Do you have upcoming travel plans that include your pet? Pets can make great travel companions, but ensuring a smooth trip takes planning and preparation. Allow plenty of planning time before your departure date, use our University Veterinary Hospital team’s guide to stress-free travel with pets, and then sit back and enjoy the ride—or flight

#1: Make a pre-travel veterinary appointment

Before your trip, schedule a veterinary appointment to ensure your pet is up to date on their vaccinations, microchipped, and healthy enough for travel. Airlines require a health certificate for your pet that was issued and signed by a licensed veterinarian no more than 10 days before your departure. Your veterinarian can also recommend calming supplements or motion-sickness medication if necessary, to keep your traveling pet comfortable. 

#2: Keep your pet safe and comfortable in a travel crate

The safest travel method for your pet is a secure crate, which should be well-ventilated, and large enough for them to stand, lie down, and turn around. If you’re driving on your trip, keep your pet in the back car seat to avoid an injury from a deployed airbag, and ensure the crate is secured and won’t slide if you stop quickly. 

#3: Practice with your pet before traveling

At home, your pet has their own comfortable daily routine, which is turned on its head while traveling, and can lead to increased anxiety for your pet. To help your pet adjust to the sights and sounds, start going for dry runs far in advance of your trip. Ensure your pet is comfortable in their crate, and introduce them to car travel while crated by taking several short drives that slowly become longer. Speak with your veterinarian if your pet experiences anxiety or motion sickness.

#4: Make sure your pet has identification

A pet can easily become lost when traveling. Ensure your pet has proper identification, so they can easily be returned should they get loose during your trip. Avoid losing your pet while traveling by:

  • Fitting your pet’s collar securely
  • Keeping your pet on a short leash
  • Microchipping your pet
  • Ensuring the information on their identification tags and in the microchip database are current

#5: Pack your pet’s essentials

Make a list of items your pet will need on the trip. You can help your pet feel more at home by packing their favorite toy or a clothing item that smells like you, to comfort them as they navigate foreign territory. Other essential packing items include:

  • Collar with current ID tags
  • Leash
  • Crate
  • Poop bags 
  • Food, water, and treats
  • Travel bowls
  • Medications 
  • Veterinary health documents
  • Bed
  • Pet first-aid kit

#6: Plan potty breaks for your pet

Many small considerations are necessary when traveling with a pet, including knowing when and where they can relieve themselves. If traveling by air, map out the airport’s pet relief areas that your pet should use before take-off and during layovers. Because your pet may be anxious, be prepared for accidents with puppy pads and some paper towels. On a road trip, plan to stop every two to three hours for potty and stretch breaks for your pet. 

#7: Consider leaving your pet at home

While you may wish every pet were a pro traveler, that is not reality, and as much as you would love your pet to join you on your travels, some pets are much happier staying put. To help you decide whether you should take your pet or keep them at home, ask yourself:

  • Will my pet be safe?
  • Will my pet enjoy the trip?
  • Are pets allowed where I am traveling?
  • Can my pet behave appropriately?
  • Is my pet healthy enough to travel?

If you answer these questions and realize that your pet would be better off left behind, start thinking about where your pet will stay while you are traveling. A family member, friend, trusted dog watcher, or an accredited boarding facility are all good options. Remember, if you decide to board your pet, make your reservation far in advance, especially if your trip is during a peak travel time, and ask about their health certificate and vaccination requirements. 

Whether you need to make a pre-travel veterinary visit to obtain your pet’s health certificate, or would like to reserve your pet’s spot at our luxurious boarding facility, our University Veterinary Hospital team is here to help.  Schedule an appointment, and let the travel planning begin.