As a pet owner, you likely want your furry pal to tag along wherever you go, from a trip through a drive-thru to a cross-country adventure. However, taking pets on a major traveling expedition can be stressful. Some pets may take to jet-setting without a hitch, but all pets will benefit from careful planning when they travel with their families. Here are some rules that will help make your travels with your pet go off without a hitch.

Rules of the road

If you choose to travel by land, you must understand a few rules of the road to keep your furry pal happy and comfortable throughout the journey. First, outfit your pet appropriately for the trip. Keep them safe with a pet safety harness that can be buckled into the seat belt or, if they are too small for a seat belt, keep them in a carrier or crate that is large enough for them to comfortably stand up, turn around, and lie down. Pack all your pet’s necessities, such as their food, treats, bed, toys, medications, and first aid kit, and ensure the items are easily accessible, and not buried under a mountain of luggage in the trunk.

While traveling, stop more frequently for your pet than you would for yourself. Ideally, you should schedule a stretch break every two to three hours to allow your pet to get out of their seat belt or carrier and relieve themselves. Spend 10 to 15 minutes at each stop to let your dog romp around a rest stop dog park, or to let your cat roam around the inside of your car and use a disposable litter box.

Rules of the sky

When booking a flight for your pet, double check the airline’s restrictions and requirements. You will likely need a health certificate for your pet—which you can obtain from our Emerald Animal Hospital veterinarian—along with an airline-approved carrier or crate. Choose a nonstop flight that means the shortest traveling time, but always be prepared for flight delays, and keep extra food and toys in your carry-on, in case your checked luggage becomes lost en route. 

Before you board the plane with your pet, exercise and play with them as much as possible to help tire them out. A tired, content pet will ideally snooze the entire trip, making their flight uneventful. Do not feed them a large meal with tons of water, which can sit heavily in their stomach and cause nausea. Instead, feed your pet a regular meal about four hours before takeoff to allow time for them to digest the food and eliminate. Then, right before boarding, offer them a small snack and a few sips of water to hold them over until you land.

If your pet is small enough to travel with you in the cabin, give them some water or an ice cube during takeoff and landing. Swallowing will help alleviate the pressure in their ears, and keep them comfortable. 

Keep in mind that tranquilizing a pet for flying is not recommended, and most airlines will not accept a sedated pet. If your pet has anxiety or is stressed when traveling, talk to our Emerald Animal Hospital veterinarian about safe calming supplements or products.

Rules for being a guest

Not all hotels accommodate pets, and those that do may have size and breed restrictions. Before making any bookings, ensure your pet is allowed to stay at the hotel, and their rules about excessive barking, accidents, pets on the furniture, or other potential pet mishaps. You can use a website like BringFido to quickly search for pet-friendly accommodations. If your dog tends to bark a lot, a private accommodation, such as an Airbnb, may be a better option than a hotel.

Before hitting the open road or taking to the skies with your furry pal, ensure they are ready for their vacation. Contact our Emerald Animal Hospital team to schedule an appointment for their physical examination, and to obtain any necessary paperwork.