Today’s dogs, and even some cats, are vacationing thanks to friendlier airlines, safety innovations, pet-friendly hotels, resorts, campsites, and restaurants with outdoor dining privileges.
At the 2008 American Animal Hospital Association conference in Tampa, Gregg Takashima, DVM, founder of the Parkway Veterinary Hospital in Portland, Oregon, offered tips to keep pets safe while traveling.
In most cases, it’s safe for your pet to travel if your vets give the okay. “Animals accustomed to traveling in a car, going out on walks and who are socialized tend to travel very well depending on their personalities,” Takashima said.
Traveling internationally or even crossing state lines in a plane requires a health certificate from your vet. Additional ways to prepare:
- Make sure vaccines (especially rabies) are up to date
- Consider an ID collar and a tag—even a microchip
The trend nowadays is against sedation unless significant risks for pet injury exist. “Sedation can cause the pet to feel unstable and cause more fear,” Takashima explained. “Cats tend to fly pretty well because they are usually allowed in the cabin in a cat carrier  under the seat.”
While taking a pet to Canada or Mexico is fairly straightforward, visits to other countries can be complex and call for extensive planning. Pet travel companies, like travelpets.com, remove a lot of the guesswork. “It’s very tedious to have to do the work yourself. You would have to start six months ahead of time,” Takashima said.
A few pointers for traveling with dogs in motor vehicles:
- Have your dog always wear a seat belt or dog car harness  in front and back seats
- Ensure adequate ventilation
- Never let your dog put its head outside the window, as this can lead to ear and eye injuries
- For cats, provide a good carrier, a place to sleep, and a safe place for the litter box. Make sure they cannot escape
Some innovative products make sailing and boating reasonably safe. “There are dog life vest ,” Takashima said. “If they do fall overboard, you can pull them up.”
Dogs can also use puppy pads  and artificial turf products for elimination. “Your pet can get acclimated fairly easily, but do that well ahead of time,” Takashima said.
- Make sure your pet is well groomed (not itchy or dirty)
- Take along some comforts of home—bed, blanket, toys, litter box
- Rather than buying new types of food, carry your pet’s familiar food from home when practical
- Carriers should be big enough for standing and turning around, with room for food and water
- Place absorbent towels on the carrier floor in case of accidents
- Have a pet first aid kit  for emergencies
Takashima’s own dog sleeps in a carrier every night, even at home. “We turn off the television and he runs to his carrier. He’s a good traveler,” Takashima said.
By Marilyn Soltis for WebVet
Reviewed by Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS and John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhD