Traveling can be very stressful for ourselves and our pets alike. However, advanced planning and being prepared can help minimize these stresses. Here are a few tips will help to make your flight and trip as stress-free and problem-free as possible.
Make sure to contact your airline early. Different airlines require different certifications and certificates for pets traveling with them. These may differ from interstate and international requirements of the destination you are going to. Some airlines require only a valid Rabies vaccination while others require a health certificate obtained from a USDA licensed veterinarian within 10 days of the flight, even for domestic flights. Traveling outside the continental United States always requires a international health certificate. Some countries also require along with proof of vaccination, various blood tests and anti-parasitic treatments. This paperwork should be obtained from the consulate’s office or an official government website for the country in question. These forms must be sent to a USDA office and be returned back to you before your flight, so leave plenty of time to have this done. Even if a health certificate is not required by the airline it is always a good idea to bring your pet in for a checkup by their veterinarian before your trip- especially for senior animals.
Many airlines will allow pets weighing less than 20 lbs to travel as a “carry-on” underneath your seat. Some airlines do not allow this, and all airlines require that pets over 20 lbs travel in the cargo area. If this is the case it is strongly advised that you take a direct flight to your destination. Layovers greatly increase the risk of you being separated from your pet during layover baggage changes. If your pet is not traveling with you at all times it is important that you only travel during times when the weather will be safe for your pet both at your departing and arriving locations. Temperatures that are too hot or too cold can be deadly to your pet as they have not acclimatized. Heat stroke is of particular concern in brachiocephalic breeds (Pugs, Bulldogs, French Bulldogs, etc.). If your pet will be traveling as “baggage” and not as a “carry-on” it is also a good idea to purchase additional baggage liability insurance in the event of any mishap.
Each airline will also have specifications for the carrier that your pet will be traveling in. You want to make sure your carrier is IATA (International Air Travel Approved). If your pet is small enough to travel with you as carry-on make sure you check the allowable dimensions and if the carrier is required to be collapsible in order to fit under the seat. Carriers for pets who are not riding in the cabin should be sturdy (not collapsible) and large enough to allow the animal to stand up but not so large as they can be thrown around during turbulence. They should have adequate ventilation and sturdy handles. It is a good idea to put an absorbable pad in the bottom of the carrier in case your pet goes to the bathroom during the flight. This will help keep your pet as clean and comfortable as possible. All carriers should be labeled with your information including cell phone number, alternate contact and flight information. Outfitting your pet with a microchip before leaving is also a good idea as microchips are a form of permanent identification that can not be removed or lost. Keeping a leash attached to their carrier is also a great idea if they need to be removed for some reason. This information shoul be on your pet as well. Attempting to familiarize your pet with their carrier before your trip can help to decrease their anxiety.
Even though most animals will be very nervous while traveling in this new and strange way it is no longer advisable for pets to be given sedating medications for travel. Sedation in this situation is potentially dangerous as it can inhibit an animal’s coping mechanisms making travel more dangerous. There are all-natural alternatives such as calming treats, shirts and collars that may be effective for reducing traveling stress.
Don’t forget to bring along drinking bowls, fresh water and a small food supply for your pet. Collapsible bowls work great for this. Bringing a blanket, familiar dog bed, or other objects of comfort are also a good idea. Also be sure to bring any medication that they may need or prescription diets with you to your destination. If you have a pet with a known illness, it is a good idea to locate a veterinarian at your travel destination and/or have a copy of all your medical records with you.
Following these guidelines and planning in advance as well as communicating with your veterinarian about any special needs your pet may have will allow you both to have the most enjoyable trip possible. If you have any questions regarding how to travel with your pet please contact Meadowlands Veterinary Hospital at 201-646-2008