Traveling with pets: the do’s and don’ts

For the Troy Daily News

For many people, pets are an integral part of the family, and a vacation would feel incomplete without their presence. However, due to concerns over where to stay, what mode of transportation to use, and how the trip will impact the pet’s behavior and well-being, the prospect of traveling with them may induce stress.

Of course, selecting a pet-friendly hotel is key, but to ensure an enjoyable getaway for all members of the pack, consider the following tips:

• Do map out your entire travel itinerary before the trip, taking your pet’s safety and comfort into consideration at every step. Where will your animal companion stay when you are exploring places that may not be pet-friendly? Are there parks or pet-friendly restaurants near your hotel? Where is the closest veterinarian in the event of an emergency?

• If you are worried that your pet will suffer anxiety or disrupt other travelers or hotel guests, do consult your vet in advance of the trip. He or she may be able to prescribe anxiety medication or a mild sedative to calm your pet if needed and will likely have other travel tips to offer.

• Don’t take a hotel’s claim that it is pet-friendly at face value. Many hotels accept pets, but not all welcome them. If you are considering a hotel that will charge you extra for bringing your furry friend, look for another option if possible. Hotels that are truly pet-friendly will not upcharge you and will take steps to ensure that human and non-human guests alike have a comfortable stay. When in doubt, call the hotel, ask about their pet policies, and try to gauge their true attitude toward pets.

• Do plan the transportation of your pet. If you are flying to your destination, research the airline’s policies for transporting animals. Larger pets must fly in the cargo hold, where some airlines will only carry animals at certain times. If your pet is small enough to fit under the seat, research the best type of carrier and whether the airline recommends a particular brand. Allow your pet a chance to become accustomed to the carrier well in advance of the trip. Try to book direct flights if possible to minimize the length of the journey. If you are driving, be sure to schedule stops every few hours to allow yourself and your pet a chance to stretch and breathe some fresh air. For safety in the event of an accident, your pet should be kept in a crate or carrier that is restrained by a seatbelt in the back seat. Of course, avoid leaving your pet in the car, even on days that feel cool or when you will only be gone for a short time. On a 72-degree day, the temperature inside a car can soar to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit within an hour. Feed your pet only a small meal before traveling to reduce the risk of motion sickness.

• Do pack items that are familiar to your pet, such as his or her bowl, bed, favorite toy, and crate. Maintain your pet’s health while away by bringing his or her food and any medications that may be needed.

• Don’t leave your pet alone in the hotel room. Aside from the fact that most hotels do not allow pets to be left alone, doing this may cause your companion to become anxious and possibly disruptive to other guests. If you are planning an excursion and bringing your pet will not be an option, see if there is a kennel nearby where you can board him or her for a few hours. In the event that your hotel does allow you to leave the pet in your room while you are gone and you choose to do so, be sure to leave your phone number with the front desk in case of an emergency.

• Do ensure that you pet is up to date on vaccines and other preventive measures, like heartworm and flea or tick treatments. Some hotels require this, and it will protect your pet and other animals that you may encounter in the course of your travels.

• Do remember that as much as you adore your pet, not everyone that you encounter on your trip will share the same sentiment. This may be the case even at pet-friendly hotels or restaurants. With that in mind, be considerate of all guests by ensuring that your pet is quiet and well-behaved. Keep him or her on a leash or otherwise contained. Only allow your pet to use the restroom in designated areas and be sure to clean up afterwards.

• Dogs can be fun hiking companions. If you decide to bring your dog along for a hike, do keep him or her on a short leash. Not only do many public trails require you to use a leash that is six feet long or less, but a shorter leash will allow you to help keep your dog from unseen hazards off the trail. Carry a pet first-aid kit and consider taking a first-aid class before your hike. Most importantly, make sure that your dog is sufficiently fed and hydrated. Do not allow him or her to drink from streams or other natural sources; filter the water first to prevent bacterial infection, just as you would do for yourself. If you are planning a strenuous hike, consult with your vet to ensure that your dog is up to the challenge. If you are hiking in warm weather, be sure to take frequent rests and consider using a cooling collar for your dog.

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