How to (Safely) Travel With Pets

Before vacationing with your pet, check these tips.

For many people, a family vacation means taking along a pet or two. We spoke to Dr. Jessica Downing of Valley Cottage Animal Hospital to find out how to do this safely — and without losing your sanity. 


How can I keep my pet safe in the car?

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Pets, including dogs, cats, or other animals, should never be allowed to roam freely in a moving vehicle. They can be placed inside a carrier, which is then secured with a seatbelt to ensure it won’t get tossed around in an accident. Pets can also be restrained with a pet-friendly harness. Consider keeping your pet restrained in the back seat: airbag systems can be deadly to a dog in the front seat during a crash. 


What if I need to fly?

If you are traveling by air, consider a pet-friendly airline. Pets placed in the cargo area can suffer devastating, sometimes deadly consequences from poor ventilation, extreme temperatures and loud engine noise. Call your airline ahead of time to learn their specific policies about permitting pets to travel in the cabin. If allowed, pet carriers must be small enough to fit underneath the seat, and must remain properly stowed the entire time the plane is moving. 

Service animals are not pets: they are working animals that assist people, and therefore do not need to be confined in a container or crate.

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How do I keep my pet calm?

If you know that your pet becomes anxious while traveling, consult your veterinarian about anti-anxiety medication to make the experience less stressful. Always bring your pet’s regular food, an extra supply of your pet’s medication, and a copy of your pet’s medical records. 


Does my pet need a checkup beforehand?

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Make sure that your pet’s vaccinations are updated. Respiratory infections, such as infectious tracheobronchitis (a.k.a. kennel cough) and canine influenza, have been widespread among the canine population this season. Upper respiratory viruses, such as herpes virus and calicivirus, have also been seen among felines. For maximum protection, have your pets vaccinated by your veterinarian one to two months prior to boarding. Vaccines administered immediately prior to your pet’s stay at a kennel provide little protection.


Do I need to bring paperwork with me?

All interstate and international travel, by land or air, requires a health certificate provided by your veterinarian. This certificate serves as your pet’s vaccination record and states that your pet is free of all contagious diseases. 


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