In 2011, over 25 Million pets traveled in the U.S. alone, either by flying the friendly skies or hopping in the car for the family’s next roadtrip. With these staggering numbers of pet-parents not wanting to leave their pets behind and include their pets in their travel plans, a dramatically increasing number of hotels, resorts, and travel destinations are rolling out the “welcome mat” for four-legged family members. But, before you book your airline reservations or next cross-country car travel, here are a few things to keep in mind to make your pet travel experience safe, fun, healthy, and enjoyable for all.
Airline Travel with your Pet
First and foremost, consider how your pet will travel. It is important to understand that each individual airline has its own pet travel policies and procedures that might affect the way in which your pet flies. There are generally two modes of airline transportation with pets: (1) in-cabin or (2) checked baggage. Before arriving at the airport with your pet in tow, research which modes of transportation your airline allows, and decide which is best for your pet’s overall health and comfort.
Most airlines warmly embrace pets traveling in-cabin as long as they fall below certain height/weight limits and travel in an “airline compliant” pet carrier. Some may require additional preparation, such as health certificates and/or pet visas. TSA security checkpoints typically require pets to be removed from carriers while going through metal detectors, and the carrier placed through the x-ray machine. Once safely onboard, keeping your pet calm and relaxed will be your biggest challenge. Try placing in the carrier a piece of clothing with your scent on it. Pack small, simple ingredient treats that are low in calories to reduce the risk of indigestion during flight. Loving Pets’ Barksters® would be a good example. A soothing melodic sound machine may also help ease flight anxiety.
If you will be traveling on the same flight, but your pet does not meet the height/weight limitations for the in-cabin option, your pet can potentially fly as a piece of checked baggage in an “IATA compliant” pet crate. This means that your pet will be cruising in the cargo hold of the aircraft. Keep in mind that most airlines have outside temperature restrictions to ensure your pet is not exposed to extreme heat or cold when moving between the terminal and the aircraft or on an aircraft awaiting departure. Some airlines may require an “acclimation certificate” from your veterinarian to certify that your pet is acclimated to anticipated flight-related temperatures.
If flying from the United States, the USDA requires that your pet be offered food and water within four hours before check-in with the airline. Avoid overfeeding your pet before flight and do not leave a food or water dish loose in the crate. The use of sedatives is generally not recommended, due to the unpredictability of tranquilizer effects at higher altitudes; however, if you believe that some form of sedation would benefit your pet, consult with your veterinarian about the most appropriate solution. Some natural herbal remedies formulated specifically for pets can help promote relaxation during flight.
Advanced planning is the key to keeping your pet safe and your travel experience hassle-free. Traveling with your pet is an opportunity to bond and let your pet truly be part of your family activities.
Before taking to the open road on an extended driving vacation, help prepare your pet by taking several short jaunts across town and back to get them used to being in the car. A carsick pet can make the trip difficult for everyone. A seat upholstery protector, such as a pet hammock or waterproof seat cover will make clean-ups easier in case your pet does get sick or has an accident. And be sure to take along a few cleaning supplies to avoid having to search out a place to purchase them at the last minute. Also, keep your pet safe and secure inside the vehicle with a soft place to sit and in a safety-restraint seatbelt.
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