Travelling with your dog requires some planning and preparation, but according to a recent online survey conducted by poller Harris Interactive, almost three-quarters of pet owners worry about their pets if they travel without them. This article offers some guidelines to help make you and your furbaby’s trip as safe and stress-free as possible.
Your dog needs an identification tag or microchip with your current contact information, and to have his or her collar on at all times.
Make sure your animal is in good health, and that all vaccinations are up to date. If you are flying or crossing a border, check to see what sort of health certificates will be required.
If your trip requires a new travel kennel, don’t introduce it to your dog at the last minute. Let your pet get used to the kennel before you take him or her on the trip. Place some treats and/or a favorite toy in there to build positive associations, and if possible, take him in the kennel on a short outing to a place they enjoy.
Travelling by air
If you are flying, make sure that you have made a reservation for your dog, and expect to pay extra. If possible, book a direct flight. Familiarize yourself with your airline’s pet policies. For example, a typical airline will require that a dog being brought into the cabin as carry on be healthy, have proof of up to date vaccinations, weigh 22 pounds or less (with carrier) and be confined to a ventilated kennel that will fit under the seat in front of you.
Pack some kibble, a collapsible water bowl and poop bags in your purse or carry on, just in case your checked luggage goes missing. Walk your dog before you head for the airport.
Your pet will need to be taken out of its carrier to pass through the airport’s security screening and metal detector with you, so this is not the time for studded collars and any unnecessary tags.
During the flight, most airlines will require that the dog remain in its kennel. Bring along a chew toy or treat to help keep it occupied. You can also ask the flight attendant for ice cubes to give it.
Larger animals will have to travel separately as checked baggage or cargo in a hard-sided ventilated kennel with no wheels. The kennel must be big enough for them to stand, lie down and turn around in. During the summer months, many airlines place restrictions on or prohibit pets as checked baggage or in cargo do to extreme heat in cities such as Miami, Las Vegas, Houston and Phoenix.
Consult with your vet if you are considering sedating your dog before traveling, as the medication can impair their breathing. Some vets recommend you give your pet Gravol – consult a professional about the dosage. Herbal calming remedies like Bach Rescue Treatment or Comfort Zone are also helpful for animals. Spray some in its mouth, or on its paws for it to lick off.
American airports are now being legislated to provide “doggie rest rooms” for those traveling with assistance animals, and many Canadian airports are following suit. Most are outdoor, but some airports offer indoor pet bathrooms – San Diego’s is complete with a fire hydrant and turf. If your dog is pad-trained, you can always carry one with you and use it in a regular washroom.
Travelling by car
It’s recommended that pets ride in the back seat, not in the front – if you are in an accident, your car’s airbag can injure, or even kill, your pet. Doggie seat belts and car booster seats are also available for the safety conscious. Don’t leave the windows rolled down enough for them to jump out, and be aware that dogs that hang their head out the window can suffer dry and gritty eyes.
Try and keep the direct sun off your pet using a window shade. Give him water and a chance to stretch his legs every couple of hours. If you’re crossing the Canada-US border, be aware that there are restrictions on what types of dog food can be brought into the US – products containing sheep, lamb, or goat are not allowed. Bring your pet food in its original unopened packaging.
NEVER leave a dog alone in a car on a hot day, even with the windows cracked, even in the shade. A car in the shade can be 10 to 20 degrees hotter than the outdoors. On a 78°F day (25.5°C), the temperature inside a parked car can soar to between 100 and 120°F (37.8° to 48.8°C) in just minutes. According to PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), your pet can sustain brain damage or even die from heatstroke in just 15 minutes.
Pet-friendly accommodations
More and more motels and hotels are accepting pets, including high-end hotels.. If you’re travelling in style, New York’s Hotel Pennsylvania won the Pet Friendly Hotel of the Year award in 2012. A host hotel for the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, the Hotel Pennsylvania offers a large 24/7 in-door doggie spa including a canine gym with doggie treadmills, a walking area, bathing, grooming, and a beauty salon, a comfort station, his and her doggie bathrooms, and even a canine masseuse and an animal communicator.

John Hoskins is a travel consultant. He also is a proud dog owner and his articles mainly appear on travel websites. Visit the Visitors to Canada insurance link before your next trip.

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