Most people have stayed close to home for the past couple of years, but now the world is opening up again, travel is ramping up rapidly. Traveling can be an amazing experience—seeing new places, meeting new people, trying new cuisine—but also can be stressful. Planning, packing, and getting from point A to point B can feel overwhelming at best, but owners traveling with a pet have much more to consider. Driftwood Animal Hospital wants to help make your next trip as smooth as possible by sharing five tips to keep traveling with your pet simple and safe.

#1: Know the rules for air travel with pets

Nothing is worse when you are traveling than arriving at the airport and being told you have not filled out paperwork correctly, or you have exceeded the luggage weight limit. Imagine your anxiety if your error meant your pet could not accompany you on your travels. To avoid this scenario when traveling with your pet by plane, plan your trip far in advance. Every airline has their own rules, so check your airline’s pet policy to ensure your pet is travel-ready.

  • Carry-on or cargo  — Your pet’s breed and size will determine whether they can travel as a carry-on in the plane’s cabin, or whether they will have to be transported in the cargo area.  
  • Pet limits — All airlines limit how many pets can travel in the cabin or cargo for each flight.
  • Kennel guidelines — Check with your airline for guidance on kennel dimensions and weight limits, to ensure you follow regulations. 
  • Required documents — The documents your pet will need will depend on the airline and destination, but most airlines require an original health certificate for your pet that was issued and signed by a licensed veterinarian no more than 10 days before travel.

#2: Pack your pet’s essentials

Packing for a trip takes some foresight, especially when you must also pack for your pet. First, make an extensive list of items your pet will need—you can eliminate list items later, but being over-prepared rather than under-prepared is better. Pet-travel necessities include:

  • Food 
  • Treats
  • Bowls
  • Toys
  • Bedding
  • Travel crate
  • Litter and litter box
  • Waste bags
  • Current ID tag
  • Vaccination records
  • Prescription medications
  • Heartworm, flea, and tick preventives

#3: Practice with your pet before traveling

Whether flying or driving, prepare ahead of time for your pet’s travel comfort. If you are going on a road trip, ensure your pet will be comfortable in their carrier by making numerous “practice trips” that gradually last longer. Your pet should also be comfortable when restrained, so if you need to brush up on their leash skills, begin practicing long before you hit the road—or sky.

#4: Keep your pet safe while traveling

When traveling by car, always keep your pet secure. Unrestrained pets can distract the driver, and are much more likely to be injured in an accident. Your pet can also be injured by airbag deployment, so placing them in the back of the vehicle with a pet barrier, and restraining them with a car seat, crate, or pet seat belt is safest. If your pet will be crated, ensure the crate is well ventilated and large enough for them to stand, sit, turn around, and lie down.

#5: Make a pre-travel veterinary appointment

Pets are family and, of course, you want to take them when you travel, but you must first consider their health and safety. Some pets cannot handle travel because of age, illness, injury, or temperament, and will be more comfortable if they are boarded or cared for by a close friend or family member. If you’re unsure about your pet’s ability to travel, consult with your veterinarian, who can recommend calming supplements or motion-sickness medications that can help during your travels, as well as provide you with their health certificate, and vaccination and medical records. If you do plan to board your pet, check with the boarding facility about the records and vaccinations they require.

Our team at Driftwood Animal Hospital knows that traveling with your pet can be stressful, and we hope these tips will help with your preparations so that your next trip is easy breezy. Remember to schedule an appointment far in advance of your trip, so we can help you prepare your pet for their journey.