According to a survey by the American Automobile Association (AAA) and Best Western International, more than half of pet owners say they want to travel with their cats and dogs. But these furry family members have special needs, and you should plan ahead when taking animals on your summer vacation.
“Pets that travel should have securely attached identification tags, and micro-chipping can be a life saver,” says Ron Hendrikson, a Norwalk, Ohio veterinarian. “For added protection, newer GPS-system collars can also be worn.”
Hendrikson says your veterinarian can provide a risk assessment to determine if any vaccinations are needed.
“Don’t wait until the last minute,” he advises. “It’s much safer to vaccinate at least 2 or 3 weeks before travel or boarding. If they have any reactions to the vaccine, there is still time to treat them.”
If you’re flying with your dog or cat, the airline will ask you to provide a health certificate from your veterinarian. You should allow at least a month to obtain this, but more time may be needed if you’re traveling internationally.
Be aware that many short-nosed dog breeds (like bulldogs, boxers, pugs, etc.) often have respiratory issues and are susceptible to heat stroke and breathing problems when exposed to stress or extreme heat.
Temperature extremes can also put your pet at risk. Many airlines do not transport pets during the warmest months of the year, or will not accept pets when the forecasted temperature reaches a certain point.
So look for flights in the early morning or late evening, when temperatures are at their lowest.
“The best place to have your pet travel with you is in the cabin under the seat in an approved carrier,” Hendrikson says. “For pets that are too large or not permitted in the cabin, they will travel in the cargo bay.”
If traveling by car, Hendrikson says pets should be secured in your vehicle. However, he cautions that recent studies cast doubt on the effectiveness of restraints for protecting pets during accidents. “However, they do help to prevent a pet from distracting the driver and reduce injury to occupants if there is a sudden stop or accident.”
AAA’s Pet-Friendly Travel Tips
AAA offers a variety of pet-friendly travel tips, including:
- How to fit a dog harness
- Choosing a kennel
- Caring for your cat while you’re away
- What to take when traveling with your pet
- Be prepared for emergencies on the road
- Seven tips for traveling with pet birds
- Three tips for traveling with pet fish
- Flying with your pet: airline contact information
- For more, visit AAA online.
Jack Sommars is a Denver-based freelancer who often writes about animal issues.
Photo credit: iStock images