Take Your Pet on Vacation

Who wants to leave their best friends behind when they travel? With good planning, there's no reason to!

By FamilyTime


For many of us, the thought of leaving Fido or Felix behind when we take a vacation is unthinkable. Car travel is the most obvious for pets, but the airlines, too, will accommodate pooches and pusses.

Although everyone's pets are different, in general dogs are better travelers than cats. Our feline friends are partial to familiar surroundings and might do better at home with a cat sitter.

In the Car
Long car trips may be hard on dogs and cats. Feed them a light meal a few hours before you set off and take your dog for a walk shortly before leaving.

Be sure to bring a dog leash and collar with you, as well as food and water bowls. Carry treats and a jug of cool water. Cats especially do best with water from the tap they are most accustomed to.

Secure your dog in the car with a car harness or in the rear of the van or station wagon. An unrestrained dog can leap from the car if someone opens the door. He can also jump through wide, open windows.

A cat or small dog reclining on the rear shelf of the car is in danger of being thrust forward if the car stops suddenly. It's always best to carry cats in well ventilated carriers. Soft ones are best as they don't get as hot and move with the car. Some small dogs do well in carriers, too.

When you stop on the road, walk your dog before doing anything else. Offer him cool water.

The internal temperature of a car rises very quickly when it sits in the sun so be wary of leaving your pet in a locked car for any length of time. Always leave at least two windows open for cross ventilation but even so, don't leave the animal for very long. More than 15 minutes is too long in the summer. There are too many incidences of pets suffering from heatstroke, and you don't want your buddy to become a statistic.

If the weather is extremely hot, never leave pets in a parked car. Period. Arrange your trip so you don't have to -- travel in the evening when it's cool or have picnics that include the pet so you don't have to go in restaurants.

If your pet gets carsick or agitated during trips, talk to your vet about motion sickness pills or mild sedatives. Be sure to give him only the prescribed dosage and to follow the vet's instructions.

On the Plane
When you make a reservation, tell the airline you will be traveling with a pet. Each airline has slightly different restrictions, but all follow certain guidelines for domestic travel.

All airlines reserve the right to refuse pet transport. In most cases, they require that the animal be in good health (with veterinarian certificates), be at least eight weeks old, and be carried in USDA-approved hard or soft kennels.

The airlines will specify the size and type of kennel, but in general, the carriers should be large enough for the animal to sit, stand, and lie down. They must be tough enough to hold up during transport, be equipped with water and food bowls accessible without opening the door, and have adequate ventilation.

Most airlines restrict air travel during very hot and very cold weather. For this reason, fly at night or very early in the morning during the summer. This may not solve the problem -- some airlines say "no" to animals flying into very hot regions of the country night or day during summer months.

Plan to travel the same plane as your pet. On the day of the flight, arrive at the airport with lots of time to spare and make sure to attach identification to the kennel and the animal. Take a leash with you. And just to be safe, carry a photo of the pet. This could be helpful if he gets lost.

Some airlines will allow you to carry your pet in the cabin if he's small enough to fit in a specially designed soft carrier that fits under the seat. Call ahead to make sure you can do this on your flight. You will have to pay a fee for the pet.

If you are someone who can't bear to leave your pets at home, there are solutions for travel. On the other hand, most pets do very well left with a reliable pet sitter or at a good kennel.