Tips for traveling with pets over the holidays

By Dr. JoAnne Roesner, DVM, DABVP Loving Hands Animal Hospital (Alpharetta)

Making plans to bring our animal family members with us to distant events often comes up around the holidays. But this can be much less stressful with good preparation.

If you are traveling by car, you can help your pet be less anxious by taking them on shorter drives before the holidays to get them used to the car ride. Be certain you have a sturdy crate or carrier that is large enough for your pet to move around in and which is escape-proof. For cats on long trips, consider using paper plates or aluminum foil baking pans to make a small litter box. Water and food dishes that attach to the crate can be used on longer trips.

Proper identification on your pets during travel is a must. An automobile accident could inadvertently allow your pet to escape even if you are careful. A pet wearing a visible tag and having a microchip is more likely to be returned to you. I recommend both a collar, harness and two leashes if a pet must be removed from a car at rest stops. Soothing pet-friendly music (icalm dog, icalm cat) can be played to relax animals in the car.

Airline travel can be more anxiety-provoking for some pets with unfamiliar sights, sounds and sensations. Advanced preparation can definitely help here. Take your pet to the airport on a test run at some time other than peak travel seasons. Airline sound effects can be played in your home to allow your pet to become accustomed in a safe place. Luggage and other unfamiliar items can also be introduced while at home. Puppy pads or diapers will help keep your pet comfortable if they eliminate. Many airports now have pet elimination areas, which are listed on websites.

Feed your pet lightly the day of travel and do not allow unlimited access to water prior to the flight or road trip. This will help to decrease your pet’s discomfort and anxiety.

For pets who are very anxious, even with proper pre-travel preparation, light tranquilization may benefit them. Always discuss this with your veterinarian and use only drugs they recommend. If you need to medicate, always try a test dose of a drug prior to travel. Not all animals react the same to a given drug, and in some, dose adjustments may be required. ■


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