diseases. Most airlines want a certificate dated no more than 10 days prior to traveling. We recommend you get it as close to the trip as possible. If there are any delays, you may have a chance to reschedule before the certificate expires. Otherwise, you will be paying for another one.
  3. The American Veterinary Medical Association and the Independent Pet and Animal Transportation Association do not recommend tranquilizing your pet for flying. It is now widely recognized that tranquilizers are the number one cause of death in shipped animals. No emergency medical care is available; as long as your pet is in good health, shipping should not pose a life-threatening problem. He or she may be upset but should arrive at your destination safe and sound.

Road Travel
The other method of pet transportation is by car. Buses and trains no longer accept pets. For interstate travel or travel into a neighboring country such as Canada, a health certificate is still required. Border crossings will definitely ask for it, although people are seldom stopped when traveling between states. Still, it avoids many problems if by chance you are questioned. Since land travel may require quite a bit more time than flying, some additional requirements need to be considered.

  1. Plan for frequent rest breaks to walk your dog every few hours. If your dog is used to riding in a vehicle, this travel will be more emjoyable than stressful. Stopping will not only give you a break but also offer the opportunity for your pet to relieve itself and get a drink.
  2. Cats should be transported in a carrier unless they are used to and enjoy riding in a car. In addition to the danger of getting under a seat or your feet while driving, there is also the danger of escape as soon as the door is open. A large enough carrier may even accommodate a small litter box.
  3. Plan your trip around hotels that accept pets. After a long day driving, the last thing you want to be asked is to leave or to find a boarding facility for your pet when it is not welcome. Several books and Internet sites serve as guides for pet-loving accommodations.
  4. Prepare for the unexpected — keep identification tags and licenses on your pet. In the event of an escape, the person finding the pet will have some idea of where to go. You may even want to make up a temporary tag with your destination address or a cell phone number on it.
  5. If your pet dislikes automobile travel or tends to become carsick, talk to your veterinarian about using Dramamine or a similar product to control the nausea. Try to accustom your pet to car travel before the trip by taking short rides around the block or to a local store. Once the pet feels safe and realizes it can be fun, the nausea and anxiety should dissipate.

Planning and common sense can alleviate most of the problems encountered when traveling with your pet. Use a professional pet transportation service if moving the pet yourself becomes overwhelming. Talk with your ABKA member facility to see how they can help.

This article is provided as a general overview of the topic. Always consult your veterinarian for specific information related to diseases or medical care for pets.

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