Road Trips

Eric Fold, DVM
June 1, 2018

I will never forget the first time my labrador, who is obsessed with water, first saw the ocean and endless beaches. He knew something special was in store but never could have imagined that much swim time! Traveling with pets is a necessity that all pet owners should be comfortable with. Whether you are traveling across town to get to the veterinarian or heading across the country for a bold adventure, the experience needs to be comfortable and enjoyable for both you and your pet. Traveling can be very stressful on our furry friends so start with a plan, stay safe, and have fun!

Have a plan

Photo by asadykov/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by asadykov/iStock / Getty Images

Travel should be well thought out and not spur of the moment with your pet. Start by conditioning them with short rides in the car around the block gradually increasing the distance over several weeks. The pet should have several opportunities to "go potty" during the trip to avoid a mid-trip mess. Make sure that, as your trips get longer, you have planned stops where you can let them out to stretch and do their business. 

During cold winter months, start the car a few minutes early and let the temperature inside the car get closer to room temperature. This is especially important for indoor cats that have a steady year-round 72 degree lifestyle. During the hot summer months make sure to get the air conditioner going to cool the car down. This sudden change in temperature can be very stressful for your kitty!

Make sure you have your vaccine records. If you are traveling across state lines, there may be a requirement for proof of rabies vaccinations. This would also be helpful in the event that you need to go to a pet emergency hospital. Records can be available by email or direct access to the pets record with our clinic software.

Have a travel kit for your pet. In your kit include plenty of fresh water, food and bowls for those pit stops along the way. Feeding a small meal a couple hours before a long trip may help. Don't forget the waste baggies or scoops to clean up along the way.

  • Start with short trips to acclimate your pet to travel
  • Get the temperature in the car comfortable
  • Have vaccine records
  • Pet travel kit

Stay safe

Photo by mbot/iStock / Getty Images
Photo by mbot/iStock / Getty Images

Travel can quickly become dangerous for you and your pet if you don't take precautions. Consider having a microchip placed in your pet in the event that they escape. When you get the microchip placed, make sure it is registered with current contact information. Have a name tag that also includes your name and phone number for easy identification. 

Have your pet checked out by your veterinarian one or two weeks before long road trips. This will ensure that they are physically fit and will give you an opportunity to discuss your travel plans. Veterinarians are often alerted to disease outbreaks throughout the country and can help make sure your pet is adequately protected. 

A loose pet inside the car can be very dangerous. Not only are they at risk of injury in the event of a crash, they could cause serious damage to passengers that are in restraints. Pets can also quickly become excited and may impair driving or line of sight if they climb in your lap or around your feet. Have a well ventilated carrier or cage for them to travel in that is securely fastened in the back seat, but never in a trunk! For larger dogs, they might be more comfortable wearing a harness that attaches to the rear seat buckle.

Make sure you pet is up to date with flea, tick and heartworm prevention. There are several regional diseases that your pet could pick up from these parasites. Having them up to date with prevention makes sure that they wont bring these pesky critters home.

  • Make sure they have up-to-date identification 
  • Schedule a veterinary check-up before travel
  • Always secure your pet when traveling
  • Keep them current with vaccinations and preventatives
  • Never leave them in a car unattended

Make travel fun!

Bringing your pet on trips can offer unique travel experiences and really be a blast! Make sure you pack them some special toys, maybe even have some new ones that will make the long car ride fun.

Just like people, some pets cannot tolerate riding in cars and get an upset stomach. We have a few prescription medications that can help alleviate those episodes and keep them calm. There are also several anti-anxiety prescriptions that can help knock the edge off in stressful pets. Never use human medications unless you have spoken with your veterinarian, several are toxic to pets or may not be appropriate for use. 

  • Pack plenty of toys
  • Ask your veterinarian about medications if needed

Don't forget to include them in your adventures and travels, they make some of the best memories unforgettable. Remember to have a plan, stay safe and have fun!