This information has been gleaned from a lot of sources such as the ASPCA and it is good information to have, but at times it does seem excessive. So, take it with a grain of salt. I’m really into keeping my pets safe so I’m probably an over cautious mom.
Assess you pet.
Be honest about your pet’s ability to travel. If your pet is very young or old, or is ill, pregnant, or recovering from surgery, it may be better for all concerned to look into a pet sitter or kennel rather than take a chance on injuring your pet by taking it with you. If you are in doubt, ask your veterinarian. If your pet has not traveled before, try a short overnight or weekend trip first.
Schedule a visit with your veterinarian.
Inform your veterinarian where you will be traveling to, and for how long. Ask your veterinarian about any flea, heartworm, or tick risks for areas you will be traveling to (honestly, if your pet is on a flea/tick/heartworm preventative, they should be fine – your own backyard is a risky area) . If your pet becomes carsick or restless when traveling, ask your veterinarian about appropriate medications or treatments. If your vet is the obliging sort (mine is), you might be able to discuss this over the phone.
Many pets become separated from their people while traveling and often collars are not on pets when they are recovered at shelters. Seriously consider having your pet microchipped – animal hospitals, humane societies, kennels, and shelters nationwide are using scanners that will read these implanted chips and let you be reunited with your lost pet. Microchip procedures are safe, quick, inexpensive, and very common. Your veterinarian can tell you more about this procedure.
Make certain that all vaccinations are up to date and obtain current health and rabies certificates no more than ten (10) days prior to your departure. These certificates are also strongly recommended if you unexpectedly need to board your pet and many kennels will not accept pets without these certificates. And, if your pet does require emergency medical care, these will allow this to take place much more quickly and without the potentially dangerous duplication of vaccinations.
Obtain a secure carrier for your pet.
For more information on choosing a carrier and/or harness, read our blog post – Do you travel with your pets?. But in general, you need a sturdy, properly ventilated crate of adequate size for your pet to stand up, turn around, and lie down in comfortably. Knobs or a rim at least 3/4 inches deep is required so that the ventilation will not be blocked. The crate should be free of interior hazardous protrusions, have a door that securely latches, and have handles or grips on the outside to prevent anyone who might need to handle the crate from being bitten. The bottom should be leak proof and covered with a towel or other absorbent material.
Print your pet’s name and your name, address, and phone number for both your home and destination on the outside of the crate with permanent marker. Include your cell phone number.
Never put a leash in the crate as your pet could get tangled in it.
Make sure your pet is accustomed to the crate before you begin your trip.
Verify that your pet’s tags are current.
Your pet should wear a secure collar at all times with tags showing proof of rabies vaccination and your name, address, and phone number (home and cell) in case your pet becomes separated. Make a set of temporary tags with the address and phone number of your destination. Most pet stores have a DIY vending machine that makes tags while you wait.
Never allow your pet to wear a choke, pinch, or training collar while traveling (or ever!). Safety collars, which attach with elastic or Velcro, are recommended for cats.
Before you leave.
Clip your pet’s nails. Pets with freshly-trimmed nails will be less likely to damage items in strange surroundings and will be easier to restrain if necessary. Brush your pet to remove all loose hair. If you don’t want to do it yourself, take them to the groomer.
If your pet has fleas, obtain and complete the necessary treatment before traveling to avoid infesting its new surroundings or your car for that matter.
Be prepared for the worst.
While no one likes to think about it, many pets do become separated while away from home. To increase the chances of a safe and quick return, bring a recent photograph and written description of your pet including call name, breed, sex, age, any microchip or tattoo numbers, and a description of coat, color and markings including any unusual markings, scars, or other identifying marks, as well as weight and height. These will be invaluable if your pet does become separated.
Before you leave home, find lodging along the way where your pet will be welcome. Personally, I stay at Residence Inn when travelling with my pets (and even if I’m not).
While you’re traveling.
Keep fresh water available for your pet at all times. Avoid sudden changes of diet. If you are unable to obtain your pet’s normal brand, switch gradually over to the new food over a period of four or more days. Clean your pet’s food and water bowls out regularly with soap.
Never take your pet on an escalator unless it is securely in its crate as its claws or fur could become caught.
Obey all leash laws and make certain to keep your pet on a leash or in a carrier at all times when not securely in a room. Clean up after your pet.
Never give your pet sedatives or tranquilizers unless under a veterinarian’s prescription. Such medications can interfere with your pet’s ability to maintain its balance and equilibrium, which could prevent your pet from being able to brace itself and prevent injury.