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Where are you going?
Be sure to have your pet's vaccinations up-to-date, and ask your veterinarian for a health certificate documenting the vaccination record and health of your pet. You should obtain the certificate within 10 to 30 days of travel, depending on your destination.
How are you getting there?
Planes, trains, and automobiles...ships and buses, too! Each mode of transportation has its own set of dos and don'ts.
Most trains and buses do not allow you to travel with your pet, with the exception of guide and service dogs accompanying their owners. The two main carriers, Amtrak and Greyhound, only allow Seeing Eye dogs. Check with the individual carrier for specific guidelines before making arrangements to travel with your pet via train or bus.
Ships are more accommodating to traveling with your pet. Some provide air-conditioned kennels, exercise areas, meals, and staff to check in on your furry friend. Again, check with the cruise line to learn the specific policies on pets, including any fees associated with their services.
Airlines also have regulations and fees for traveling with pets, but in most cases you can bring your pet along. Airlines follow the USDA's guidelines for the transportation of animals, so you will find most of the airlines have the same rules and regulations.
With a little preparation you can take your pet with you on your vacation.
If you are traveling out of the country, a quarantine time may be required; be sure to check with the country you're traveling to before heading out. Dogs and cats must be at least eight weeks old and weaned at least five days before flying.
The pet should be in a cage large enough for the animal to stand up, turn around, and lie down. It should also have ventilation on both sides.
The cage needs a label that says "Live Animal" with arrows to show which side is up. The label should include the owner's name, address, and phone number. If the pet carrier is within the size limit of a carry-on bag, you may be able to bring it in the cabin of the plane and store it under your seat. Arrangements for the animal to travel with you in the cabin need to be made at the time you book your reservation, and there may be additional fees.
Before you and your pet board the plane, make sure your pet has been exercised, had plenty of water to avoid dehydration, and limited food intake for the six hours prior to flying—a nearly empty stomach is recommended. Check with your veterinarian for instructions specific to your pet's age, health, and normal feeding regimen.
Giving your pet tranquilizers or sedatives before flying is strongly discouraged. The increased altitude can cause respiratory and cardiovascular problems for an animal that has been tranquilized or sedated.
Traveling by car? If you don't take your pet along in the car regularly, taking a few short rides before you go on a long trip will help the animal get used to riding in the car. Be sure to stop regularly to exercise your pet when on a long trip.
Is the destination pet-friendly?
Whether you are staying with family, friends, in a hotel, or going camping, always call ahead to see if pets are welcome and if your destination has a pet-friendly environment. Bring a portable carrier to keep your pet in when you're going out or check to see if kennel facilities are available. If you're staying at a hotel, tell the front desk if you are going to leave your pet in the room when you are gone—you don't want to surprise the maids when they come to clean or have them inadvertently let your pet out of your room.
Here are web sites with information on hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, camp grounds, etc. that allow pets:
Is your pet healthy enough to safely make the trip?
Before going on any trip with your pet, always consider the pet's age, health, and anxiety level of being in a new environment. A full physical exam, vaccinations, heartworm test, and possibly blood work by your veterinarian should be performed before your pet travels. Micro-chipping your pet in case it gets lost and having it groomed so that it is more comfortable traveling a re both worth considering. If your pet is older, ill, gets carsick, or is just nervous when traveling, you may want to look into a good boarding facility or pet sitter rather than taking the pet along.
What do you need to bring?
Before traveling, make a checklist and gather everything you'll need to keep your pet comfortable and safe on your trip. Some items to include on your list:
• Pet food
• Food and water dishes
• Collar with current tags
• Vaccination record
• Health certificate
• Litter and box for cat
• Favorite toy
• Any medication the animal is taking
• Grooming supplies
• Animal first-aid kit
• Recent photo (in case your pet gets lost)
• Phone numbers to your veterinarian, 24-hour emergency veterinary clinics at your destination, and the national, poison control hotline.
Traveling with your pet can be a lot of fun and a great way to include the whole family. Planning ahead and being prepared will ensure a smooth and safe trip for everyone!