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Tips for Safe Travel with Your Pet

By June 26, 2018 March 2nd, 2020 No Comments

Whether you’re hitting the road in a car, traveling by RV, or taking to the skies, keep these tips in mind to ensure the best possible experience when traveling with your pet.

Prepare for the trip

Before you start packing, it’s important to make sure your dog or cat is comfortable with travel. Your pet’s health is top priority, so if your pet is ill or injured, don’t stress them with travel. If you have a senior pet or a pet with a difficult or anxious temperament, it may not be comfortable for them to travel—consider a reliable pet-sitter or boarding your pet here at the clinic instead.

What to bring

Bring along a current color photo of your pet, and be sure your pet is wearing a secure collar and identification tags with your correct and current contact information. A registered microchip is important for your pet’s safety and can help ensure that you’ll be reunited with your pet if they escape or wander off.

Planning to fly or travel out of state? You’ll most likely need a current health certificate from your veterinarian issued within 10 days of travel stating that your pet is fit for travel and up-to-date on their vaccinations. For international travel, additional documentation may be required. Please give us a call if you are traveling internationally with your pet.

Pack current copies of your pet’s medical records, especially vaccination records, and any prescribed medications. If your pet is taking medication, be sure to bring along enough for the length of the trip, plus several extra days’ supply. A heavy duty travel carrier can protect your cat or dog during travel, and a familiar blanket or soft bedding and a safe toy can help make your pet more comfortable. Don’t forget to pack a leash or harness, food, treats, water, and food and water dishes. 

Car and RV Travel

Acclimate your dog or cat to car travel by taking them on multiple short trips or outings before it’s time for your vacation. If your pet gets car sick, don’t feed them for two hours before leaving, especially for trips lasting longer than 30 minutes. Your veterinarian can prescribe medication to make your pet more comfortable during the trip. Please give us a call to set up an appointment for an examination if your pet needs medication.

To keep your pet safe and healthy on the road, provide secure seating to prevent injury. Pets can be unpredictable in a moving vehicle, so be sure your small dog or cat is confined in a travel carrier or crate. Larger pets can ride in a crate or be restrained with secure travel harnesses that attach to your car, SUV, or RV seat belts. Never let your pet ride on your lap, near your feet, or loose in your vehicle, and don’t let your pet ride with his head outside the window—your dog can easily be injured from flying debris.

Take a break every two or three hours to allow your pet to go to the bathroom and get some exercise. If you do stop along the way, never leave your pet unattended in your parked car or RV. The temperature inside your vehicle can rise almost 20 degrees in just 10 minutes, and can quickly reach a temperature that puts your pet at risk of serious illness and even death.

Air Travel

Before you book your flights, check with the airlines about their pet policy—some have restrictions on breed and size. All pets must be at least 8 weeks old and weaned for at least five days before flying, and all airlines require immunization records and a health certificate.

Make a reservation for yourself and your pet at the same time, and book direct flights to avoid plane changes. During warmer months, book flights early in the morning or late in the evening. During cooler months, choose mid-day flights.

Before your trip, talk to your veterinarian about your pet’s feeding schedule—it’s usually best for pets to fly on an empty stomach. Your veterinarian can advise you of the best schedule for your pet based on their dietary needs, age and size, and the time and distance of your flight.

On the day of your flight, arrive at the airport early to give your pet time to exercise. Place your pet in a sturdy, airline approved travel crate for the flight (we recommend you start acclimating your pet to their crate at least two or three weeks before travel).

The safest way for your pet to fly is with you in the cabin. Small pets who can fit in a carrier beneath the seat are allowed; larger pets must fly in cargo. To ensure that your pet in cargo has a safe flight, attach a travel water bowl filled with ice to the crate to help your pet stay hydrated, and notify the flight crew that your pet is in the cargo hold. As soon as you arrive at your destination, immediately pick up your pet.

Never sedate your pet for air travel, as it can increase the risk of heart and respiratory problems. Some short-nosed breeds of dogs and cats are prone to breathing problems, so talk to your veterinarian before you decide to fly.


Many hotels are making it easier than ever to bring along your pet. To find a pet-friendly hotel in destinations around the world, visit Official Pet Hotels to view accommodations. Some hotels only allow small pets or pets under a certain weight, so be sure to confirm their pet policy when you make a reservation.

Minimize the amount of time your pet will be left alone in the room, and if you do need to leave your pet alone in the room briefly, place a “do not disturb” sign on the door so that the housekeeping staff won’t disturb your dog or cat.

Use these tips and resources to plan your next vacation, and you’ll create lasting memories for your family and your furry family members!

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