Handy Tips for Traveling with Fido

Make sure to pack with emergencies in mind.

Summer is almost over, and you may be thinking of one trip before the school year starts.

If you’re like two-thirds of the pet owners surveyed by the American Animal Hospital Association a few years ago, you take your animals with you on vacation. 

Our car is set up for bringing our dogs along on road trips, and all three of our pets are seasoned hotel guests. Only one has never traveled in the cabin of an airplane.

When traveling with pets, the following tips will help you have a smooth trip.


Your pet doesn’t need a suitcase, but a sturdy tote bag will hold the essentials: food and water dishes, a couple of favorite toys, grooming gear and treats. Toss in plenty of plastic bags for picking up poop, a stack of paper towels and a bottle of enzymatic stain and odor remover in case your pet throws up or, as the behaviorists say, "eliminates inappropriately."

Bring enough food, plus a little extra, to get you to where you’re going. You can buy more when you get there. If your pet eats a boutique brand, check the company’s website before you leave to find out where you can purchase it on the road. Make a note of the address on your smart phone or enter it into your GPS.

Don’t forget any medications that your dog needs, and bring a copy of the prescription in case you need a refill during the trip. Scout out veterinary emergency hospitals at your vacation location, or ask your veterinarian if she can recommend a colleague in the area. Being prepared with this information will ease the stress of dealing with an unexpected pet illness or injury.

Fill a jug with water from home. The water in different places has different bacteria and different mineral makeup, and the change can upset the stomach of a sensitive pet. Gradually mix the water from home with the water at your vacation spot so your dog or cat’s gastrointestinal system has time to adjust.

Bring a crate lined with a comfortable pad so your pet will have a safe place to stay in the room when you aren’t there. A crate will also keep the animal from frightening cleaners who enter the room, and from escaping the room or gnawing on the wallpaper in the hotel bathroom. (Ask me where I got the idea a dog might do that.)

If your pet shares the furniture with you, bring a couple of large flat sheets to throw over the bed or sofa so it doesn’t embellish them with fur or drool.

We all need ID when we travel these days. Pets do too. Besides being microchipped, your pet should wear an ID tag with your cell phone number.

On the Road

If you’re traveling by car, give your dog a couple of gingersnaps to ease any carsickness woes. Look into purchasing a dog seatbelt or raised car seat that will allow the pet to see out the window. Fresh air and a view of the horizon can help minimize carsickness. Dogs who throw up at the very sight of a car may benefit from a prescription for a drug called Cerenia that helps with motion sickness in animals. 

Give your pet a comfortable place to ride in the car. For dogs, consider purchasing a “hammock” for the back seat. Not only will it protect your car’s upholstery from dog hair, it will give your canine passenger a comfy resting spot and double as a bed in the hotel room. Cats are safest inside a carrier unless you have found an escape-proof harness that will allow them to ride secured in a pet car seat.

Schedule plenty of breaks while you’re driving so your pet can shake out its legs and take a potty break. Stop more often if you’re traveling with a puppy or senior dog. Neither has a cast-iron bladder.

If you keep your dog in a travel crate, attach a fan, especially if it has a short snout and is prone to overheating.

In the Air

If you are moving to a new home, the quickest way to get your pet there may be by air. This is a great choice for dogs or cats that are small enough to ride in a carrier that will fit beneath your seat. Check to make sure the carrier you choose is airline-approved and will fit comfortably under the seat.

Don’t give your pet a tranquilizer thinking it will help him be more relaxed during the flight. Tranquilizers sometimes have the opposite effect. Instead, try a product such as Rescue Remedy, which often helps and won’t hurt even if it doesn’t work.

Unless there’s no other option, try to avoid flying your pet in cargo. Too much can go wrong: shifting baggage, loss or mishandling by airline personnel, and temperature extremes that can cause pets to have trouble breathing or even die. Instead, look into specialized pet transport services or Pet Airways, which flies pets in the cabins of specially modified planes and has flight attendants to care for them. (Full disclosure: I have written articles for the Pet Airways blog.)

Have fun! And don’t forget the best thing about traveling with pets: They never ask how much longer until you get there.


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