Anxious pet travelers will need special consideration. For pets traveling by car, very gradual acclimation (starting simply with sitting in a parked car; then driving around the block, and so on) will sometimes help. For those it does not help, medication may be considered. Travel by air is somewhat more complicated – the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Humane Association do not recommend sedating anxious pets for air travel and caution veterinarians and owners against it. Our veterinarian will need to consult individual owners in these cases. Sometimes, leaving the pet home with a pet sitter or in a boarding facility is the best option for these animals. Cats, in particular, are notoriously poor travelers and are generally better off left out of travel plans, unless the owner is moving.
Another potential problem for traveling pets is motion sickness. Approximately 17% of dogs suffer from motion sickness as reported by owners. When acclimation does not help, medication for these pets may be considered. Antihistamines, such as the over-the-counter drugs diphenhydramine and dimenhydrinate, have often been used in such cases but have variable efficacy and can be sedating. Cerenia (maropitant citrate), a nonsedating medication for the prevention of motion sickness in dogs, has been recently approved and is another alternative
Preventive Health Measures
All pets should have a current health assessment prior to travel. If a health certificate is necessary, this should be done within 10 days of travel. Vaccinations, including for rabies, should be up-to-date and owners should carry proof of vaccination with them. If travel plans include a different geographic region, additional preventive health measures may need to be taken, depending on the destination. Dogs or cats that are not currently on heartworm preventative may need to start it, if traveling to a high-risk area. The need for flea and tick control should also be assessed for pets not currently using any. Additional vaccination might be considered, again depending on the destination. For dogs traveling to Lyme-endemic areas, Lyme vaccination might be considered, or Bordetella vaccination may be necessary if a dog is going to be kenneled sometime during the trip. Vaccinations (with the exception of intranasal Bordetella) that are not a part of a pet’s usual regimen should be completed at least 2 weeks prior to travel in order to have time to take effect. Owners should also be prepared for unforeseen pet illness or accidents by carrying a pet first-aid kit, health history, and the contact information for your hospital. A recent photograph of the pet can also be useful should the pet become lost during travel.
Pets with Chronic Illness
In pets with chronic or ongoing illness, specific recommendations will need to be given. For instance, owners of diabetic animals should be advised on storage of insulin, what to do if insulin or syringes become lost during travel, or how to handle a hypoglycemic crisis. Our veterinary team can help make sure you have enough needed medication, and perhaps offer a prescription to carry in the event medications become lost. A health history is particularly important for these pets, including: details of the pet’s illness, a list of medications (including dose and frequency), and contact information for your hospital. This will enable veterinary teams unfamiliar with the pet to better care for it should an emergency arise during travel.
On the Way
During travel, pets should be kept secure. As mentioned previously, a crate or seat belt attachment should be used when in the car. Dogs should not ride loose in the beds of pickup trucks, nor should they be allowed to hang their heads out of windows. A small pebble that hits the eye at interstate speed can do serious damage, and some dogs may get carried away with something they have seen or smelled and try to jump from moving vehicles.
Owners should use extra care when car doors are opened, as excited or anxious pets may try to bolt. During rest breaks, dogs should remain on leashes to reduce the risk of running into traffic or getting lost. Both collar name tags and permanent identification (eg, a HomeAgain microchip) should be used for traveling pets. Lastly, pets should NEVER be left in a warm car, whether or not the windows are left open. We recommend that owners use drive-through windows or picnic at rest stops rather than stop at roadside restaurants and leave pets in the car.
Once owners have arrived at their destinations, they will need to remain diligent about their pet(s)’s safety. If staying at a hotel, owners should place a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door if they are out and the pet is still in the room. Pets will also be safest if kept crated while owners are out. If a dog accompanies an owner out, a leash should always be used – even on hiking trails where an excited dog might run off after the sight or scent of a strange animal. Pets should be prevented from drinking from stagnant ponds or puddles, and strange foods, such as table scraps and drive-through leftovers, should be avoided. In the event of an emergency, owners should keep their hospital’s phone number handy and should consider finding the name of a local veterinarian at their place of destination so that it is immediately available if needed. Gastrointestinal upset is probably the most common illness pets experience when traveling. Consider discussing prevention and treatment with owners before they leave for vacation. If owners are staying with friends or relatives, they should know whether their hosts have pets and/or children and whether there is the potential for any problems, preferably when they are in the planning stage of the visit.
Bingle Vet offers ISO microchips which are a requirement for international pet travel.