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One of the biggest dilemmas pet-owners face when planning travel is whether you take your beloved pet with you, or if they're better off left at home. But for most people these days, pets form an intimate part of our lives, and the latter is simply unthinkable.
While it may not be a question of whether or not your pet comes with you, it's very normal for anxiety to set in once you start planning out your trip; traveling with pets presents a range of challenges, especially when it comes to keeping them safe.
The good news is that regardless of whether you're traveling by car, plane, bus, or train, there are some very simple and easy steps to ensuring your fur baby's safety.
Travel by Car
The first and most important decision for traveling with your pet, is considering which type of transport is best. Most animals feel more comfortable in a car, especially if it’s pet-friendly and spacious.
If you're traveling in your own car (ie taking a road trip from home), this is the easiest option, as your pet will already be familiar with it (if not, take them on test drives before you depart).
Even if you're renting a pet friendly car, you'll still want to organize practice runs at home before-hand. If your pet has never been in a moving vehicle they'll need practice before they can truly relax.
Make sure you pack their travel papers (if required), plenty of food, a leash, a water and food bowl, medication, a first aid kit, toys, a cushion, and car sheets.
For ensuring the safety of your pet while in a moving vehicle, look into necessary creates, cages, or carrier bags. Depending on your pet (ie dog, cat, snake - no judgement!), will depend on how restrained they'll need to be.
Pro Tip on Training:
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If you’re planning to travel with your pet, it’s best to get it used to the car from a young age. Start by taking them for short trips to the shops or local park. This way, your pet won’t be shocked by a new setting and will feel more relaxed.
Also, if you will use a carrier to transport them, add a piece of clothing or blanket with your smell on it to calm them down. Make sure that there’s enough space to turn around and move around freely, so they don’t feel claustrophobic.
Pro Tips on Car Travel:
Turn on the AC or open the windows slightly if it’s getting to warm in the car. It is crucial because dogs and cats can’t cool themselves off like humans. Keep this in mind, and keep a comfortable temperature inside.
Additionally, take frequent breaks if the journey is long - especially toilet breaks, to keep your pets comfortable during the trip. You can also find a park to let your pets exercise a little bit and get a breath of fresh air.
Don’t ever leave them inside the car alone, as it may be (and usually is) fatal. Take your trusty companions with you if you take a break and stop.
Travel by Plane
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Travel by plane is often unavoidable if you're traveling internationally, and when it comes to safety you'll have to consider whether they can accompany you in the cabin, or if they'll have to travel in a carrier with cargo.
Airlines have different policies on this, and which pets they allow in cabin, under which circumstances, so it's important to check with each individual airline you're flying, especially if you plan on making connections.
Before flying with your pet it's important to make sure they've undergone crate training, and this is important whether they're flying with you in cabin, or traveling as cargo - they need to be comfortable and relaxed with being confined to a small space for hours on end.
Consider their medication needs and that they have enough food and water to last throughout the journey, especially if you won't personally be with them the whole time. Notably, if you exhaust them before boarding, they'll be more likely to sleep through a long flight.
Typically your animal will only be allowed in the cabin if it is an Emotional Support Animal (ESA). You'll need certification to prove this - read this post about everything you need to know about traveling with an ESA.
Travel by Train
Train travel sits somewhere inbetween a car and a plane; there is far more freedom than a plane, and a lot less logistical hassle, and you'll likely have far more space. Obviously though you're still sharing the train with the public.
Each rail company will have their own policy on pets, so it's important to check which train lines let animal boarding and plan accordingly. You should do this before you book your tickets.
All of the above safety tips apply to travel on trains, re crate training and keeping your pet as comfortable as possible within a small space. Notably though they should be watched more closely, as trains often make multiple stops, which may present an opportunity for escape.
Your Pet’s Health
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Before going a trip, make sure your pet is healthy enough to travel; you should double-check with the vet that everything’s fine health-wise.
This is especially important if you’re planning long-distance journey, as it can be tiring for older pets and put their body under stress. If they have any chronic illnesses, don’t forget to bring the medicine and all the required supplies.
Most countries will require proof of any required vaccinations, however even if this isn't the case, it's still wise to vaccinate your pet against any known diseases which may exist within a country you're visiting.
Additionally, assess your pet’s personality – do they prefer a quiet environment or socialising? Travelling can put a heavy toll on the animal’s mental health, especially if they’re used to having their own space.
This needs to be given equal consideration as their physical health; so consider carefully whether the trip would be enjoyable for your pet. A pet stressed out on holiday means you'll be stressed out too.
Pack Pet Essentials
Safety a lot of the time comes down to having the essentials on hand, and being prepared with everything you / your pet needs. Pack pet food, snacks, and don’t forget to bring water!
Retractable water bowls that have anti-slip surface are the most suitable for travel. Additionally, make sure your pet has a diet similar to home to avoid nasty surprises and stomach pain. Feed them at specific times, but avoid giving food just before the journey.
After the food is sorted, pack up waste bags so as not to run to shops the last minute. Another important aspect that is sometimes forgotten when packing is entertainment. Take your pet’s favorite toys so they don’t get bored.
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Safety equipment for your specific form of travel should also be organized before you leave; ie if you're travelling by car, bring a specific harness that has seatbelts to secure your pet.
For smaller dogs or cats a crate or a carrier might be more suitable. It is a law in many countries, so don’t risk a fine and ensure that not only you but your pet is safe as well. Keep them in a back to avoid distractions.
ID is often required in countries you visit, but this is also essential safety equipment even if it's not mandatory. Dogs in particular are naturally curious and active creatures which could lead them to get too excited and running off.
In a foreign environment, it's very easy for an animal to get lost, which is why it's so important to have your contact information either in a pet ID microchip or at least on a collar.