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Pets travelling long-haul - is it right?

You have to travel a long distance and your pet will be going with you. Like most people, you probably have some misgivings about the whole undertaking because of the potential effects on both you and your pet. Is it fair to bring your pet along on a long-distance trip?

What will happen when you take them with you?

Of course, sometimes there’s no choice. If you’re moving, you want to bring your dog, cat, or other pet along with you. Most of us consider our pets to be members of the family, and can’t imagine going to a new location without them. Other times you’ll be away a long time and either don’t want to leave your pet with someone else, or your pet needs special care, like medications, and you want to make sure they get administered.

In most cases, travelling long distances with your pet will be just fine – if you’re willing to make some preparations ahead of time and adjust your travel schedule to accommodate your pet.

If travelling by car, you will not be able to stop only for petrol. A pedal-to-the-metal trip may be fine for you, but your pet needs more frequent breaks. Remember, he or she has a much smaller bladder than you!

They have smaller bladders!

A good idea is to take a few small trips with your pet in the car before the long haul. Go to a park, the grocery store, or a friend’s house. This way you can determine if your pet rides without a problem, or has a tendency to get sick. Just like humans, some animals do better in a moving vehicle than others do. But medications like Dramamine or even Xanax can be prescribed by your veterinarian to help your pet during the ride. If your pet gets carsick, it’s a good bet an airplane ride will have the same effect, so this is a great way to prepare for a flight, as well.

Whether travelling by plane or car, pack some of your pet’s normal food and bring it with you. This is not the time to try new foods! Canine and feline stomachs react much differently to a change in menu than do human tummies, so keeping to the same food your pet has been eating is very important.

Make sure you feed them as you would normally

Another must is a complete check-up by your veterinarian. You want your pet in top condition before the trip, and only your veterinarian can give the proper examination. Tell the vet about the trip, when you’ll be leaving, where you’re going, and how you’ll be travelling. The vet will be able to give you suggestions to make the journey easier on both of you.

If you’re travelling by plane, the airline may require a letter or certificate from your veterinarian stating that an examination was done and that your pet is in good health. If you’ll be flying with your pet, doing your homework ahead of time is critically important. Find out which airlines will transport pets, what types and sizes of pets they’ll carry, and under what conditions. Some airlines won’t transport during very cold or very hot weather, so the timing of your trip may need to be flexible.

Check if you can bring your pet…

What kind of carrier or crate does the airline require? How will water be provided? How long will your pet be in the crate before the plane takes off? What if your pet needs medication during the trip? How will you pick up your pet once the plane lands? Getting answers to these questions is a minimum, and you may think of more.

Crates are the safest place for your pet to be, whether travelling by road or air. Get your pet used to the crate and make it a pleasant place. Put in a favourite blanket or pillow and perhaps a chew toy if you’ll be taking a dog. In the weeks leading up to your trip, let your pet take rest breaks at home in the crate, and sleep in it overnight. Your pet will associate the crate with warmth, safety, and his “people”. Being able to stay in this safe place that’s associated with good things will go a long way towards calming your pet.

Consider how your pet reacts to strangers. Driving with you in a car may be preferable to flying, where strangers will surround your animal. Also, remember that the hold of a plane can get cold, so if your pet will not be travelling with you in the plane’s cabin, make sure blankets are available in the crate.

Keep them warm
If flying, re-confirm the procedures for claiming your pet when the plane lands. See if the ground crew at the departure airport can give you instructions regarding the layout of the arrival airport. Your pet will want to see you as soon as possible, just like you’ll want to see her!

If travelling by car, be sure to take frequent rest breaks. Once per hour is not too much. Everyone enjoys a chance to get out and stretch the legs, and some water – though not too much – should be given at each stop. This is also an excellent chance for you to evaluate how your pet is handling the trip. If need be you can administer a motion sickness pill or find a shady spot to let your pet cool down. Summer travel can be especially hard on your long-haired friends, even with windows open or air conditioning running.

Or keep them cool

Once at your destination, make sure your pet gets prompt attention. Offer hugs and water immediately, and a chance to find a nearby bush. Everyone in the travelling group will enjoy a few minutes to check out the scenery and get their bearings. A treat or snack may be in order, but a large meal for your animal should probably wait, especially if your furry best friend was plagued by motion sickness, even minimally. In a couple of hours offer a small meal of his or her usual food and see how your pet tolerates it. Work your way back to a normal feeding schedule from there.

With just a little planning and a few simple adjustments, you and your pet can have a safe journey and be ready for adventure as soon as you reach your destination!

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