Tips from Emmy Award Winning Celebrity Veterinarian Dr. Jeff Werber
More and more people’s travel plans include their four legged family members. Although boarding your pet is always an option, and there are many boarding facilities that rival upscale hotel accommodations, the fact is, for many of us pets are family and we wouldn’t enjoy a vacation unless they were there with us. Here are a few tips to help make your furry travel buddy comfortable on the journey.
1. Always keep a pet restrained in a car—either with a harness that attaches to a seat belt, or a pet carrier that can be anchored in a seat belt. Cats should be contained in a pet crate or cage secured with a seat belt so that it doesn’t move around in transit. Never attach a restraining device to a pet’s collar. Pets running freely in a car are at risk and a hazard and distraction to the driver. Everyone in the car could be at risk if the pet looks for safety by the driver’s feet and moves toward the brake or gas pedal.
2. It is best to acclimate a pet to car rides slowly—and always make the experience a positive one with plenty of praise and treats. At first, take your pet into the car, strap him in, start the engine, count to 10, then turn the engine off, take your pet out of the car, and give lots of praise and a treat. Slowly increase the acclimation time, than after 3 to 4 minutes is mastered, take your first short trip (around the block), then give the same praise and rewards. The key is to make the process fun and not frightening.
3. Dogs or cats that suffer from a gastro-intestinal upset do so more because of the anxiety of the travel. Medications or supplements geared to “calming” are usually more effective than those for motion. Check with your veterinarian before giving any kind of medication. Also make sure all your pets’ vaccines are up to date and bring any records in case you are stopped or questioned at interstate junctions.
4. For long trips, make sure to take plenty of bathroom-break stops. For cats, a small traveling litter box is a good idea to have in the car.
5. Do not allow your pet to ride with its head outside of the window. Dirt particles could get into your pet’s ears, nose, eyes, or throat, causing health problems and they could be struck and injured as well.
6. When stopping, make sure to connect the leash to your pet’s collar BEFORE opening a car door. Pets in strange locations may bolt out of the car door if given the chance.
7. Since dogs have sensitive GI tracts and don’t do well with change, before a trip, we recommend filling a large gallon jug with your local water. At every stop, if water was consumed, fill the jug back to the top—don’t wait for it to empty. This way, water from new water supplies will be gradually introduced—always mixing with your local water supply. Try not to overstuff your pet with food or water during the drive.
8. Though sometimes tempting, NEVER leave your pet in a parked car-even with the windows cracked open. A parked car with a panting, nervous dog inside can get very hot, very quickly.
9. Bring a few extra towels with you for clean-up—just in case…
10. Always carry… a picture of your pet with you, all vaccine information, any special medication (including a backup supply in case your trip home gets delayed), and make sure your pet has adequate identification (I.D. tags and a microchip). Better safe than sorry.
11. Put together a travel kit with your furry friends’ favorite things, including a leash, food bowl, grooming supplies, and his/her favorite toy or pillow. Bring treats too, but keep him/her on their regular feeding schedule and try to plan stops around key feeding times. Also include a pet First Aid kit, medical records, medications, health certificate and numbers for your Vet (including Animal Poison Control Center hotline (888-426-4435)). Also put a travel tag on a pet’s collar with essential information (ie. cell phone) in case you are separated from your pet.
12. If you are traveling by air, be sure to carefully read and understand all Airline Pet Policies—not all airlines allow pets and others limit the number of animals per flight, both in the cabin and in cargo.
13. For air travel, be sure your pet’s physical condition is compatible with flight. Discuss any illnesses, injuries, health risks (e.g., if your dog is very old, young, pregnant) with your veterinarian. Certain breeds of dogs, such as collies and pugs, have special respiratory considerations because of their long or short snouts, and flying in the cargo area of a plane can lead to breathing difficulties due to poor ventilation.
A few other things to keep in mind…
For domestic and certainly international air travel a health certificate may be required. Some airlines may require that a health certificate stamped by a USDA veterinarian. Be sure to check with the airline to avoid last minute complications.
If you are planning to stay with family once you reach your destination, be sure and advise them in advance that you are bringing your pet. Otherwise, you may never be invited back.
As for hotels, even though there are many pet friendly hotels including some of the major chains, some have restrictions on the size of the pet allowed and also may have limited pet friendly rooms available. Like a good scout, it is important to be prepared.
With proper planning and preparedness, traveling with your pets can be fun, enjoyable, and hassle-free!
Dr. Jeff Werber has dedicated his life to the care and protection of animals. A renowned veterinarian and pet parenting specialist, Dr. Jeff maintains that pets are more than just companions; they are part of the family and deserve to be treated that way.
A top graduate of the University of California Davis Veterinary School, Dr. Jeff established his Los Angeles-based private clinic, Century Veterinary Group, in 1988. Dr. Jeff cares for the pets of Hollywood’s biggest stars, including Britney Spears, Julia Roberts, Ben Affleck, Eddie Murphy, Paula Abdul, Rod Stewart, Mark Wahlberg, Patrick Dempsey, Mandy Moore, Jennifer Love Hewitt and many more – along with those of everyday pet owners.
He is a highly sought after and frequent guest speaker on a number of national news programs and has lent his expertise on Good Morning America, TODAY, Dr. Oz, Rachael Ray, CBS Sunday Morning, CNN as well as Fox & Friends. As an Emmy Award winning veterinarian, he has hosted the wildly popular Petcetera on Animal Planet Network, sharing his compassion and knowledge with millions of viewers around the country, encouraging responsible pet ownership and care.
Dr. Jeff is dedicates his time to many groups in the animal welfare community, such as Best Friends Animal Society, Last Chance for Animals, Hounds and Heroes and a number of rescue groups including Angel City Pits, Ace of Hearts, Forever Fido, Wags and Walks, Furry Friends, Eloise, Bill Foundation, among others. He also serves on the advisory board of Veterinary Economics Magazine.
Dr. Jeff has translated a childhood love of pets into a career committed to raising and shaping national awareness of the importance of high quality pet care. To learn more about Dr. Jeff, visit www.drjeff.com.