Travel Safely with Your Pets This Holiday Season

by | General Pet Care |

Are you travelling with your pets to visit friends and family this holiday season? If so, we’ve got some useful tips to keep in mind to help make your travels the best they can be.

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).

dog with suitcase2

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 only takes minutes for an animal to develop heatstroke or freeze);
  • 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); and
  • Keep the car sound system volume moderate due to the sensitivity of dogs’ and cats’ hearing.

Taking flight


pet in carrier on airplane

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. Less fortunate are 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 – airlines generally don’t turn on the air conditioning or heat in the cargo hold until take off. Animals prone to severe respiratory difficulties in an airplane’s poorly ventilated cargo hold, including cats, snub-nosed dogs (boxers, pugs etc.) and long-nosed dogs (collies, shelties etc.), 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.

Riding the rails


pet on train

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


dog at hotel

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 more tips, visit the Ontario SPCA Fact Sheet “Travelling Safely with Your Pet.”

We have supported the OSPCA since 1951

We have supported OSPCA since our arrival in Canada in 1951.  Keep up the greatest  T.L.C. for animals.

-Paul & Des