Safe Pet Travel Tips

Safe Pet Travel Tips
Most people consider pets to be members of the family and will include them in activities such as travel. When traveling with pets, it is important to plan ahead while keeping the best interests of your pet in mind. Traveling with pets can be a fun bonding experience, but can also turn unpleasant without proper planning. All pets are not necessarily suited for travel and owners should consider temperament, illness, and impairments when making the decision on whether to bring a pet along.

flying-with-your-dogTraveling by airplane with pets

Before booking a flight for Fido, you’ll want to think through all your options.

Air travel can be risky for pets

The HSUS recommends that you weigh all the risks when deciding whether to transport your pet by airplane. Air travel can be particularly dangerous for animals with "pushed in" faces (the medical term is "brachycephalic"), such as bulldogs, pugs and Persian cats. Their short nasal passages leave them especially vulnerable to oxygen deprivation and heat stroke. Consider all the alternatives to flying. If you plan to bring your pet on vacation, driving is usually a better option. If you can't travel by car, your pet will probably be healthier and happier if you leave them behind under the care of a pet sitter or boarding kennel. But there are times when that won’t be possible and you’ll have to determine whether the benefits of flying outweigh the risks.

If you decide to fly with your pet, choose the cabin when possible

If transporting your pet by air is the only option, find out whether they can travel in the cabin with you. Most airlines will allow you to take a cat or small dog in the cabin for an additional fee. But you must call the airline well in advance; there are limits to the number of animals allowed in the cabin. If you are transporting your dog, make sure they meet the size requirements. If you get overwhelmed by all the regulations, there are companies that can help you navigate through the process of flying with a pet.

Ask these questions if your pet is flying in the cabin

When you contact the airline, be sure to get clear answers to these questions:
  • Will the airline allow you to take your cat or small dog in the cabin with you?
  • Does the airline have any special pet health and immunization requirements?
  • Does the airline require a specific type of carrier? Most airlines will accept either hard-sided carriers or soft-sided carriers (which may be more comfortable for your pet), but only certain brands of soft-sided carriers are acceptable to certain airlines.
  • If you can't take your pet in the cabin, does the airline have any restrictions on transporting your pet in the cargo hold?

Take precautions when bringing your pet through airport security

Your pet's carrier will have to pass through the security screening along with you. You have two options: Either be sure your pet is securely harnessed so you can safely contain them outside their carrier while it's being x-rayed, or request a special secondary screening that won't require you to take them out of their carrier.

Be aware of the dangers of flying your pet in a cargo hold

While most animals flown in the cargo area of airplanes are fine, you should be aware that some animals are killed, injured or lost on commercial flights each year. Excessively hot or cold temperatures, poor ventilation and rough handling are often to blame. Most U.S. airlines are required to report all companion animal incidents that occur in the cargo hold, and consumers should study the performance record of any airline before choosing to fly your pet in a cargo hold.

Follow these tips if your pet must fly in the cargo hold

If your pet must travel in the cargo hold, you can increase the chances of a safe flight for your pet by following these tips.
  • Use direct flights. You will avoid the mistakes that occur during airline transfers and possible delays in getting your pet off the plane.
  • Travel on the same flight as your pet when possible. Ask the airline if you can watch your pet being loaded into the cargo hold and unloaded.
  • When you board the plane, notify the captain and at least one flight attendant that your pet is traveling in the cargo hold. If the captain knows that pets are on board, they may take special precautions.
  • Don't ever ship brachycephalic animals such as Pekingese dogs, bulldogs or Persian cats in the cargo holds.
  • If traveling during the summer or winter months, choose flights that will accommodate the temperature extremes. Early morning or late evening flights are better in the summer; afternoon flights are better in the winter.
  • Fit your pet with a collar that can't get caught in carrier doors. Affix two pieces of identification on the collar: a permanent ID with your name and home address and telephone number, and a temporary travel ID with the address and telephone number where you or a contact person can be reached.
  • Affix a travel label to the carrier on which you've written your name, permanent address and telephone number, final destination, and where you or a contact person can be reached as soon as the flight arrives.
  • Make sure that your pet's nails have been clipped to protect against them getting hooked in the carrier's door, holes, and other crevices.
  • Give your pet at least a month before your flight to become familiar with the travel carrier. This will minimize their stress during travel.
  • Do not give your pet tranquilizers unless they are prescribed by your veterinarian. Make sure your veterinarian understands that the prescription is for air travel.
  • Do not feed your pet for four to six hours before the trip. However, you can give them small amounts of water. If possible, put ice cubes in the water tray attached to the inside of your pet's crate or kennel. (A full water bowl will only spill and cause discomfort.)
  • Try not to fly with your pet during busy travel times such as holidays and the summer. Your pet is more likely to undergo rough handling during hectic travel periods.
  • Carry a current photograph of your pet. If your pet is lost during the trip, a photograph will make it much easier for airline employees to search effectively.
  • When you arrive at your destination, open the carrier as soon as you are in a safe place and examine your pet. If anything seems wrong, take your pet to a veterinarian immediately. Get the results of the examination in writing, including the date and time.
  Driving With Pets It is much easier to travel with pets when driving than flying, though some planning and preparations can still be helpful. The most important thing to consider when driving with pets is their safety. You should take pets to get checked out by a vet before travel. If traveling across state lines, you may need to have a veterinarian issue a health certificate. When traveling in cars, pets need to be properly restrained. There are several options available including pet barriers, seat belts, travel crates, and even car seats. When packing for travel with your pet, you should include pet food, an ample amount of water, travel food and water dishes, collar and tags, leash, toys, any necessary medications, and a pet first aid kit. If you are planning a long journey and will be staying in a hotel, it is important to do research beforehand to find pet friendly accommodations. Tips for Driving With Pets
  • Never allow pets to stick their head out the window as they can be injured by flying debris.
  • Make sure to provide frequent bathroom breaks and allow some time for exercise as well.
  • Offer pets fresh water during pit stops.
  • Never, ever leave pets alone in vehicles as they can get very hot very quickly even if the window is open.
  With a bit of planning and preparation, you can make traveling with your pet comfortable and stress free. The following pages feature additional information on traveling with pets.

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