19 January 2009

Travel Tips for Pet Owners

Traveling with Your Pet

You are planning a fantastic trip, and can picture your companion riding shotgun and enjoying the experience with you. If were that easy, everyone would take their companions with them. If you are riding the rails, touring on a bus or sailing the seas, your pets will be seeing the services of a good boarding facility or getting to know the pet sitter. Trains, buses and ships usually do not allow animals to travel with you. (Assistance Dogs are usually the exception.) If your trip involves a car or an airplane, your animals can come, but you should consider all the options. Many animals that travel can't handle the stress and can be exposed to dangerous situations that you have no control over. Always consider what is best for your pet before embarking on a tour.

Your Pet is Coming Along
Before striking out, get your pet in for a check-up at the veterinarian. Bring all your vaccination and health papers and your pet's identification tags. Also bring a temporary tag listing the information at your travel destinations. Bring a crate/kennel/carrier, leash or harness, Flexi-leash, food, water, dishes, toys, beds and grooming supplies. Also bring a current photo and written description of your pet in case they get lost.

Pack your Pet's Usual Food
You should always pack enough of your pet's regular food to last the duration of the trip, plus an extra two days. If you feed a brand that is not widely available, bring a little more along to cover delays in your trip. Keeping your companion on its regular diet helps your pet remain calm and prevents upset stomach.

Bring your Pet's Favorite Items
Pack a few of your animal's favorite toys and a bed. Familiar items will help your pet be more comfortable during the trip.

Provide Plenty of Water
Traveling pets do not have free access to water like they do at home. Remember to bring some water from home or get some bottled water for the trip. Water keeps your pet hydrated and energized.

Litter Box
Cat owners should pack their pet's litter box and remember to point it out when arriving at the final destination.

Road Trip
Dogs are usually pretty good automobile travelers, cats are usually not as happy about road trips. Both can learn to travel safely and pleasantly as long as your prepare for the trip the right way. If your companion has never been in a car, take some short practice trips so they can acclimate. Before you head out, be sure your pet is secured in a crate with a lining in the bottom or in a harness style pet seat belt.

Flying the Friendly Skies
Thousands of pets fly every year without incident, but remember that your companion will be flying in the cargo hold where they can be exposed to extremes of temperature, long periods of confinement and rough handling. There are experts that advise against shipping your pets via air as cargo. The best approach is to only book direct flights and since the cargo space is not unlimited, be sure to book early for your pet and yourself to guarantee a spot for Spot.

Most airlines allow pets to be shipped within the continental United States, for a fee. Prior to booking your flight, check with the airline about their pet policies, especially during hot and cold months when airlines restrict the flights pets are allowed to travel on. If you are taking your pet outside the United States, check with the airlines, and the embassy and/or consulate for the location you are visiting so you know about restrictions and quarantines. Most major airlines require you to provide a health certificate showing that your animal has been examined by a veterinarian within 10 days of shipping. If your animal is old enough, proof of rabies vaccination is required too. Keep the health certificate with you when you travel. If you are shipping your pet and not traveling with it, make sure the forms are securely attached to the crate so they arrive with the pet. (You can place them in a tyvek envelope and tape it to the crate.)

Small pets are allowed in the cabin, but most airlines are very restrictive on this so book early if this is your plan. Also, your carrier must fit under the seat in front of you. No matter which approach you use, always allow your dog to exercise prior to getting on the plane. You can provide him with a light meal and water several hours before departure. Your shipping crate should be well ventilated and equipped with food if you have an unexpected layover. (Again, tape it on top of the crate.) Make sure airline personnel have access to your dog in case of an emergency. Close and secure the crate door, but don't lock it.

No Room at the Inn
Having shown quite frequently, I am always surprised at the number of hotels, motels, inns, lodges and bed and breakfasts that accept pets. The best approach is to ask the establishment about its pet policy when you are ready to make your reservations. You can also use the Internet to help you find pet friendly lodging. (Remember always ask about the pet policy so you don't have an unpleasant surprise when you arrive at your destination.) Once you arrive at your lodging location, remember ALWAYS clean up after your pet . If we take care of the places we stay at, they will keep allowing pets. For Pet Friendly Travel Links visit my web site.

Leaving the Fur Children Behind
There are options for you when leaving your pets behind: boarding kennels, pet sitters and live-in pet sitters. Remember that arranging a stay for your pet takes planning and you should be certain to make a reservation early. Ask friends, family, neighbors, veterinarians and other pet professionals. You can also check with the American Boarding Kennels Association for locations near you.

Call and see if they can take your companions during your trip, and then schedule a visit to see their facility. If your pets have special needs, be certain to mention that to the facility management as some kennels can't accommodate special requirements. Here are some basic tips to consider when evaluating a kennel.

Does the facility look and smell clean?
Are the dog runs adequately sized for the animals in them and is there an exercise plan?
Is there bedding provided so your companion doesn't have to rest on cement?
Are cats kept in a separate area?
What is the feeding schedule and what are they fed? Can you bring your own brand of food?
Are the staff knowledgeable and caring?
How are the rates calculated?
Before going to the kennel, be sure your pet is current on vaccinations or titers. Talk to your veterinarian about kennel cough and whether this is an appropriate preventative for you pet. When you are ready to drop off your pet, remember to bring any medications, special foods, your veterinarians telephone number, contact telephone numbers for you while on your trip and a local emergency contact person.

Pet Sitters
Pet sitters allow your pets to stay in your home and get personal attention without a major disruption of routine. You can choose to have a pet sitter make a certain number of visits per day or choose to have the sitter live in your home. The pet sitter should have proof of commercial liability insurance to cover accidents or negligence and they should be bonded to protect your pet against theft. Have your companions meet the potential pet sitter to be sure they get along. Look for experience and check references. As with the boarding facilities, make reservations early, especially during holidays and other busy times. Here are some basic tips to consider when evaluating a pet sitter.

Does the pet sitter have an on-call veterinarian for emergencies?
What is the back up plan if the pet sitter is sick, injured or has vehicle trouble and can't get to your home?
What system is used to be certain that you have returned home?
Did the pet sitter ask about your pet? Likes, dislikes, habits, health, medications, routines?
Have you gotten a written contract explaining services and fees?

No matter what you decide, come or stay, this should get you started on the right path for you and your pets.

For more travel tips look at this page with Travel Tips.

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