For many of us, the holidays are all about family gatherings. Which means your pet is very likely a big part of your holiday plans!
If you’re lucky enough to be spending your winter holidays abroad, you may consider having your dog or cat tag along for the ride. After all, some pets can make excellent travel companions. Here’s what you need to know before you and your pet head out for the holidays in a plane, train, or automobile.
Pet Travel Essentials
First things first. Don’t leave home without packing these pet travel essentials:
- Updated collar and ID tags
- Vaccination records
- Prescription medication (enough to last the length of your trip)
- A recent photo of your pet (in case you get separated)
- The comforts of home (food and water bowls, blanket, toy, etc.)
Whether you’re taking to the open skies or the open road, don’t leave home until your pet has gone to your vet for a routine check-up. They will identify potential pet health risks in the country you’re travelling to and may recommend a vaccination (or medication) before you leave.
Up in the Air
Air travel can be stressful, but it can be especially stressful during peak holiday times.
If you can, travel mid-day to avoid the bitterly cold temperatures your pet may experience in a loading zone while waiting to board the plane.
Airline pet policies have changed over the years with some past practices now being labelled dangerous by animal safety experts. Check in with your airline well in advance to learn more about their pet travel policies.
If you can travel by car instead, do so. It may be the safer option especially if your pet is older or has health issues.
If air travel is unavoidable, there are some things you can do to relieve your travel anxiety. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with being cautious when it comes to the safety of your pet.
Using a permanent marker, write important information on your pet’s crate (or use airline approved crate stickers) such as: your name, cell phone number, your pet’s name, flight number, etc. You can even secure the crate door with extra ties to prevent an accidental escape, although most airlines will use their own ties to ensure everything is secure. To set your mind at ease, talk to the flight attendant about possibly checking in on your pet before you board to make sure they’re in the right spot.
On the Railway
Some local trains may allow pets. Call ahead to find out whether your cat or dog can join you. There are likely specific rules that need to be followed. Some trains may require that pets be muzzled, leashed, or kept in a carrier for the duration of the trip. If your pet isn’t used to those kinds of restraints, take some time in the weeks leading up to the trip to get them acquainted with their new mode of travel. Trains tend to be less stressful for pets so it’s a good option to consider!
The Open Road
Car safety isn't just for humans! Accidents can happen in the blink of an eye. That's why it's important to properly restrain your pet in a moving vehicle. Seat belts, harnesses, booster seats, back seat barriers, and other types of car restraints are great safety measures for car travel. A crate is a good option for the anxious four-legged traveller. If your pet has never used a crate before, take some time to properly crate train them before the big trip. And remember, the safest place for your pet to be restrained is the back seat.
If you’re able to stop at a rest area, take Fido for a walk to stretch his legs, have a bathroom break, and a much-deserved snack. Dress your pet in a warm pet coat or jacket to protect them from the cold and wipe their paws thoroughly before they hop back in the car. Be sure to remove any ice or debris that may have gotten stuck in between their toes.
Whether you’re travelling by planes, trains, or automobiles, we wish you safe travels this holiday season!