When traveling with your pet, there are many things to take into consideration. Some pets are great travelers and some get very stressed. Several things to consider when deciding whether or not to take your pet with you when traveling are:

  • Will you be traveling by car or by plane?
  • How long is the trip going to take?
  • How has your pet reacted to travel in the past?
  • Is your pet a cat or a dog? In general, many dogs are better travelers than cats, although this is not always the case. Dogs that generally only travel to the groomer or veterinarian or suffer from car sickness may have more negative associations with car rides.
  • Is there an option for the pet to stay home and have someone take care of them? This is often the better option for cats when feasible.
  • Does your pet get car sick or really stressed in the car?
  • How long will you be gone?

When traveling out of state you may be required to have a health certificate (whether by plane or by car). To find requirements for the state you are traveling to visit aphis.usda.gov/aphis/pet-travel/interstate-pet-travel

If traveling by air be sure to check well ahead of time with the airline to check requirements for plane travel. A health certificate will likely be required. A health certificate is obtained through your veterinarian and will require an exam within 10 days of travel. An up to date Rabies vaccination will be needed.

If you have decided that your pet will accompany you on your car trip, the following tips can help to make your pet more comfortable:

  • For dogs – exercise them prior to a longer car ride when possible. A tired dog is more likely to sleep or rest in the car than one who is wound up and excited.
  • For pets that get car sick, traveling on an empty stomach can be helpful. If it is not feasible to withhold food for the entire trip, talk to your veterinarian about anti-nausea medications.
  • For cats, getting them accustomed to being in a carrier ahead of time so they consider it a safe place can be very helpful. See our previous blog post on this subject for ideas.
  • For dogs, consider using a crate, carrier or doggy seat belts that help to keep them secured. This can help to prevent accidental escape or injury – especially in the instance of a car accident.
  • Make sure pets have identification on them in case of accidental escape. This can be in the form of tags on a collar or harness and/or a microchip. Make sure contact information is correct and current.
  • Pack a pet travel bag with food, water from home, food/water dishes (consider collapsible types for easy storage), medications and materials for cleanup in case of a potty accident (paper towel, towels, baby wipes, etc.). If your car is packed with suitcases and other travel supplies for yourself, it may be difficult to locate these supplies if they aren’t all in one place.
  • Avoid loud, abrasive music that might add to your pet’s anxiety. Softer music played more quietly can be more calming to your pet.
  • Line carriers, crates or even car seats with absorbent material in case of a “potty” accident. Puppy potty pads can work great for this purpose. Make sure to have extras on hand just in case.
  • If your pet is really anxious in the car, calming treats like Composure pro may be helpful. Try these ahead of time to see if they help your pet’s stress. Calming pheromone sprays (Adaptil for dogs or Feliway for cats) can also help some pets be less anxious.

If traveling internationally (or to Hawaii) the travel rules and requirements can vary dramatically. Make sure to research requirements well ahead of time as many countries and Hawaii have strict requirements that have to be met in addition to an international health certificate. Some countries (and Hawaii) will require quarantine periods upon arrival so this should be carefully considered and planned for. Not all veterinarians provide international health certificates as they can be quite complicated and not all veterinarians are certified to do so.  Make sure to check with your veterinarian ahead of time to see if this is a service they provide. If not, you will have to do some calling around to find a veterinarian equipped to help you with this.

The best advice is to plan ahead and do whatever you can to take your pet’s personality and special needs into consideration. If your pet is less stressed or even enjoys the trip, your experience will be more pleasant as well.