Travelling With Pets


Planning ahead for summer travel with your pet.

Whether it’s longer holidays to the cabin or day trips to the beach, holidays mean travel. While we’re planning and packing, many of us forget to think about how summer travel can affect our pets. There are many options for leaving your pet in the best care when you have to travel without them, but if you are bringing your furry family members along for the ride, it’s important to remember their distinct travelling needs.

Safety systems -

No matter the distance, keeping your pet safe in the car is always a top priority. The size and weight of your cat or dog determine which kind of safety mechanism will best be suited to them. Many pets prefer crates to restraints or harnesses, which can attach to every seat belt. When choosing a crate for your cat or dog, ensure that it is well ventilated and large enough to allow your pet to turn around and stand inside. Harnesses or restraints should fit your dog snuggly around the chest and back. Without a restraint of some kind, pets can become a dangerous distraction or worse, a projectile in the event of an accident. It is never a good idea to keep pets on your lap while driving. If they’re new to travel, take short practice trips around the neighbourhood to acclimatize them to the system you’ve chosen and to transport in general.

Temperature -

Never underestimate how quickly the temperature can rise in a vehicle. There can even be a noticeable difference between the front of the vehicle and the rear, where many pet crates are kept, that you might be unaware of. Keep the temperature inside the car in mind when stopping for refreshment breaks and never leave pets in the car. Heatstroke can be a silent killer.

Taking bio breaks –

Regularly stopping to let your pet out of the vehicle can help alleviate your pet’s stress when travelling. Signs of stress include vocalization (barking or whining), dilated pupils, excessive drooling or lip-licking, and heavy or increased breathing. Ensuring your pet is comfortable and feeling safe helps keep them from becoming overwhelmed. Comforting items from home such as a favorite chew toy or blanket may also help with the stress of travelling. Some pets may be affected by motion sickness; check with your veterinarian as to whether a mild travel anti-nauseant will help. 

Flight –

Pet travel planning is particularly important if you’re flying. As you can imagine, the cargo area of a plane can be noisy, crowded and full of unfamiliar scents. Even for smaller pets that can travel in the cabin, the unfamiliarity of the situation can be especially stressful. Ensuring your pet is comfortable during a plane trip takes some preparation. Make sure your airline is accustomed to dealing with pets and plan for times when extreme weather (and the associated turbulence) is not expected. Many airlines do not allow pet owners to leave food or water in their pet’s crate when flying, so consider leaving ice cubes in the crate, which will still allow your pet to drink in small amounts. Having water and something in the crate that smells like your home can work to calm and create a stress-free environment for your pet. It is not recommended to sedate your pet before flying unless specifically directed by your veterinarian, as this can pose a health risk.  

Your vacation site - Once you’ve arrived at your destination, it is important to have plans for your pet. Whether you are staying in a campground or hotel, make sure you know their policies on pets in advance. Ensure your pet has up-to-date vaccinations and veterinarian records – your vet will fax or email them to you if you request them ahead of time. In addition, remember to bring a supply of your pet’s favourite treats and the food that they’re used to having at home. Changing your pet’s diet when on vacation can result in an upset stomach or flu-like symptoms, made worse by possible travel stress. Finally, remember: responsible pet owners clean up after their pets wherever they are.

Staying behind - If you choose not to travel with your pet, a boarding kennel can offer quality pet care and peace of mind. When looking for a local boarding kennel ask your veterinarian or dog trainer for recommendations. Be sure to visit the kennel before booking your pet. Pay special attention to the following:

  1. Does the facility look and smell clean?
  2. Is there sufficient natural light and ventilation?
  3. Is each room at a comfortable temperature?
  4. Does the staff seem knowledgeable and caring?
  5. Are all pets required to have up-to-date vaccinations, including kennel cough (Bordetella)?
  6. Is each pet given a large enough run with access to both the indoors and out?
  7. Are cats housed away from dogs? Are all pets housed away from aggressive pets?
  8. What veterinary services are available on site?
  9. Are other services available, such as grooming, training and bathing?
  10. What is the exercise schedule (if any)?

When you arrive with your pet at the boarding facility, remind staff about any medical or behaviour problems your pet has, such as a fear of larger dogs. Finally, have a good trip, knowing that your pet is in good hands and will be happy to see you when you return.