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Traveling with or without your pet

Posted: July 18th, 2014 | Featured, Pets | No Comments

Ann Eliopulos | Pets

Summer fun is in full swing. As singles, couples and families pack their things and travel away from San Diego or settle in at the beach, the plan for what to do with our non-human family members during vacation is often filled with guilt and anxiety. Whether they are being boarded somewhere or staying with a sitter, the uncertainty of how things will go in your absence can take some of the fun out of traveling, unless of course they are going with you. With a few tips and some planning, travel during the summer — or any time of year — can be less stressful for you and your pet.

While we would all love to take our animal friends with us wherever we go, it is not always possible. All pet boarding facilities should be visited and thoroughly evaluated before you leave your pet there. Referrals from friends or your veterinarian can be very useful in determining where to leave your beloved friend. Make sure that the kennel has a veterinarian available and a great reputation. This is not the time to bargain shop.

(Photo courtesy of cameron.small on flickr)

(Photo courtesy of cameron.small on flickr)

Strategies and planning are less obvious when you have a pet sitter in your home. Few of us like to imagine a worst case scenario when going away and often get lulled into not being as thorough when our pets are staying at home. Unfortunately, as a former ER doctor, I can tell you that some of the most challenging situations have come from an unprepared pet sitter dealing with the unexpected. Here is a checklist for what to have for your pet sitter when you leave.

  • If your pet is on medications, make sure you have enough of them to last during your absence.
  • Provide your veterinarian with your pet sitter’s name and information. Authorize him or her to approve any urgent treatment your pet may need. If you have a good relationship with the doctor, leave your credit card on file during your absence.
  • Have your veterinarian make a copy of your pet’s records to have at your house. If an after-hours emergency occurs, your pet sitter will be ready with the medical history.

    (Photo courtesy of Marti on flickr)

    (Photo courtesy of Marti on flickr)

  • Identify the closest ER to your home for your pet sitter. Have a letter written out that authorizes the pet sitter to approve emergency care for your pet up to a level of finance you are comfortable with. I recommend a minimum of $750 if you can do it. Stipulate that you need to be contacted above that amount or if the situation is life threatening. This will allow adequate care to be initiated without losing possible precious time trying to contact you.
  • For those who can’t or won’t leave their pets at home, opportunities for pet-friendly travel now abound. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants that accommodate our animal friends. Before you leave for those far away places, take care of these basics.
  • Schedule an appointment with your vet to make sure your pet is healthy enough for travel and to get a health certificate showing current vaccines. If you are traveling internationally, give yourself plenty of time to know a specific country’s requirements and regulations. Some require months of careful planning.
  • Get your pet microchipped if they aren’t already, and have an ID tag with multiple contact numbers on their collar.
  • For many pets, the stress of travel or diet changes equals diarrhea. See if your veterinarian can help you plan to avoid this or give you diarrhea medication just in case.
  • Pack all of your pet’s medications and even a bit extra for unexpected delays.
  • Make sure your car is pet safe, complete with doggie seat belts or carrier space.

    (Photo courtesy of Matt Elsberry on flickr)

    (Photo courtesy of Matt Elsberry on flickr)

  • If you are going to fly with your pet, get them habituated to their travel crate as far in advance as possible. This is far preferable to sedation. Sedatives lower the blood pressure, heart rate and core body temperature. Any one of these events can compromise your pet while in the air, especially if they are too large to go under the seat.
  • Brachycephalic dogs, or flat-faced dogs, such as Pugs, Frenchies, Mastiffs, Pekingese, etc., should never go in the cargo hold. They are already compromised with their breathing and the temperature and conditions can fluctuate there.
  • Have a pet emergency kit with you, including tweezers, light bandage material and Benadryl.
  • Make sure that all of the destinations you plan to visit accept pets.
  • Many hotels will not allow pets to remain in the rooms unattended. If you plan to have day or evening events that don’t include your pet, find out what the options are in advance.

There are many websites and publications that can give far more detail for pet-friendly travel should you desire it. That being said, you and your pet should be able to have a much happier and stress-free time — whether they go with you or stay behind — by being prepared. As soon as I have my Pug surgically removed from her constant position of under my arm, maybe I’ll get to follow my own suggestions and get away, too. Happy travels!

— Ann Eliopulos is a DVM at Bodhi Animal Hospital in North Park.

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