We have just experienced the first few chilly days of Fall, which lets us know the holiday season is upon us. Pet Travel Checklist | Harmony Animal HospitalHalloween is here. Thanksgiving is around the corner. Christmas and New Year celebrations will be knocking soon. For many of us that means travel plans are underway and ensuring our pets are well suited for the season’s changes is on our to do list.

What does preparing your pet for the holiday season entail and how do you keep up with it all? Our experienced Apex, North Carolina veterinarians have simplified the holiday season with a pet travel checklist. This pet preparedness checklist is designed to give you peace of mind; whether your pet will be on the go with you, hanging out for a stay-cation at home, or treated to a pet hotel.

Pet Travel Checklist

Comfort vs. Convenience

  • Trying to decide if you should bring your pet along or leave your pet at home? Consider the environment your pet is most comfortable in. Feline friends almost always prefer to stay at home with regular visits from a trusted pet sitter. Canine pals vary on their preference, some prefer to stay with the pack and thrive in social settings such as hanging at a friend’s home or familiar boarding kennel, while others prefer the quiet of being home with a pet sitter. Ask your vet for a list of trusted local pet sitters and boarding kennels..
  • Is your pet travel ready? Is your canine pal trained to handle the hustle and bustle of traveling and being around strangers and unfamiliar places? Will your pet become anxious if left alone in an unfamiliar environment, and if so, do you know what things you can do to soothe her (ie, do you have a travel kennel that your pet is familiar with, helping her to feel safe when she is in it)? Are you traveling to a pet-friendly environment that will have you feeling more at ease bringing her along?

Paper Prep

  • Did you know that there are various laws surrounding transporting your pet across state lines and into other countries? You’ll likely need a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) if you plan to cross state lines or leave the country. The certificate tells responsible authorities and state departments that your pet is up to date on all required vaccinations and is disease free. These certificates help ensure that your pet is not carrying any illnesses or parasites that may be harmful to other pets, humans or livestock. Your vet can help you complete this certificate to ensure your pet meets your destination’s requirements.
  • Is your pet microchipped? Ensure your pet can find his way home by updating your pet’s microchip owner information. If he is not microchipped, speak to your vet about your options. Microchipping your pet is the best way to get reunited if your he goes off exploring on his own.
  • Does your pet have an ID on her collar? Attaching an ID tag to your pet’s collar is the first line of defense in getting your pet home as quickly as possible. Good Samaritans will likely give you a call right away if Felix or Fido is found wandering.

Transport Gear

  • Crates and Carriers are your best friends best protection. Keep your pet safe during transport with the use of crates or carriers. Avoid letting your pet roam freely in a car or on a plane or boat (commercial carriers have rules about the type of crate and what can be in it, so be sure to locate that information). Crates and carriers ensure your pet is not a distraction to the drivers or other passengers as well as giving your pet a safe and comfortable place to rest until you reach your destination. Remember to anchor your crate or carrying case to avoid unnecessary movement when in motion. For larger pets or pets that object to being in a carrier, a seat belt should be used to keep your pet safely in their seat and prevent injury to you and your pet in the event of an accident.
  • Backseats are better Protect your pet in the event of a crash by keeping your pet away from airbags that may deploy.
  • The 3-hour rule. Avoid keeping your pet in their crate or carrier for more than 3 hours at a time. Your pet will need water and a place to relieve themselves regularly.  
  • Don’t pack the leash away! Leash your dog whenever you remove them from the crate or carrier.
  • Water and a snack? Bring along a travel size water and food bowl that you can offer to your pet at stops or during longer rides.  

Plan Ahead

  • Pet-friendly places. Check and re-check that your pet is welcomed at your destination. If you plan to stay with family and friends it’s a good idea to mention that you’ll be bringing along your furry family member. Contact your hotel and destinations directly to learn more about its pet policy.  
  • Scoop the poop! Bringing along plenty of waste bags to clean up after your pet is being a good guest. Consider attaching a waste bag holder to your pet’s carrier or leash so that you’re always ready.
  • Traveling by plane, train or ship? Contact the airline, station or dock to learn more about its pet policy, specific rules and restrictions, and any related fees. (I removed the part that it is not recommended for pets to fly…I disagree with that statement)
  • Does your pet get anxious or nauseous during travel? Contact your veterinarian well before your planned trip for recommendations to help prevent anxiety and nausea during travel. There are over the counter remedies for milder cases of anxiety and/or nausea, however there are many prescription medication options to help alleviate the stress that come along with having a pet that becomes anxious, drools, or vomits during travel. If your pet has never had a particular medication, giving a trial of the medication PRIOR to the date of travel is highly recommended. Your veterinarian can give you the best advice for pre-travel medication trials.
  • Finding a veterinarian where you are going. It is always a good idea to have the information for a local veterinarian and an emergency veterinary hospital at your destination, but this is especially important for pets with medical issues. Better to be prepared for an unexpected urgent medical incident than to have to search for veterinary assistance during an emergency.

