Pet Travel Safety Tips

by | General Pet Care |

Today is National Pet Travel Safety Day! If you have plans to travel with your pets, we want to make the process as smooth as possible. Check out these tips from our blog, Travelling Safely With Your Pet.

Travelling Safely with Your Pet

Whether you plan to travel with your pet by plane, train, automobile or boat, taking appropriate precautions and making necessary preparations are essential to ensuring a safe and enjoyable journey for you and your pet. Whether this is down the street, cross country or across the globe.

On the road

Road trips are generally the easiest and most relaxing way to travel with your pet. Train your pet to travel in a car by taking her on lots of short car trips to places she loves. For your pet’s safety and your own, confine her to the back seat, either in a carrier or pet seatbelt (a special harness that attaches to the car’s seatbelt).

To keep your pet comfortable throughout the trip:

  • Keep the car at a comfortable temperature using air conditioning or heat when necessary. Never leave your pet alone inside the vehicle, even with windows partially open, it causes a danger for your pet.
  • Feed your pet a light meal at least four hours before the trip (to help prevent car sickness).
  • Prevent your pet from sticking her head out the window (sudden stops and debris can cause injury).
  • Schedule rest stops every two to four hours for exercise, bathroom and water breaks (bring a litter box for cats).
  • Attach your pet’s leash before opening the car door (to prevent accidental escapes).
  • If your pet’s not used to travelling use a harness (it’s more difficult for your pet to wriggle out of).
  • If crossing borders bring a copy of any required documents (e.g. proof of vaccinations).
  • Keep the car sound system volume moderate due to the sensitivity of dogs’ and cats’ hearing.

Taking flight

While some pets take to the sky with the air of seasoned veterans, many pets find flying a stressful experience. The largest impact on your pet’s comfort and safety will be where he is contained while travelling in the plane. Small pets can often be taken into the passenger cabin with your carry-on luggage and kept under the seat in front of you throughout the flight. Larger pets that must travel in the cargo hold.

Your pet may be at risk of heatstroke or hypothermia before the plane leaves the runway if placed inside the cargo hold too early in warm or cold weather. This is because airlines generally don’t turn on the air conditioning or heat in the cargo hold until take off. There are a few animals prone to severe respiratory difficulties in an airplane’s poorly ventilated cargo hold. These include: cats, short-nosed dogs (boxers, pugs etc.) and long-nosed dogs (collies, shelties etc.). These animals should be kept in the passenger cabin with their owner if possible.

To help ease the stress of travel:
  • Take your pet to the veterinarian to update all vaccinations and obtain any legal documents needed (very old, very young, pregnant, ill and injured animals should not fly);
  • Purchase a durable travel carrier that is large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around in (check with the airline to determine size allowances and special requirements);
  • Help your pet adjust to the carrier several weeks before your flight (start by leaving the door open and placing treats, meals or toys inside);
  • Exercise your pet before leaving for the airport and feed a light meal three to four hours before take-off;
  • Give your pet water right up to the time of travel, and, if the airline allows, take your pet for a walk and bathroom break shortly before boarding;
  • Ask if it’s possible for you to observe your pet being loaded onto the plane;
  • Inform the flight crew that your pet is travelling in the cargo hold (they may take special precautions or trips to check on your pet and ensure heating/air conditioning is functioning); and
  • If you are not on a direct flight, ask to check on your pet during the layover.

Navigating the waterways

During the summer months boating is a popular activity, especially in cottage country. If you plan to take your pet out on the water with you be sure to invest in a pet life jacket. Even good swimmers can tire easily in rough water, and banks may be too slippery or steep to climb. Life jackets not only keep your pet afloat if they decide to jump overboard, but they can also help protect against hypothermia in cold water and can make it easier to pull them back on board. It’s also important to remember that it can get very hot on the boat.

Be sure to provide a shaded area for your pet to rest, and bring plenty of fresh water to prevent dehydration and heat stroke. If you are planning to be on the water for a long period of time, you may need to bring a portable potty system. This can be as simple as a square piece of turf or look up “pets and portable potty system” on the Internet. It is also advisable to call the marina in advance to determine their policies regarding pets.

Riding the rails

If you are planning to travel by train the same precautions and guidelines should be followed as with the other forms of travel. Some train companies do not allow pets on board so research their pet travel policies before booking your trip.

At your destination

Today a surprising number of accommodations welcome pets. Before booking ask about pet policies. Lodgings may have restrictions on the types or size of pets allowed, or they may designate only certain rooms for animals. Properties may also have policies that pets must be crated when unattended, or not left alone at all. If you’re travelling with a dog ask for a room on the first floor with direct access outside, ideally near a walk area. Follow pet etiquette at all times to ensure pets continue to be welcomed guests:

  • Keep your pet quiet (barking dogs are unpopular);
  • Notify management immediately if something is damaged;
  • Clean up after your pet inside and out and check with management regarding how to dispose of waste;
  • Keep pets off the furniture (or bring blankets to cover furniture);
  • Try not to leave your pet alone, if you must, crate him; and
  • Keep your pet away from off-limits places such as the pool area, patio, restaurant or lobby.
For additional travel tips – check out the full blog!