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Traveling with your pet can be a joy or a total catastrophe! For the sake of your sanity as well as that of Fido, it pays to take some simple, common sense precautions while planning to travel with your pet.


Long road trips can be stressful or even dangerous to your pet. If your pet has never been in a car, or if it has been a while since his last ride, take him on several short trips to get him comfortable with being in the car. Be realistic—if your pet throws up on short drives (such as backing out of the driveway) you might want to seriously reconsider taking him on a long one.

Use pet carriers to ensure that pets don’t jump around or hang out the window. Carriers should be large enough for pets to stand and move about freely. Get your pet accustomed to the carrier beforehand by keeping it accessible in the house or yard for a week or two. Include a small, disposable litter box (the small, shallow boxes that cases of soda come in work great!) if traveling with your cat. Also, stow carriers on the floor or secure them to the seat so they won’t slide around on sharp turns.

If you must travel in hot weather, try doing so in the evening or early morning and have plenty of water available for your pets. And remember: if you can’t safely leave your car parked in the shade with windows partly open for ventilation, don’t leave pets in the car. Heat builds rapidly in closed cars, causing heat exhaustion in only minutes.


If your travel plans include air travel, there are special requirements to take into consideration. First of all, air travel should be booked 4 weeks in advance for domestic moves and 6 to 8 weeks prior for international flights. This is crucial because airlines limit the number of animals it will carry at once, and some only allow one passenger to carry one pet in the cabin section. Book early to ensure that Fluffy gets to sit with you during your flight.

Air travel also requires that pets have a health certificate signed by a USDA-approved veterinarian certifying that the animal is disease-free and that immunizations are current. This certificate usually must be issued within 10 days of travel. You won’t be able to get the health certificate if you don’t have your pet’s shot records, so visit your veterinarian beforehand to pick them up if he or she will not be the veterinarian administering the health certificate. In addition, shots such as rabies must be at least 30 days old prior to issuing the health certificate.

In addition to a health certificate, you may also have to get an acclimation certificate for your pet. This states that he is acclimated to temperatures lower than 45 degrees Fahrenheit and should be issued no later than 10 days before departure. Even if you don’t need to get an acclimation certificate, you should still avoid any travel that subjects your pet to extreme temperatures (above 85 degrees or below 45 degrees Fahrenheit). Morning and evening flights are the most preferable during the summer months, while midday flights are best during colder periods. Further, pug or snub-nosed dogs such as boxers, shih tzus, terriers and bulldogs are not hot-weather animals and many airlines won’t accept them as checked baggage or cargo if the temperature on any part of the trip will exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Check with your airline for specific restrictions regarding pet travel.

Some people tranquilize their pets during travel. This may not be in your pet’s best interest, because when he is sedated, his body can’t regulate its temperature very well, so be sure to take this into consideration when deciding whether or not to use sedatives. However, if you do choose to use them, make sure that you give them to your pet well enough in advance so that they start to work just before you start your travel.


--Place a comfortable pad in the kennel along with a favorite toy or two. Some pet owners even include a picture of them inside the kennel so the pet may see its owners, which may soothe the pet when agitated.

--Exercise the pet lightly before departing. If traveling by car, be sure your pet gets to stretch his legs when you do during travel breaks.

--Hand-carry vaccination, heath and import certificates when required.

--Ask your vet for a reference for a practioner in the city to which you’re traveling.

--Feed a light meal no less than 6 hours before departing. Provide a water dish with the crate, so attendants can provide water during stopovers. If the trip lasts longer than 24 hours, provide some food (preferably dry) attached to the outside of the crate in a cloth or mesh bag, along with feeding instructions.

--On the outside of the kennel print your name, address and pet’s destination. Include your pet’s name, so attendants can talk to the animal. Also put this information on your pet’s collar or on a tag around your pet’s neck. On rare occasions, pets can escape from kennels and might require identification. Also, attach a copy of health, rabies, and import certificates.

--Verify that your hotel accepts pets. Many do, but if yours doesn’t, you might want to change hotels or locate a boarding kennel nearby.

--Some states have border inspection of all animals—keep this in mind when entering another state.

--Limit feeding to once a day during your traveling, preferably in the evening, unless your veterinarian instructs otherwise.

--Some countries (and even the U.S. state of Hawaii!) have animal quarantine requirements for anywhere from 30 days to 6 months, at owner’s expense. Check with the consulate or embassy of the country you are planning to visit to ensure that you don’t run into any unforeseen surprises.