Prepping your cat or dog for long-distance travel.
Although it may be easier to board your dog or hire a kitty sitter while you go out of town, sometimes it’s imperative that you take them along. We asked veterinarian Dr. Riva Wolkow, owner of Belle Isle Animal Hospital in Sandy Springs, for some tips on how to make travel with your pets less stressful for all.
Embrace the Crate
When traveling with your pets, they may need to be safely tucked away in their carriers or crates, especially cats and smaller dogs. “One of the biggest mistakes I see people make is only bringing out the carrier when they need to take their pets to the vet,” Wolkow says. “Leaving it out all the time so it becomes a day-to-day sight and not a scary place can be helpful.”
Wolkow suggests placing treats inside the carrier or crate and taking your pets on short drives that don’t include a trip to the vet to allow them to get used to a longer car ride without panicking. Place the crate or carrier on the floor in the backseat or secure it with a seatbelt. Dogs can also use harnesses or be taught to sit in a safe place of your choice in the vehicle, but you must be consistent with the training, and start sooner than later.
If you know your cat or dog is going to have a hard time on a long car ride or flight, vets can prescribe medications to calm them. Some pets suffer from car sickness, which causes anxiety about traveling, Wolkow says.
You can tell if your pet is anxious if it’s vocalizing during the whole trip, drooling or panting; some animals will outright vomit. Plan ahead if extra care is needed. Classical music can be soothing to cats, and exercising your dog before a trip or providing a chew toy to keep them busy on the drive or flight can be helpful as well.
When traveling by car, include a litter box for kitty or make regular pit stops for your pup. Lots of airports have doggy potty accommodations, too. Wolkow says adult dogs can usually hold their bladder for 12 hours, but puppies can only do so for one hour per the number of months they are plus another hour. So, a 3-month-old can only hold its bladder for four hours. Pee pads may be a necessity on a plane flight for younger dogs and kittens.
Rules to Consider
Various airlines and countries have different pet travel regulations, so do your research ahead of time. Your dog or cat may need certain vaccinations, treatments and preventatives to travel abroad, and some airlines and countries may require certifications with different timelines—some as soon as 10 days before the date of travel. Some countries also require your pet to be quarantined for a period once you reach your destination. Find out what the airline’s pet weight and age requirements might be, especially if you do not want to have Fido or Tigger travel in cargo.
Going on a trip with your precious pup or cherished kitty does not have to be an unpleasant experience. If you and you pet are well prepared, you can go a long way.
BELLE ISLE ANIMAL HOSPITAL
Pets columnist at Simply Buckhead. Professional writer and editor. Proud animal rescue volunteer.