If you're like many Americans with pets, your holiday travel plans may very well include your four-legged family members. Before hitting the road with your pet, it's important to take some precautions and be prepared. Traveling with your pet can be a wonderful and bonding experience if you do it right. Here are some tips to help ensure that your holiday season is a happy and safe one for you and your pet.
Healthy start: The last thing you need is a sick pet when traveling. Before you start your trip, be sure that your pet is "up" for their journey. This means a visit to the vet for a medical checkup and to ensure that your pet is up-to-date with all necessary vaccinations.
Is your pet returnable? A pet ID tag is essential. This means a temporary ID tag, along with your pet's permanent ID tag. This is one of the most important aspects of traveling with your pet, but also one of the most overlooked. If your pet runs off while traveling, a temporary ID tag that lists the address of where you are staying, will help ensure that your will pet be safely returned to you.
No heads out the window: Although many pets find that sticking their head out the window is the best part of the road trip - it's not safe. Your pet can easily be injured by flying debris. This should go without saying, but NEVER travel with a pet in the back of a pickup truck. Some states have laws restricting such transport and it is always dangerous.
Frequent pit stops: Always provide frequent bathroom and exercise breaks. Most travel service areas have designated areas for walking your pet. Be sure to stay in this area particularly when your pet needs a potty break...and of course, bring along a bag to pick up after your pet. When outside your vehicle, make sure that your pet is always on a leash and wearing a collar with a permanent and temporary travel identification tag.
Proper hydration: During your pit stops be sure to provide your pet with some fresh water to wet their whistle. Occasionally traveling can upset your pet's stomach. Take along ice cubes, which are easier on your pet than large amounts of water.
Watch the food intake: It is recommended that you keep feeding to a minimum during travel. Be sure to feed them their regular pet food and resist the temptation to give them some of your fast food burger or fries (that never has a good ending).
Don't leave them alone: Never leave your pet unattended in a parked vehicle. Extreme cold and warm temperatures are very dangerous to your pet. On warm days, the temperature in your vehicle can rise to 120 degrees in minutes, even with the windows slightly open. In addition, an animal left alone in a vehicle is an open invitation to pet thieves.
Practice restraint: Be sure that your pet is safely restrained in your vehicle. Utilizing a pet safety harness, pet barrier, or travel kennel are the best ways to keep your pet safe. They not only protect your pet from injury, but they help by keeping them from distracting you as you drive. A safety harness functions like a seatbelt. While most pets will not have a problem adjusting to it, you may want to let them wear the harness by itself a few times before using it in the vehicle. If your pet prefers a travel kennel, be sure it is well ventilated and stabilized. Many pet owners prefer vehicle barriers, particularly for larger pets. Vehicle barriers are best suited for SUVs. No matter what method you choose, back seat travel is always safer for your pet.
Safe and comfortable: Whatever method you choose to properly restrain your pet in your vehicle, be sure to make their comfort a priority. Just as it's important for your "seat" to be comfortable for your long road trip, your pet's seat should be comfortable too. Typically their favorite blanket or travel bed will do the trick. There are also some safe and very cozy pet car seats available that your pet may find quite comfy.
Pet-friendly accommodations etiquette: If your journey's itinerary requires a stay at a pet friendly accommodation, there are a number of tips to consider.
Get a ground floor room to make bathroom runs easier.
At check-in, inquire about areas to walk your pet.
Cover any furniture and beds your pet will be allowed on.
Place litter boxes in the bathroom to make clean up easier
Avoid leaving your pet alone in the room. Even the best-behaved pets can bark and become destructive when in a new environment. If your plans require you to stay for a longer period of time, inquire about local pet sitters or pet day care. If your pet's demeanor is such that you are able to leave them alone for a short period of time, be sure to alert the front desk. It also may help to put the TV or radio on to keep your pet comfortable, and place a note on your door indicating that your precious pet is inside.
Always keep your pet on a leash and refrain from taking them into the lodging dining areas.
And of course...always clean up after your pet after bathroom runs.
Following some basic rules during road travel will help to make your holiday trip with your little one much more enjoyable and safe!
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