It’s no secret that traveling mid to long distances can be tiring, stressful and require a lot of planning. Traveling with dogs or cats adds a whole new dimension, as well as parental worry! If you’re thinking of traveling with dogs or cats, our vets have all the information you need to help things go as smoothly as possible!
Traveling with dogs and cats - is it a good idea?
Whether you’re moving to a new city or going on a long break, sometimes it’s necessary to travel with your pets. But before you plan that big road trip with your pet, it’s a good idea to sit down and think about whether it’s the best option for your furry friend. Some pets are just not suited to long journeys whether that’s by plane or by car. Animals easily prone to stress, short-snouted (brachycephalic breeds), and larger dogs may not find traveling fun or comfortable. Make sure you consider all your options before deciding to travel with a dog on a plane or by car.
How to travel with a dog or cat
If your trip is unavoidable, and your pet joining you is the best option for them, then our tips for traveling with your pets will help the trip go smoothly:
Do your homework before traveling with dogs (or cats!)
- Whether you are traveling with a dog or cat by car or by plane, if you are crossing state or international boundaries, you need to be aware of the requirements of the territory you are traveling into. Many places have rules surrounding infectious diseases and may require pet vaccinations or blood tests prior to travel, and potentially parasite control. You may also need a pet travel certificate, which may need to be issued in a certain time frame before travel. Always read the fine print to avoid issues such as rejection at a border or lengthy quarantine periods.
Book your vet visit in plenty of time
- Airlines often require a ‘fit to fly’ certification from a veterinarian, however, a vet visit is also a good idea if you are traveling with dogs or cats in a car for long distances. Travel puts stress on your dog or cat that they may not be used to, and it is best to be fully aware of any potential health issues, especially in very young or old animals and in brachiocephalic (flat-faced) breeds. Book your pre-travel examination with one of our friendly vets.
Find the perfect carrier for long-distance pet travel
- For plane journeys, there are strict regulations dictating what sort of pet carriers are accepted. Traveling with a dog or cat on a plane can be complicated, so if you are in any doubt always double-check with the airline involved.
It is equally important to consider how you are going to restrain your pet in a car. Are they reactive to moving objects? Would they be happier if you could cover their carrier with a blanket? Safety is paramount so consider how you are going to prevent your cat or dog from distracting or interfering with the driver. It’s best to make sure your animal is properly secured. If you are traveling with a cat, or if your dog does not have a reliable “wait” command, consider how to stop them from escaping when the car is opened.
Get your pet used to the carrier at home
- Whether this is an airplane carrier or a wire crate that goes in the trunk of your car, ideally the first time your cat or dog sees the carrier should not be just as they are embarking on a long journey. Desensitization to the carrier will go a long way towards making your pet feel at ease on their journey. Have the carrier out around the house leading up to the journey, place a well-loved blanket or an item of your clothing in it, and feed your cat or dog treats in it to create a positive association. Teaching a dog to relax in a crate is an invaluable skill that you will be grateful for at various times in their life!
Practice traveling with your dog if you can!
- Obviously, this isn’t possible when it comes to flying and it may be harder to achieve with cats, but if you plan on traveling with dogs in a car long distance, it makes sense to do a few trial runs first. Short journeys with lots of positive reinforcement and encouragement can help them adapt to the process and be more relaxed when it comes to the main trip.
Plan your journey to keep it comfortable
- When traveling with dogs and cats, planning is essential, especially if you’re traveling for a long distance. This includes making sure you are in the right place at the right time to drop your pet off or collect them from the airport. Try and plan for as direct a flight path as possible, and ideally at a time of day and year with the most pet-friendly temperatures.
When traveling with dogs in the car long distance, research accessible places to stop and provide toilet breaks and short walks. Even if you’re only traveling with a cat in the car, you’ll need to find places to stop and provide meals, especially if you’re traveling long distances. Consider where you are going to stop for your amenities so that you do not have to leave your pet unattended in the car.
Stock up on supplies before travel
- Necessary supplies will vary somewhat depending on whether you are traveling with a cat or a dog, but consider chews, toys, food, water bowls, containers of drinking water, coats, blankets, and any medications that your pet may be taking. Offering enrichment or games up until the point of boarding can make traveling by plane easier on your pet; likewise, a well-timed play time can break up a long day on the road.
Destress your pet safely
- Luckily, there are now an array of anxiety-busting tools out there for dogs and cats, including calming food, supplements, and pheromone-releasing products. Adaptil and Feliway are both well-established products that can ease stressful situations. Anxious dogs traveling by car may benefit from wearing a ‘Thundercoat’ which is a weighted coat designed to offer physical reassurance to them. As ever, take care to monitor the temperature of the car whilst they are wearing this. Sedating your pet for travel is not normally a safe option, but you can discuss this with our vets if you think it’s necessary.
Check if your insurance covers traveling with your dog or cat
- Yes, pet travel insurance is a thing! If you are holidaying with your pet, consider the costs of unexpected kennelling if plans went astray or the cost of treatment should your pet get sick whilst abroad.
Consider if the trip is necessary
- If the above tips can’t mitigate the stress on your cat or dog, ask yourself if the journey is necessary or if there is an alternative. It can be difficult not to have your pet by your side, so if you are struggling to decide if the trip is right for them please get in touch with one of our veterinarian team members.
Can my pet fly in an airplane cabin?
In some cases, yes, depending on the size of your pet and the airline. Otherwise, your pet will need to travel in the cargo hold. This is an important point to explore if you have a brachiocephalic pet who may not regulate their body temperature, as well as some others, may do.
Can I sedate my pet to travel?
It is not recommended to sedate pets for travel as it affects their body systems, and it is not possible to monitor them adequately. There are prescription medications that can help with anxiety however; a veterinarian can help you decide if this is a good option for your pet when traveling.
How long can my cat or dog travel in a car?
This will depend largely on the age and temperament of your pet, but it is generally recommended to schedule a break every couple of hours or so.