Summer can be a fun and relaxing time of year. For many of us, this is when we plan our family vacations. Those of us who have welcomed one or more furry members into our family, that includes travelling with our pets, or “fur babies”, if you will. Pet owners also know that these family members require extra provisions for travelling. You can find many tips for vacationing with your pets at http://www.petfriendly.ca/. I also spoke with Dr. Mike Hughes, a local veterinarian in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories for additional recommendations.
Whether you are taking a family trip or headed to your next posting, here are some helpful tips for travelling with pets.
- Before leaving, make sure you have a record of all of your pet’s identification, such as licence, tattoo, or microchip numbers, as well as your veterinarian’s contact information. It’s also a good idea to have the number of a veterinary clinic in the area you will be visiting. Your vet may even be able to recommend a clinic.
- Always ensure that your pet’s vaccinations are up-to-date. If your pet has known medical problems, request copies of your pet’s records from your vet, in case of an emergency. A valid rabies certificate is required when travelling to the United States. “It is also a good idea to bring your pet’s heartworm and flea medication with you when they are travelling,” says Dr. Hughes.
- Assemble a first aid kit for your pet before departure. Use a storage container that allows for easy access and organization. Some examples of supplies are protective gloves, antibacterial soap or ointment, tweezers, scissors, gauze pads, first aid tape and blankets. For a complete list of recommended contents, check with your veterinarian or visit the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association website at http://www.canadianveterinarians.net/. You can also ask your vet if they have a sample kit they can show you. Do not give your pet any human medication without speaking to your veterinarian first. They can have adverse effects on animals. Know how to use the supplies in your first aid kit. There are various programs and organizations across Canada which offer courses in first aid for pets.
- Always make sure you have food and water available for your pet during travel. It is best to have a bottle of water and bowls close by for your pet.
- It is strongly advised that you not allow your pet to ride loose in the vehicle. It can be very dangerous for your pet in case of an accident. Use a crate or cage when travelling with your pet. If your pet is not accustomed to riding in a crate, begin training them a few months in advance through a series of short trips around town. Another option, if you are a dog owner, is to purchase a doggie seatbelt or car harness. This can also help alleviate carsickness because it allows the animal to see through the window.
- Do not allow your dog to ride in the open back of a pickup truck. Many dogs are seriously injured by this practice.
- If you are using a dog crate or cat carrier, make sure that it is strapped down while the vehicle is in motion. “In the event of an accident, an unsecured crate could turn into a projectile, which can cause injury to both the animal and other passengers,” cautions Dr. Hughes.
- Plan frequent rest stops so your pet can get out and stretch their legs, as well use the bathroom. Make sure you pack plastic bags so that you can pick up after your pet. (Really, I can’t stress this enough. It’s just good manners.) If you are travelling with a cat, it is also a good idea to bring extra litter boxes or scoops.
- Avoid exposing your pet to excessive heat or cold during the trip. Never leave your pet in a hot vehicle unattended. (In many provinces and states, this is illegal and can result in criminal charges.) If travelling in the winter, preheat the car before loading the animal.
- Contact local government authorities prior to your trip to ensure there are no breed or species restrictions in that area.
- If you are planning to fly with your pet, consult the airline prior to booking your tickets to find out their requirements and restrictions on pets.
- Be sure to pack the food your pet normally eats. This will ensure your pet does not experience any illness or discomfort from eating new food during the trip. There may also be restrictions on transporting certain types of pet food across the border, so make sure you can bring their food with you if travelling to the United States or internationally.
- Confirm that your hotel is pet-friendly and, while there, respect the pet policy. Some hotels do not allow guests to leave their pets in the room unattended. Even if it is permitted, it is recommended that you inform the hotels attendant beforehand and leave a contact number in the event of a problem.
- Choose accommodations that are suitable for your pet. Even a well-trained animal can react differently in a new place. If your pet does not interact well with other animals, do not choose a hotel where it is likely that they will be in close contact with other pets.
- Make sure your pet is under your control at all times. Remember, not everyone is an animal-lover and other guests may not be comfortable with being approached by your pet. Bring their collars and leashes with you when you travel, as well as a recent picture, in the event they become lost.
- Bring pet cleaning supplies or stain remover with you. It’s better to have and not need it than the other way around. (I speak from experience.)
In addition, Dr. Hughes advises that pet owners contact Canadian Veterinary Medical Association at 1-800-567-2862 before planning a vacation with their pets.
Of course, the main goal is to ensure your entire family, whether they have two legs or four, enjoys the experience. Hopefully, these tips will help in accomplishing that goal. Happy travels, everyone!
by Leslie Dunnett