Pet owners have several options when they want to go on vacation. They can have a friend or family member take care of their furry friend at home or find a reliable kennel for them where they can have a mini-holiday of their own. But if your pet is a member of the family, and you just can’t bear to leave them behind when you go out of town, you won’t want to miss these five super helpful tips for pet travel.
5.) Pet Identification
The first time I flew out of Chicago with my dog, she made a break for it in the airport just as we had finished going through security. Luckily, her leash was still attached to her carrier, so she couldn’t get far dragging it along behind her. But if she had been able to escape, it would have been pretty easy for someone to contact me because she was wearing a collar with a tag that included my cell phone number and email address.
She also has another tag from a service called HomeAgain, a microchip and pet recovery system that is a godsend for owners traveling with their pets. Vets can scan the microchip to get your contact information, but anyone can call the number for HomeAgain listed on the tag, and the company will reunite owner and pet. Later that year, my dog actually did escape while I was staying in Croatia. I eventually tracked her down in the neighbor’s yard, but it’s such a relief to have a system in place in case she is ever seriously lost.
4.) Pet Vaccinations
In order to travel with your pet, they have to be microchipped; have an initial rabies vaccination, booster shot and possibly a titer test as well; and, depending on your destination, they may also need a tapeworm treatment. Be sure to check early for the rules of pet travel in the country you’ll be visiting, as the rabies vaccine, in particular, needs to be administered 30 days before you travel.
It’s also important that the vet has the proper certification. Not every vet is able to sign all of the paperwork needed for international pet travel to locations like the United States, the European Union, and the United Kingdom. Yes, I know the United Kingdom is part of the European Union (for now), but it has its own set of rules. For the rules for other countries, PetTravel.com is a reliable source of information, but it never hurts to check the official government website also. Not to scare you, but if you don’t follow these rules carefully, your pet can end up in quarantine or shipped back to the country you came from.
3.) Pet Paperwork
Always carry your pet’s vaccination records with you as well as any other required documents like the required health certificate or pet passport. If your vet doesn’t have the documents you need, you can get them from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) if you’re from the United States.
You might also want to consider getting a insurance cover provided by some of the top pet insurance companies to lessen the burden of medical bills if your pet gets ill.
PetTravel.com has a list of the health certificates for other countries. Be sure that the form is in the language of the country to which you and your pet will be traveling.
2.) Pet Carrier
If your pet is traveling by car, the type and size of carrier is up to you. If your pet is traveling by plane, you need to check with the airline or airlines to make sure the carrier meets all of the requirements for pet travel. The carrier needs to be leak-proof and secure, and large enough for your pet to stand up and turn around in. At the same time, it needs to small enough to fit under the seat in front of you if they’re flying with you in the cabin. If your pet will be flying in the cargo hold, the carrier has to meet additional requirements as well.
If the carrier doesn’t meet the requirements, it is very likely that your pet won’t be allowed to board. Speaking from personal experience, this is not something you want to mess around with. I won’t name names, but an airline that starts with “Luft” and ends with “Hansa” decided they didn’t like my pet carrier at check-in. I had been using the same carrier for over a year at this point and no other airline had even questioned it. Not a single shop in the Venice airport sold pet carriers, so I ended up missing my flight and taking a 24-hour train ride across four countries instead. If any Venetians are reading this and looking for a business idea … you’re welcome.
It’s best to get your dog or cat used to its carrier before the trip. Use it to transport your pet to the groomers, day care, the vet, etc., so it will feel comfortable in the carrier. I also like to put a toy in the carrier with my dog so she has something that is familiar and reminds her of home.
1.) Pet Food and Water
Even if you’re only taking a short trip, be sure to bring collapsible bowls for food and water with you. You never know when your trip will be delayed and you and your pet will need a snack break. A small container of dry food from home and a water bottle purchased after security will keep your pet happy and calm. Some companies make pouches of wet dog food as well if you have a dog that prefers prepared meals. Check with your vet, the shelves of your local grocery store, or online at Amazon for the best options for you and your pet.
Even though this all sounds like a lot of work, its worth it in the end. Since we left the United States almost 18 months ago, my dog (well, really my daughter’s dog — long story) has traveled to nine countries with me, and I’ve only had the one problem I mentioned earlier that was easily solved by taking the train instead of flying to our final destination. If we ever head back to the U.S., I hope that it will be on Cunard’s Queen Mary 2, which has a pet travel program in which dogs are treated like V.I.P.s (Very Important Pooches) and their owners are treated like royalty.
Got any pet travel tips to share? Leave them in the comments!