As we prepare the family for summer vacations and travel, we often have to deal with the conundrum of what to do with our pets. Do we hire a pet sitter? Board our pet at a local facility? Or do we pack up extra supplies and bring the family pet along? At the heart of this decision is your destination and method of travel. The rule of thumb is to ensure you consider your pet's safety and health!
Travel can be very stressful for your cat or dog. They are used to a routine when at home, and disruptions to that routine can make for one very stressed out pet. However, if you decide to take your pet with you, here are some helpful tips when making your trek.
Make sure your pet has had all his or her shots, and is in good health. Given the stress of travel, your pet should be in great health and ready for the trip. While it is vacation for you, it may not seem as such for your furry family member. This is especially important if you will be camping or outdoors for much of your vacation. Pets may encounter many unknowns, including other animals, which may introduce them to new illnesses. If your pets shots are not up to date, or they are in poor health, it is a better decision to leave them at home.
God forbid Fido or Fifi wanders off, but if they do, and are not properly tagged, you could lose your family member forever. Make sure your pet's tags are in good condition and all of their information is legible. Our family dog tends to get her tags all beat up after a period of time. If you can't read them, neither can a stranger! Additionally, with today's technology, it is wise to get your pet either embedded with a microchip, or buy a GPS tracking collar. This way, if they do get lost, you can easily track them down and be quickly reunited.
This tip is mainly for you dog owners. If you haven't had your dog put through the paces of obedience training, and they are fairly protective of you and your family, you may want to rethink having them travel along side of you during your vacation. Many dogs are especially protective of their owners and family, and if placed in a situation where they think you are threatened, they can become aggressive. While this is a good thing if you are actually in danger, it may not be so great if you're not. A dog bite can ruin a vacation for all involved. If you're not sure how your pet is going to react to strangers, make sure you have them either properly kennel trained, or be prepared to use a muzzle. While you may think it seems inhumane to muzzle your dog, it is for everyone's safety.
The last thing you want to happen when you arrive at your family's destination is to have to keep your pet locked up in your car. Make sure your hotel or campground is pet friendly before you get there. Summertime heat is very dangerous for our pets. However, it's not just heat that hurts! Humidity is also extremely dangerous for pets. According to Dr. Barry Kellogg, VMD, "Animals pant to evaporate moisture from their lungs, which takes heat away from their body. If the humidity is too high, they are unable to cool themselves, and their temperature will skyrocket to dangerous levels". This also applies to those traveling in an RV. While the RV may feel like home to you, if not properly cooled, it is just like leaving your pet inside of a car.
When packing up the family pet, you need to make sure you have everything you need at the ready. Food should be portioned so that you can ensure you have enough for the entire trip! It is smart to pre-bag each portion, and then put the smaller bags into a larger bag for travel. This way you know you have enough food for each day, and won't overfeed your pet when on the road. And don't forget some pet treats too! Also, make sure you pack up any and all medications your pet requires, as well as leashes, harnesses, and other necessary travel supplies, including a favorite toy or two (this goes for both cats and dogs).
Our Aussie loves her stuffed bear, and we think it actually acts as a security blanket for her. OhMyDog! has a great list for those packing for a dog friendly road trip that you should check out.
As humans, we handle changes to our routine fairly well. Pets are much different. Prolonged travel without a potty break, or being kenneled for an extremely long time may cause them to become overly stressed (we get this this tip next). Try to feed them at the same time you would if at home, and make sure you stay on a frequent potty break schedule. The fun of a vacation can often cause distraction. If you are taking your pet along with you, make sure you bank some time to spend with them each day. Play time and quiet time with them is just as important on the road as it is at home!
Our pets are creatures of habit. Signs of a stressed out pet include shedding (hair loss), aggressive behavior, hiding, urination / spraying (for cats, not using the litter box for instance), excessive panting or sniffing, ignoring commands, or refusing to eat. Any one of these or in combination could be a sign that your pet is not adapting well to the trip. First and foremost, don't punish your pet if they are displaying these signs of stress. Instead, try to calm them and remove them from the stressful situation. Learn to recognize these signs, as they can appear quickly. If your pet doesn't cope with stress well, we recommend you don't take them with you at all. It will serve them best in the long run to stay in a protected environment with either a properly trained pet sitter, or in a professional boarding facility.
We hope these tips help you have a successful family vacation with your pet!