Pet Health: Traveling safely with your pet

The recent Air Travel Consumer Report from the U.S. Department of Transportation listing injury and death for companion animals is heartbreaking. Our thoughts and sympathies are with those who lost pets during travel. Whether flying or driving, traveling with pets can be challenging, and even fun. If you are planning to travel, keep these tips in mind to minimize the stress and risk of injury or death:

Check with your vet

A small dog sitting in an open suitcase.It is always a good idea to have your pet examined by a veterinarian prior to leaving on any trip. They can help determine that your pet is free of disease, and physically and mentally healthy enough for travel. Your veterinarian can also suggest ways to help minimize the stress associated with travelling. Whether you are traveling by car or plane, a health certificate signed by a veterinarian is necessary for moving from state to state and internationally. Some things to consider:

  • Is your pet healthy enough to endure the stresses of traveling?
  • Do they struggle with the stress of the hustle and bustle, constant moving around or long hours of being confined to small spaces?
  • Do they suffer from an illness or injury that could become compromised from traveling?

Plan your packing

Regardless your method of travel, here are a few things to keep in mind when packing for your furry friends:

  • Plenty of their regular food and water
  • Food/water bowls
  • Any and all medications — a first aid kit is never a bad idea
  • Any and all medical records — you never know when you may need them
  • A sturdy, well-maintained, secure crate or carrier to keep confined when unsupervised
  • Proper identification tags with current contact information (cell phone numbers)
  • An appropriately sized leash in good repair
  • Favorite toy or chew toys to help keep occupied
  • Familiar blanket or pet bed to help them feel safe and comfortable

If traveling by plane, you should always check with the specific airline you will be traveling on to meet the specific requirements. You also want to consider the size of your pet and finding the appropriately sized carrier. What will the airlines allow? It is always a good idea to familiarize your pets to being in the carrier prior to cramming them in one and loading them on a plane.

Click here for more tips on travelling with pets, especially in the winter months.

Dr. Rebecca Ruch-Gallie is a veterinarian and clinical coordinator for the Community Practice group at Colorado State University’s James L. Voss Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Community Practice provides general care, wellness services, and treatment of minor injuries and illnesses for pets.