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Taking a trip with your pet this holiday season? While ensuring that pet-friendly travel plans go smoothly can take a bit of extra effort, many of us can't imagine celebrating the holidays without our furry friends. Check out these eight tips to help you and your pets have a safe and enjoyable journey.
If this is your pet's first trip, make sure he's healthy and in good enough shape to travel. Let your vet know how you'll be traveling (plane, train, automobile) and what your destination will be, especially if it's not just your pet's first trip with you but also your first trip with a pet. In addition to making sure your pet is cleared for takeoff, your vet can offer tips and preventive treatments for issues like parasites and car sickness.
(Not sure whether your pet has car sickness or other travel issues? This is also a good time to consider taking a trial trip, just long enough to make sure your furry friend feels comfortable in the car. This is especially important for cats, who don't generally do quite as much traveling as their canine counterparts.)
Restraining your pet while you drive is the right thing for your safety and your pet's. Results from a study on dog harness safety in car crash situations was recently released, and you might be surprised to see how different harnesses scored. Make sure your harness is the right type and that you're using it correctly.
In addition to a restraint for your pet in the car, make sure you have a way to easily give your pet water on the road and have a soft place for him to crash once you reach your destination.
You'll want to make sure that wherever you're staying is pet-friendly and pet-safe. If you will be staying with friends or family, be certain everyone in the home will be comfortable with your pets. If someone you are visiting is nervous around animals, learn about how to safely introduce everyone — and if children are involved, always, always supervise their interaction with your four-legged buddies. If you're going to a pet-free home, talk to the homeowners to ensure your pet won't run into any hidden household dangers.
Additionally, keep in mind that your pets might be more curious than usual in a new place, so it's especially important to make sure all medications and foods are safely and securely out of reach.
Another safety precaution: Research nearby veterinary hospitals, or, at the very least, make sure your phone is loaded with an app that will find one for you. We all hope not to need that information, but the time to make sure it's handy is before a problem occurs, not after.
On top of all that, it's still important to make sure your pet's tag and microchip information are up-to-date with your cellphone number. On the off chance your pet finds himself lost, it won't be of much help to have someone calling your home number while you're on the road.
A new litter or a different food might not seem like a big deal to you, but for a pet in a new place, it could be a disaster. Some cats are very particular about the type of litter or litterbox they use, and when offered something other than what they're used to, they'd prefer to go on that lovely rug in the living room. Changing an animal's food or treats suddenly can lead to GI issues, which, well, we all know what that can cause. Familiar toys and bedding will help your pet to feel more comfortable and at home, and isn't that what we all want? So, for safety's sake, it's best to bring what your pet normally uses at home when at all possible. (And if your pet is on a regular prescription medication, make sure to bring enough so you don't run out while you're on the road.)
If air travel is the name of the game, it's a little harder to do a trial run on the trip as suggested above, but you'll still want to prep as much as possible. First off, make sure your pet will fit comfortably in the area underneath the seat in front of you. It's a small space, and this is not the time to fudge your pet's weight in an attempt to squeeze him in.
Check and double-check your paperwork with the airline — be sure not only that you have everything they require you to fill out, but also that you've packed whatever vaccination and health papers they require.
Since you're looking over the rules, this is a good time to make sure the airline allows your pet to fly. Some breeds are not allowed by some airlines, and some airlines have weight restrictions.
We don't always have a lot of control over when we travel, but if possible, avoid the most heavily traveled days of the year (like the Wednesday before and the Sunday after Thanksgiving, for example). If you're flying, this will help create a less chaotic trip overall; if you're driving, you might find it easier to pull off for frequent breaks to allow your pet to stretch his legs and take a potty break.
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