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TIPS FROM THE AKC’S CHIEF VETERINARY OFFICER, DR. JERRY KLEIN

After over a year of being asked to stay home, all of us are craving a change in scenery. As the country reopens, so does the ability to travel. Some of us may want to take our dogs along for the ride. Before you and your dog jump in the car or hop on a plane to your next destination, here are things to consider when deciding to travel with your dog.

Plan Ahead
When traveling with your dog, proper planning makes all the difference. Bringing your dog with you is going to affect the kind of vacation you have; where you go, how you get there, where you can stay, and the amount of time and types of activities you’ll be able to do when you’re away from your hotel room. It is crucial to having the best time possible for you, your family, and your dog.

Medical Issues
Travel can be stressful to some pets, especially if they have not been accustomed to it. Signs of stress can range from going off their feed, excessive barking or chewing and even diarrhea and vomiting. If a dog is used to traveling, no medication is usually required or recommended. If your dog has a history of becoming car sick, your veterinarian can prescribe medication to ease nausea and vomiting. Anti-anxiety medication can be prescribed by your veterinarian if they feel the dog might benefit from it. To minimize and prevent gastrointestinal issues, try to pack a little of the same food and keep everything as close to schedule as possible. Some dogs may have medical concerns that need to be considered prior to travel. This may include dogs that have serious underlying medical issues such as epilepsy, diabetes, or an elderly dog.

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Vaccinations
All dogs traveling should be healthy and free of communicable diseases. Prior to travel, all dogs should be seen and examined by your veterinarian to make sure they’re up to date on their vaccinations, heartworm prevention, and flea and tick prevention. In case of any possible accident or escape while traveling, your dog should have accurate identification such as a microchip in place with updated information. For road travel, no papers are required for interstate travel but it’s strongly recommended that owners have proof of current rabies vaccination in case it’s ever requested. If your dog is flying in the same compartment as you, no papers are required but it is recommended that the owner have proof of current rabies vaccination. If your dog is flying in cargo, documentation of a current rabies vaccination as well as a current health certificate is required.

Gear For Your Dog
A pet-friendly travel kit should include:

  • a dog’s collar and leash
  • food and water bowl
  • poop bags
  • a crate or carrier for the trip and/or hotel,
  • enough food to feed your dog until you can purchase that brand at your travel location
  • baby wipes
  • paper towels
  • your dog’s medications along with a photograph of their vaccine record and a list of your dog’s medications in case you need to purchase more

Pet-Friendly Policies
Travelers with pets should always remember to confirm pet policies before booking. Make sure your lodging’s policies are up to date, as they can change for several reasons. Generally, lodging with pet-friendly policies will allow small dogs. If you’re traveling with medium, large, or multiple dogs, it may be more of a challenge to find pet-friendly policies that can accommodate those dogs, among other restrictions. Travelers should be aware that some pet-friendly lodging often charge a fee. Be sure you ask for details on pet-friendly policies so that you aren’t surprised when the bill comes.

Know Your Dog
It’s important to keep in mind the type of trip you’re taking when deciding to travel with your dog because not every activity is suitable for every dog breed. For example, a Pekingese is not the kind of dog to take hiking nor would a German Shorthaired Pointer be content just lying around the hotel room. This is the reason it’s important to choose a breed that fits your lifestyle so you can share your life’s moments with your dog. Therefore, choose the vacation that best suits you and your dog. Some breeds of dogs are more sensitive to hot temperatures, such as older dogs or brachycephalic-type dogs and some dogs are sensitive to cold weather, such as hairless breeds and those with osteoarthritis. Temperature changes must always be considered when traveling, especially when traveling by plane if dogs must go in cargo.

Car Safety
A lot of dogs love car rides and are eager to join their family on trips. Before packing the car to hit the road, stop for a second and consider how will this trip affect your dog and how it will affect you. Traveling by car requires the driver’s complete concentration. Dogs that are kept in their crates or restrained by a harness allow the driver to focus on the road. Additionally, in the case of a significant car accident, dogs in crates are generally known to be safer on collision and it prevents them from jumping out into traffic and getting lost. Before traveling, take the time to get your dog comfortable with their crate. No dog should be left in a car by themselves on any occasion, especially if the weather is above 65 degrees. The chances of heatstroke after leaving your dog in a hot car is very real. If traveling in a car, take exercise and stretch breaks every 4-6 hours.

Consider Leaving Your Pet At Home
Lastly, if you don’t think that your dog will be safe and comfortable for most of the trip, you need to consider if bringing your dog along is a good idea and it would be better to stay home with a qualified sitter.

Remember that you and your dogs are ambassadors for all the pets that travel in the future. Being a responsible pet owner today will benefit pet owners and their dogs in the future when they travel. Travel courteously and responsibly and pet-friendly accommodations when we travel will continue to welcome our pets.