Traveling with Your Pet

Dr. Tugel's four-legged family members take a trip to Sheabel

Dr. Tugel’s four-legged family members take a trip to Sheabel

by Dr. Michelle Jude

Vacation time often puts pet owners in a dilemma: Do I travel with my four-legged friends or leave them behind at home or in a kennel? Hopefully, this week’s column will help making that decision as easy as relaxing at the beach.

If the pet is vacation bound, there are a few things you should do before you hit the road. First, make an appointment with your veterinarian to make sure your pet is current on all vaccinations and is healthy enough to travel. Let your veterinarian know where you will be traveling so that he or she can address any concerns that may be prominent in that area.

Also make sure your pet is current on flea, tick and heartworm medications. If the pet is on daily medications for an illness, be sure to have extra medications on hand in case your return home is delayed for any reason. Be certain to take plenty of food as well, in case of delays.

Ask your vet to make copies of vaccination records, as well as pertinent medical records, in case the unexpected happens and they need to be boarded away from home. It is always a good idea to make a list of veterinarians along the route you will be traveling and near your destination. In an emergency situation, it is better to be prepared and have a plan, which could save your pet’s life in a serious emergency.

Call ahead and make sure the place you are staying allows pets. Some hotel chains even offer special pet care services such as special bedding, bed turn-down service with a biscuit, and even doggy daycare/parks to accommodate our furry friends. Several beaches along the coastlines do not allow dogs because of the human risk of zoonosis of parasites, or getting parasites from animals, so check before you go. I learned this the hard way in veterinary school when my husband and I drove four hours to the Gulf with our Jack Russel to be turned away (and forced to drive back home the same day) because pets were not allowed on the beach! Turned out to be a great road trip, at least.

If you plan to fly, check with the airline about traveling with your pet. Most require a health certificate signed by your veterinarian within 10 days of travel stating your pet is healthy and current on vaccinations. Most airlines also have strict limitations on the crate size.

Finally, most airlines will not transport pets during times of extreme heat or cold due to safety concerns. If international travel is in your plans, consult with your veterinarian at least eight to 12 months prior to travel because many destinations follow strict guidelines requiring the timing of vaccinations, titers and parasitic control.

For fractious or anxious pets, sedation may be an option while traveling. This is not the answer for all pets, and pet owners definitely need to talk to their veterinarians regarding options and to see if a pet is a candidate for sedation. If sedation is recommended, I strongly advise giving the medication at home to see how your pet will respond before heading out. Traveling can be stressful, and adding the stress of the unknown is not needed.

A recent study suggests that anxiety in cars is often due to motion sickness in dogs and cats. We have a new anti-nausea medication called Cerenia (Pfizer) that has helped numerous cats and dogs, as well as their owners, enjoy car rides again. Call your veterinarian to find out more.

If your travel plans do not include taking your pet along, there are a few options for where to leave him or her while you are away. If a friend or family member is going to keep your pet or check on it throughout the day, have a backup plan in case something happens to the caretaker. And always be sure to give a responsible party a second key in case the main one gets misplaced. Leave your veterinarian’s name and number in case there is an accident or illness. It is also a good idea to let your vet know you will be out of town and who is taking care of your pet in case something happens in your absence.

There are numerous boarding facilities in the great city of Lexington, including at Sheabel Veterinary Hospital. Many facilities, like ours, give tours. Check out your options as you’re making your travel plans.