On the Go Traveling With Pets

Packing for Two: Vacationing With a Pet

By Tara Fuller
Special to washingtonpost.com
The summer months are almost here, which means animal lovers have one thing on their minds: pet-friendly vacations.

But traveling with pets can be expensive and dangerous depending on the mode of transportation and the type of animal.

Below are tips and tricks to make traveling with your pet easy and fun. After all, a vacation isn't a vacation if all your loved ones aren't present.
General Tips
Whether you're traveling by road, sky or sea, there are many things to keep in mind when setting out with your pet. Fido Friendly Magazine Publisher Susan Sims says the No. 1 rule of pet travel is that your animal needs to be comfortable since most animals function best in a familiar setting. "[You should] bring everything as if you were packing for your own family," Sims says.

This includes your pet's favorite toys, food and even the same kind of water they drink at home. "Water can affect a pet's stomach," Sims says, "so make sure you give them what they always have to avoid sickness."

For cats, a species that's resistant to change, travel can be especially challenging even with the attention of a loving owner. Veterinarian Arnold Plotnick suggests plugging a pheromone diffuser, such as Feliway, into an outlet in their room to ease anxiety if they are having a tough time adjusting to their new surroundings.

Pheromones, which can also be sprayed inside crates, are chemical substances used to create a behavioral response in animals. Pet owners do not need a prescription to purchase them, and buying them online may be your best bet.

Another way to make your pet comfortable is to get him accustomed to traveling. "Don't just put them in the car and take off," Sims says. "Start with small trips around the neighborhood and go to parks and other places where something is awaiting them."

If the pet is traveling in a crate, Sims suggests familiarizing them with it by taking short trips, having them sleep in it, and turning it into an area they are comfortable in.

The crate may also double as a bathroom for animals that are unable to wait until the commute is over. For cat owners especially, Plotnick suggests placing Wee-Wee pads, designed to absorb urine, inside their crates.

Crate or not, make sure your pet has updated identification tags in case he goes missing. Tags should include your cell phone number and the address of your destination. Experts also recommend bringing a current photo of your pet.

Keeping your pet's health at the forefront of your mind is also important during pet travel. Janine Franceschi, owner of Pet-Friendly Accommodations Worldwide (PAW), suggests carrying a small first aid kit at all times that includes simple medical supplies, the phone number of your current vet, the national poison control hotline, and a 24-hour pet hospital near your travel destination. "Pay attention to your pet, because they will tell you when something is wrong, which will help you figure out what they need," Franceschi says.

Exercising your pet before traveling is also necessary. Sims says each pet should be exercised differently, depending on the animal and type of travel, but you want your pet calm and relaxed before taking off.
Travel by Car
Car travel is generally the most comfortable, easy way to travel with your pet, but that doesn't mean it is foolproof. "Accidents are just that, you aren't planning them," Sims says. "So you need to make sure your pet is safe."

Although many people like to let their animals roam freely in their vehicles, it is extremely important to make sure they are secure. "It's a lot like parenting," Franceschi noted. "You need to protect them."

But Franceschi also says there's an abundance of safety gear to help pets stay safe and have fun. Dogs, for example, love to stick their heads out the window while driving. This poses the risk of debris flying into their eyes and causing infection. For Franceschi's travel companion, Beau, she uses Doggles -- a brand of sunglasses for dogs -- to protect his eyes.

She also uses a walking harness that doubles as a seat-belt harness. "This way, Beau is comfortable in the harness and safe in the car," Franceschi said.

For cat owners, keeping their animals safely in place is only half of the battle. A glance at frequently changing scenery through a car window can send them into a panic.

Plotnick recommends "draping a light sheet around the carrier so the cat doesn't see the world whizzing by and get freaked out."

"That's why they are tough to travel with," Plotnick says. "[They like] constancy and stability."

Owners can help maintain their daily routine for cats and other pets by regularly stopping to check on their animal companions throughout the trip.

Maintaining a regular stopping schedule keeps pets content during car travel. Both Sims and Franceschi advise taking breaks every two hours and sticking to a regular feeding routine.

"Keep your schedule very natural, and bring more doggie bags than you could ever, ever imagine," Franceschi says. "The one time you need it, you won't have it, so you should always be prepared."

Pet owners should also be conscious of heat stroke. Two windows should remain open for a cross draft, or drivers can use a solar-powered fan, but never leave your pet in a hot car.

Pet owners should also bring plenty of cold water and make sure a pet is securely in place with a crate, a harness, or another safety device to make for a smooth road trip.

If your journey lasts more than a day and you need to make hotel arrangements, Franceschi says it is important to call in advance and make sure pets are not only allowed, but welcome. Not all hotels -- or even camping sites -- allow pets, so this is an essential step in your planning process.
Travel by Plane
Rules for traveling with pets on a plane vary by airline. Although there are several standard rules, pet owners must check with the specific carrier before they make travel arrangements.

All airlines, however, require pets to be at least 8 weeks old and weaned at least five days prior to flying.

Additionally, owners must carry a health certificate and record of vaccinations. A rabies vaccination is necessary for all flights, but other vaccinations depend on the country of arrival.

As with driving, experts recommend getting your pet accustomed to their crate, and exercising them before departure.

Owners should also try to book nonstop, midweek flights. In colder months, midday flights are preferable, and in warmer months, early morning or evening flights will be most comfortable for your pet.

"The cargo area can heat up dramatically and be quite dangerous for pets," Sims says. She emphasized the importance of thorough research of the airlines, the area of departure and arrival, and the time of year to ensure your pet's safety.

For long flights in particular, some pet owners tend to turn to sedation to help their pets get through the ride. However, Sims says sedation "can cause more injury to your pet and make them very unstable."

"Always consult your vet to determine the best option," advises Sims. "And don't forget to explore herbal options as well, which tend to be less harmful."

Even if you've tried your best to prepare your animal for flight, airlines have the right to refuse any pet if there are too many onboard, or if any of their guidelines aren't met.
For those who prefer to travel by boat or train, there are limited options, unless the pet is a service animal. Amtrak, Greyhound and several cruise lines do not allow pets, but there are still some services pet owners can utilize.

The Dog Travel Company, for example, is a club where owners can charter private flights and trains that allow their pets to sit in the seat next to them. Members can arrange a plane or train, and the trip opens up to other club members, which can reduce the usual hefty price.

Currently, the only cruise line that accepts pets is Cunard's QE2, but there are many rules and available trips are infrequent.

Although it can be challenging to go away with your pet, experts encourage pet owners to do so with a smile. "Include your pets in as many vacations as you can," says Sims, "and really roll out the red carpet for them."

It may not be simple to adjust your pets to traveling, but Sims and Franceschi say the experience is unforgettable, and usually worth it..
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PRODUCED BY: Delece Smith-Barrow - washingtonpost.com; EDITOR: Amy Adkins - washingtonpost.com