Pet Travel Safety 101

With all of the holiday travels coming up this month, we want to be sure that the four-legged-family member is also able to travel safely with you! Here are a few tips about travel safety for your cat or dog!

By Car:

  • Keep pets restrained.  Cats and other small pets should be in a carrier and larger dogs should be restrained by a pet seat belt (one that attaches to a harness on your dog, please do not use a human seat belt on your dog) which can be purchased from your local pet store or online.
  • Do not let your pet ride shot-gun.  Keep both dogs and cats in the back seat-regardless of if they are in a carrier or buckled in.  If your pet sits in the front seat and a vehicular collision occurs, your pet can be seriously injured or killed by the pressure of the airbag deploying.  Injury can even happen if your pet is in a carrier.  Keep them safe and in the back seat.
  • Bring a human friend.  If you’re going on a several hour or days long car trip, you’d be best off bringing a friend or family member to help you care for your animal.  With an additional person to help, you can always have someone in the car (if you have to make a pit stop in the gas station bathroom) to make sure your pets are safe.  Remember that cars can overheat very quickly and cause your pet to have a heat stroke.  Also, if your car is broken into or stolen, your pet would be inside and could get hurt.  Having two or more people is simply the safer way to travel.
  • Stop for breaks.  Let your canine companion do his or her business outside and let your cat get out of the carrier for a stretch during long trips.
  • Don’t let pets stick their heads out the car window.  Flying particles in the air as you drive by can do serious damage to their eyes and ears.  They may even develop respiratory problems as air is quickly forced into their lungs.

By Train:

  • AmTrak trains now allows well behaved, comfort pets on certain certain lines.  Be sure to call ahead to make sure your pet and desired travel itinerary meet the criteria.
  • Pets are required to either be in a carrier, or sitting at the feet of the owner.  They are not allowed on seats or in beds.  Unruly pets (excessive barking, aggression, not housebroken) will be removed from the train at the next stop and cause a giant delay in your trip.
  • Be sure to get off the train during layover stations in order to let your dog (or cat) walk around and do their business.  Be sure that your pets (including cats) are leashed properly, and stay close to the train’s departure gate to be sure that you reboard the train in time.

By Plane:

  • This is definitely the riskiest way to travel with your pet.
  • Pets can be lost, injured, or even die during the flight process (USA airlines are required to report all animal incidents that occur in the cargo hold.  Be sure to check your airline’s history.  You can look into the consumer reports here.).
  • Leaving a pet home with a petsitter or at an appropriate boarding facility is likely much safer.
  • If you do need to travel by plane with your pet, be sure to contact your airline prior to purchasing your ticket.  Check appropriate carriers, sizes of pets allowed, security protocol, vaccines needed for your pet, etc.
  • Consult with your veterinarian prior to purchasing your ticket about the airline’s regulations.
  • Always bring your pet into the airplane’s cabin, if permitted.  DO NOT allow brachiocephalic breeds of cats or dogs to go into the cargo hold.  This includes breeds like Persian cats, various bulldog breeds, Pugs, and some terrier breeds of dogs.  (Think of any breed of cat or dog with a smooshed face.)  These breeds are prone to heat stroke and difficulty breathing and are more likely to experience injury, illness, or death during a flight in the cargo hold.
  • If your pet must go in the cargo hold, ask the airline in advance if you can see your pet being loaded onto and taken off of the plane.

It is best to discuss any travel plans with your veterinarian at least 1 month in advance.  Your veterinarian may prescribe certain one-time medications (such as anti-anxiety, anti-nausea, etc.) in order to help your pet travel more easily.
Have you traveled with your pet?  What tips do you have?  Let us know in the comments below!