Packing Up

  • The comforts of home. Keep your pet relaxed, comfortable and confident with a “pet bag”. Your pet bag should include an extra blanket, a portable pet bed, favorite toys, no-mess snacks, and related travel documents such as their rabies certificate, health certificate (if needed), and any pertinent medical information. Get your pet familiar with the items in their pet bag prior to travel to ensure you bring along favored choices. If your pet will be boarding, make sure to discuss your pet bag with the facility ahead of time.
  • Medications. It is important to remember to pack any medications that your pet needs, be sure to have enough supply for your entire trip plus a few extra days, just in case of unexpected delays.
  • Your pets food. For most pets, it is advisable to keep their diet as consistent as possible during times of travel or stressful changes. Changing the diet abruptly can lead to GI distress such as vomiting, diarrhea, or loss of appetite.

Vaccination Check Up

Keeping your pets up to date on recommended vaccinations helps them avoid contracting preventable illnesses and parasites. We recommended that you speak to your vet at least 2 months prior to traveling to determine which vaccinations are right for your pet based on their lifestyle and the disease risks in the areas you are traveling to. Many vaccines require a set of two vaccines three weeks apart and it can be up to 6-8 weeks from the first injection for the immune system to build up proper immunity to protect your pet against exposure to the virus. Here is a list of the most common vaccinations and preventive medications for your pet pals.

Flea & Tick Preventatives

In the southeast region, flea and tick preventive treatments are recommended year round. We’ve endured a historically warm year and ticks remain in full swing in many areas. Flea and tick prevention is your pet’s first line of defense against Lyme’s disease, Ehrlichia, tapeworms and flea allergy dermatitis.

Heartworm Preventatives

Heartworms attack your pet’s heart and lungs. The parasite is transmitted through mosquito bites. Protecting your pet year round gives you peace of mind and helps you avoid costly heartworm treatment. Most heartworm preventatives also provide a monthly dewormer to help keep your pet from intestinal parasites such as hookworms, roundworms, whipworms, and tapeworms.

Rabies Vaccine (Dogs and Cats)

This is a vaccine that is required by law in all states, although some states have more strict laws than others. It is very important that your pet is up to date on their Rabies vaccine prior to travel.

Bordetella Vaccine (Dogs)

If your dog is around any other dogs, including but not limited to boarding kennels, doggie daycares, a groomer or your veterinarians office, your dog is a strong candidate for the Bordetella vaccination. Bordetella defends your pet against kennel cough. Kennel cough is very contagious and can cause a low fever, strong cough and loss of appetite.

Canine Flu Vaccine (Dogs)

The Canine Flu is a virus that has been causing quite a stir for the past few years. This is a very contagious virus that can be fatal in 8-10% of dogs who are exposed to this disease, despite aggressive therapy. The most concerning part of this virus is that about 20% of dogs can be carriers of the influenza virus, which means they can pass the virus onto other dogs without showing any symptoms. This year’s vaccine contains both the older H3N8 and the newer H3N2 strains, which will offer stronger protection against potentially deadly strains of the Canine Flu. Canine flu is your pet’s first line of defense against the virus that may cause respiratory symptoms.

Leptospirosis Vaccine (Dogs)

Leptospirosis is caused by a bacteria which is spread through soil, water, and the urine of infected animals, especially wildlife. Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease that can be passed to humans, causing severe liver and kidney disease, which can be deadly if not caught and treated quickly. Yearly vaccination can greatly reduce the chances of infection and transmission to humans from our pets.

Lyme Vaccine (Dogs)

Lyme disease is an infection caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium. Lyme disease is transmitted through the bite of an infected tick and can affect many species, including dogs and humans. The disease is more common in certain areas of the United States, including the Northeast, mid-Atlantic states, and upper Midwest. Since Lyme disease can cause a lifetime of symptoms including joint pain, lameness, and kidneys failure, it is very important to protect your pet against this tick transmitted disease if you are traveling to areas known for high Lyme infection rates.

If you are traveling this holiday season, we find that planning ahead with our pets in mind makes it a bit less stressful. And, give us a call if we can help you and your pet get ready!  

Originally published in Suburban Living Oct/Nov.