To those who feel a vacation isn't complete unless the family pet comes along, you're not alone. The U.S. Travel Association says that 49 percent of Americans feel the pet is just another member of the family and 18 percent of U.S. travelers plan to take their pets along the next time they travel. Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States have softened laws regarding international travel with a companion animal. With the Pet Passport Scheme, or PETS, individuals may travel freely with their pets to member countries on approved carriers. Some procedures include certification of rabies vaccination and the animal's microchip or tattoo number.
Car trips are common forms of travel with a companion animal in tow. While many pets are easygoing, there are some who are unaccustomed to traveling with their owners and may even balk at riding along. Acclimating and protecting your pet for travel will require a little patience and some pointers.
Secure the pet
Just as you would buckle up when entering the car, so should you buckle up a pet. It is important to ensure the animal is not a moving target around the car should an accident occur. Not only could you risk injury to the pet, but you also risk injury to yourself if the animal becomes a projectile.
Even if an accident does not occur, a jittery pet, or one who is content to jump from back seat into the front, could prove a distraction while driving. He or she could also bump into the gear shift or get stuck under the gas or brake pedal. It is much better to keep the pet secured.
Pets may travel in a well-ventilated carrier. Larger dogs may need to be belted into the car with a special dog harness. There are also barrier screens and gates that can be installed, typically in SUVs, to restrict the pet.
Some pets just do not enjoy being placed in a carrier or riding in a car. They may need some coaxing and practice to become comfortable if a trip is planned. The ASPCA suggests getting the pet used to a longer trip by taking a series of short trips first over the course of a few days or weeks. With each trip, gradually increase time spent in the car.
It may help to bring along a pet toy or blanket that is soothing to the animal, so he or she associates the car with a safe place, just like home.
Even after several attempts to acclimate your pet to the idea of a car trip, the animal may still not be happy about the idea. Talk to a veterinarian about other strategies or whether a mild sedative could make the travel easier.
Although many pet owners are aware of certain dos and don'ts when it comes to traveling with a pet, many still engage in behavior that could be dangerous to the animal.
One of the common offenses is letting the pet ride with his or her head outside of the window. While this may seem like heaven to the dog or cat, this puts the pet at risk of being injured by flying objects, including debris in the eyes. It can also increase the risk of the animal falling out of the moving vehicle.
Another mistake many people make is leaving the pet inside of a car -- even for a short duration of time. The ASPCA warns that even with the windows open, a parked car can rapidly heat up and heatstroke can occur. A similar thing takes place in the winter with the car getting much too cold. If you anticipate having to make stops, be sure to go where you can take the pet out and along with you.
Comfort and care
An animal out of his or her environment or element could become skittish. Try to keep a pet's feeding schedule as close to normal as possible. This will minimize the chances of discomfort or even digestive aggravation. Bring along bottled water or tap water from home because drinking water from an unfamiliar area could result in unwanted digestive distress, which could prove uncomfortable for pet and owner alike.
As an added precaution, you may want to invest in rubberized floor liners and waterproof seat covers, says the ASPCA. This helps if the animal gets carsick or has an accident. Removable seat covers can also prove advantageous for collecting fur and keeping the interior of the car less messy than need be.
It is important to always carry proper identification for your pet, as well as documentation of vaccinations. For those who have not yet microchipped their companion animal, now may be the time to do so. The microchip is a very small device implanted under the skin of the pet, usually by the scruff of the neck. It will transmit contact information when a specialized transmitter is waved over the microchip.
There's also the old-fashioned method of having your dog or cat collared with an ID tag. Using this in conjunction with a leash and harness will help reduce the chances of losing your pet while on the road.